"He had this idea. It was kind of a virologist idea. He believed that you could cure racism and hate... literally cure it, by injecting music and love into people's lives. When he was scheduled to perform at a peace rally, a gunman came to his house and shot him down. Two days later he walked out on that stage and sang. When they asked him why - He said, "The people, who were trying to make this world worse... are not taking a day off. How can I? Light up the darkness.""
- Robert Neville talking about Bob Marley (film version of I Am Legend)
1 in 4 people will suffer with a mental health problem in a year. And that's just in the UK. Goodness knows what it's like for the rest of the world.
I suffer with Bipolar. It's no secret. It's been talked about one here, and it forms part of the URL for several pages and blogs I own. Many people refuse to speak about mental health problems, as though, because they're in the mind, they're not there. It can't be seen so it's not happening.
But it is, and it happens on a massive scale, far larger than any of us can imagine. Many people who have a mental health issues are creative, either through a natural inclination or because they find it helps. Ernest Hemingway, Stephen Fry, Edgar Allan Poe and Chris Joseph are just a few of the people diagnosed with Bipolar alone. Think of who else there is out there who has some kind of mental health issue. You're not alone in this world!
Yet it affects that core desire, that desire to create. And when it hits, it hits hard. For the past week, it's affected me. I've looked at my work and it's seemed tepid and uninspired. I can see what's coming in the stories and it bores me. I don't want to be a part of that world any more, don't want to drag readers down a path which will bore them senseless. Don't want people having to wade through a bunch of crap to get to some uninspired ending. The mouse hovered over the delete button, the email was ready to send to the publisher to tell them that there would be no more. I didn't want it any more, considered myself a failure. The future looked bleak.
Then something happened. We threw a party at my day job. I'd organised it and, much to my surprise, it went a million times better than I could ever have expected. People were singing and dancing and having a good time. The elderly residents joined in, singing with us and, for those who could no longer walk, encouraging those who could to dance like their lives depended on it. We hugged, we drank wine, we ate silly amounts of cake. We had an awesome time. Who'd have thought that a couple of bottles of wine, some homemade cakes, a few silly hats, and a bit of music could bring so much joy?!
And it got me thinking. Happiness isn't just about success. It's about finding it in the little things in life. It's about laughing (and making someone laugh), dancing like your life depends on, singing, walking, listening to your favourite song, sliding along a polished wooden floor. It's about the little things which, in turn, can lead on to the bigger things. A positive mental attitude can get you so very far!
So how do you overcome the mental illness and writers block? Different things work for different people, and if you have a suggestion, feel free to pop it in to the comments. :) A few from me...
- Take time out from it. Don't force yourself to write. Go for a walk, or listen to some music. Have a cup of tea or read a book.
- Never ever look on yourself as a failure. Just because you've not churned out a New York Times bestseller by the time you're 30 doesn't label you as a failure. Everyone has to work to get to where they want to be.
- Make the most of what you have. If you want to go and spend time with your family, do it.
- Look after you health. If you're stressed and tired then your writing it going to look the same.
- Go and work on another project. I routinely have several on the go, picking and choosing as my mood takes me.
- Always carry a notebook with you, 'cause you're going to hate yourself if that writer's block lifts while you're stuck on the 18.06 from Euston to Birmingham!
- Most of all, enjoy it. It's not supposed to be a chore. If you're having fun writing, then it really will show through.
Have fun, and good luck! And, as always, feel free to chat away in the comments. :)