Mental Health and Healing

When my creativity wanes, as it has of late, I notice gaping holes in my imagination. I suppose those are synonymous. What I notice more acutely is that there’s a very strong correlation between my creativity and my sense of emotional well-being. When I feel creative, I feel something akin to giddiness. Even when that creativity expresses itself in writing about subjects that most people would consider dark, if the writing is good and creative, I feel good. When I feel unimaginative and incapable of creativity, I feel bad. Not physically bad; emotionally bad, as in sad or depressed or despondent.

I don’t know whether to ascribe causation to the correlation; does creativity cause giddiness or does giddiness trigger creativity? Does sadness muffle creativity or does a lack of creativity spark depression? I know this: when I’m feeling down, for whatever reason, my writing suffers. It’s not only dull and unimaginative, it’s wooden and shallow, as if it were written by a robot. If I were smart, I’d simply not write when my mood doesn’t correspond with being creative. But I’m not smart; I write anyway, despite being dissatisfied with my output. And that dissatisfaction probably prolongs my sadness or depression or whatever this drab mood might be called.

Fortunately, in real life. I can fake it with considerable success. Usually, I can mask my feelings pretty well, presenting myself as reasonably upbeat and happy. Not so much in my writing, though. My writing divulges my attitude, though not necessarily directly. When it is dull and lifeless and seems uninspired, it was written during a period of depression (that’s probably not the right term, but neither is sadness; dull disinterest may be more like it). Because I am obviously so close to it, both the mood and the writing associated with it, I may be able to read it better than others. Other people may not find the correlation so obvious; they may not see it at all. But I can’t imagine they wouldn’t; when they read dull, limp, tedious, sluggish, uninteresting words that morph into min-numbing paragraphs, I think they must see something is amiss with my normally effervescent personality. I can still joke around, even in the midst of darkness.

One day, I may randomly select samples of my writing, separated into two collections. One will be the “up” writing and the other will be the “down” writing. I would take those collections to a competent psychologist or psychotherapist and ask that an assessment be undertaken, based on the writing. I wouldn’t be surprised to be told the writing suggests a person suffering from a mild case of depression; nothing to be worried about, but an affliction for which treatment might be warranted.  Of course, I might find that the mental health professional’s qualifications don’t qualify him or her to judge whether one’s writing is creative or unimaginative, in which case everyone’s time will have been wasted.

If I were ever to sit on the proverbial psychiatrist’s couch, I’m afraid the slightest encouragement to “let it out” might unleash a torrent of tears so intense and voluminous that we’d both drown. But maybe not. I don’t want to find out.


My tendency to respond in the affirmative to a request to undertake a project has once again put me in a position of  having a great deal of my time absorbed in pursuit of objectives in which I have only passing interest. That propensity can result in a person feeling overwhelmed and unable to plan his own life to the extent he’d like. My desire to be able to decide, on the spur of the moment, to take a road trip has again been squelched, thanks to my failure to say “no.” I could kick myself in the groin for being such a “yes” man. Maybe relinquishing that freedom, though, will be good for my mental health. Maybe it will force me to build creativity even in places where creativity doesn’t normally flourish.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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