Sunday, April 3, 2011

What Is It About Writers And Depression?

Last week's blog was about my bout with depression. This week I'd like to write about other authors who had battled with the illness. While researching this topic, I found many authors who had suffered from depression. This urged me to ask the question: Is having a creative mind synonymous with depression?

For this blog, I've chosen four authors for examples: Sylvia Plath, Earnest Hemingway, and two contemporary writers: Kelsey and Tim.

I'd like to begin with Sylvia Plath. I remember studying her poems in college. I sensed both anger and sadness in her words. Plath was an author and poet who has been described as a 'great talent in great darkness.' She described her time of hospitalization for depression as:

"[a] time of darkness, despair, and disillusion--so black only as the inferno of the human mind can be--symbolic death, and numb shock--then the painful agony of slow rebirth and psychic regeneration."

On February 11, 1963, after carefully sealing the kitchen so her children would not be harmed, Sylvia Plath took a bottle of sleeping pills and stuck her head in a gas oven. Sylvia Plath – Poet, Author/ Great talent in great darkness/ From Marie Griffin, Guest Contributor

Earnest Hemingway was one of America's greatest writers who also suffered from depression. He was another author whose stories I studied and enjoyed in college. Hemingway battled with his demon for years.

"What is known is that he was a very heavy drinker and a very depressed man... Some believe that certain members of Hemingway's paternal line had a genetic condition or hereditary disease known as haemochromatosis, in which an excess of iron concentration in the blood causes damage to the pancreas and also causes depression or instability in the cerebrum. Some three weeks short of his 62nd birthday, he took his life on the morning of July 2, 1961 at his home in Ketchum, Idaho, with a shotgun blast to the head."

Read more:

In a Mail Online article, “Can Depression Ever be Good for You?” by Professor Jerome Wakefield, two contemporary writers who battle with depression gave opposite opinions.

Kelsey is an author and former editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine. She said, no, depression is not good for you. Kelsey writes that:

The problem with that statement [can depression be good for you?] is that when you are in the grip of depression, you can't focus on anything other than your own misery... Am I grateful for being bitten by the black dog? Was losing my will to live good for me? No, Professor Wakefield, it was not.

However, author and journalist, Tim Lott says, yes, depression can be good for you. Lott writes:

Depression can lead you to reevaluate your life, examine your priorities, and get to know yourself better. Hence the saying that 'breakdown can be breakthrough'. After the breakdown of a relationship, in my early 30s I suffered a breakdown which led me close to suicide. It also led in my case to a successful book about depression, The Scent Of Dried Roses. In that sense, mine is an atypical experience.

Read more:

What are your thoughts on depression and writing? Do you think depression can be good or bad for you? If good, in what way? If bad, in what way?


  1. Perhaps it depends on how DEEP the depression is. Sure, it can help you re-evaluate your life at times. But it's often difficult to get out of if it's severe...luckily you had some Help doing that! :)

  2. Hey Carol,
    Great hearing from you and great being back in the 'swing of things'. I finished making the edits to the novel and am putting them on the computer. You did an amazing job! You have a great eye for detail. Thank you so much.

  3. That's so cool, Mary! Glad you're writing again and that the edits helped. Just had to comment again to say I love the new look of your blog! Very nice. :)