Outside Influences… From Inside

It isn’t something I see spoken about a lot in regards to writing, though I’ve seen it touched upon a few times since I’ve become writing-obsessed; what I’m talking about, of course, is how mental illnesses effect our writing.

There are many forms of mental illnesses, but what I’m referring to are illnesses such as Bipolar disorder, Depression, Schizophrenia, etc. Those of you who haven’t had to endure a mental illness throughout your life likely wont know what in the world it can do to change your writing, or even your general thoughts, so I’m going to give you a glimpse of what that entails. Each individual will have different experiences, of course, so this is mostly a recollection of what I’ve noticed and felt throughout the years.

I have anxiety and depression; it sucks pretty hardcore. It’s hard to get stuff done, it can be hard to think, and anxiety and depression are paired with not really wanting to do anything most of the time. So, as most of you writers may know already, the motivation factor that you need to sit your ass down and write can sometimes be lacking, for me it is often non-existent.

Not only do I suffer from lack of motivation more often than not, but I also experience extreme waves of doubt, self-neglect, and fear: all of which takes a serious toll on my writing. If I doubt myself and my ability to write, then I’m also doubting that manuscript I’ve been working on for the last six months; if I let myself get away with neglecting myself, then neglecting my writing and becoming lazy in that area isn’t much of a leap; fear overwhelms everything, the ability to function, grasp anything, or see hope. Honestly, I believe most writers will have experienced these feelings at least once early on in their careers. They seem to go hand and hand with the passion for writing, so those of you who haven’t experienced it already, you’re probably lying to yourself or believe you’re better than you are (no offence intended).

I don’t think I’ve ever written a ‘happy’ story before. I think the functions required to engineer an inherently happy story are missing from my brain, as all of my major works in progress hold very dark context, content, and no true happy endings. The story that I began to work on that made me think that I’d one day like to be an author is my novel in progress, Equilibrium. It was my boyfriend who originally created the idea, a short story that he wrote we decided to expand on it together into a novel. It was a tandem piece, the point of view of Sephaer and Alakei were written by me, and most of the other characters by him.

Sephaer, the main character, was a bipolar she-demon conflicted between the rule of truth, and the rule of untruth (Balance and Imbalance); who also turned out to roughly be based off of me. Fancy that, huh? I’m not the only one who thinks I’m insane! (maybe I’m not so insane after all, then…) Anyway, Sephaer wasn’t like that because we decided she was going to be like that, she was like that because of her very elaborate back story that weaved directly into this one. I’ll elaborate on it another day, I think you guys might find it interesting. Basically, she was a bipolar demon who couldn’t decide whether she was meant to save the world or destroy it.

Another work in progress of mine is Desolace, which was once a fantasy/scifi mix, though I’m pretty much going to revamp the whole thing. What I want to say about it for this, though, is that the main character had been murdered and had her brain configured to make her a psycho killer for the government, part of an organization called the Fires. Her parts in the story are pretty elaborately detailed blood, gore, murder, torture and borderline satanic rituals. It’s quite odd, and maybe even more odd that I don’t even find that a bad thing. To me it just seems like a natural character I’ve got going on here… not sure about you guys.

And finally for the work that maybe some of you will by now be familiar with, and the most developed story, Taichiren’s Heart. Oh god, where do I begin? I’m not sure if I mentioned it before, but the story originally started off as a stand alone… where everyone died in the end. Freywyn and Aelhurst subsequently blew up and they all died. The end. Thankfully I realized that was an awful idea, and now instead of killing everyone at the end of the story, I made it even worse! One of the main characters was only raped and sexually abused by her superior for who knows how many years, then goes insane and kills him. Children are murdered and morphed into pseudo undead things, two of the main characters are basically children being used for their unusual powers (one of which whom is born near the end of the first book)…. and I completely wipe out the most relatable race. Why, you might ask? I can’t even come up with a good reason. Because I just wanted to, I guess.

So if you haven’t noticed already, my writing seems to have a similar theme throughout it: inevitable darkness. And crazy people, it seems. Most of it isn’t even intentional, it just comes out like that because that’s how the story naturally fits in my brain. I’m not sure what else to say about it. Is it strange? Maybe. Do I think much of it? No, but I suppose I can say that it’s mostly caused by my depression and anxiety, because it’s not uncommon for people with mental illnesses to put emphasis the darker side of stories rather than the happy, lighter sides.

I don’t think of it as a bad thing. I actually like how my stories turn out, to me they seem a bit different than all of the books that I read, even though I find that some of my favourite books are those that have sadder endings or content. So to me, all of this is normal, but it’s true that it really changes how my writing is done and what actually comes out.

Another thing I’d like to bring your guys attention to is this anthropology in the works, Altered Perceptions, that is written in mind with those who understand what mental illness is and does to the people around us. I suggest taking a look at the original post that caught my eye, on Dan Well’s website, or reading more about and perhaps donating to the indiegogo campaign. It’s a wonderful project, and I hope you guys find it as amazing as I do.

I suppose all that’s left to do is ask you guys: Do any of you notice mental illnesses taking a part in writing, be it your own or someone else’s?

~Erynn

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