The blog of author Harper Alexander

The Fruits of Depression

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Today we’re going to talk about Depression.  But don’t worry – this isn’t going to be some bleak detour from the norm to bemoan all of life’s current darknesses and dredge up all its ruthless pitfalls.  I want to talk about depression and how it pertains to writing (or creating in general, really).  Because there seem to be two differing slants of depression – the one that immobilizes a person and kills inspiration like nothing has ever been killed before, and the one that sends you into that deep, dark place of brooding where some of the most soul-deep ideas are born.

For some people, you hear of depression weighing on them like the heaviest cowl of fatigue, sapping the life out of everything they love and love to do, leaving them in a zombie-fied state of unproductive, thoughtless existing.  Barely functioning through the haze.  And then there are those who seem to find their greatest muse when they retreat, who seem to draw from their woes as if going to that place of utter torment is the only way to truly dredge up the inspiration to create something with soul.

For some, it’s as if creating becomes their therapy.  They channel that pain, get it out of themselves and onto the paper, perhaps into a character who can carry it instead of (or perhaps simply along with) them.  They draw from the raw feelings and create things that just glow with substance, with depth, with – well – feeling.  It’s as if they get in touch with their deepest depths, where pain has gouged out the path for them, where they retreat so far inside themselves, and there they tune in to their greatest capacity.

It seems a common thing that through devastation comes the burning need to create beautiful things.  When life tears everything beautiful and dear from your side, you cope by creating beauty for yourself.  At least, that is one of the two tendencies.  The one that I prefer to subscribe to, but it doesn’t always work that way.

So why is it sometimes one, and sometimes another?  Two completely opposite extremes born of the same condition?  Are you the kind of person that gets dragged down during those dark times of your life, losing interest in even your greatest passions, or are you the kind who draws from that?  Whose muse thrives during those lows, blossoming from the painfully-plowed soils of your deepest (and perhaps most profound) recesses?  Does depression stifle your creativity, or does it inspire you to resort to it as an escape?

Is there the potential for both in everyone, and some other factor tips the outcome one way or the other?  Or are there different forms of suffering that inspire either one or the other?  Are some of our greatest masterpieces truly dependent on these soul-raw times of suffering in our lives, or do they come to fruition simply because, in our moments of personal crisis and need, we find the motivation to create something beautiful for ourselves?

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