I tend to be inspired by topics swirling around mental health: I’m interested in mental illness and its effects on people and relationships; I’m fascinated by psychology and states of mind that make people see and believe things that don’t align with reality. And because the maladies of the mind are so often my muse, I thought it was about time I wrote about my relationship with the my own mind as it relates to writing.
Recently I was loosely diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I say loosely because it wasn’t official, just a trend I noticed and spoke to my doctor about, who agreed that SAD could be the cause. The trend? Getting exhausted and depressed in the winter months. For example in the past two months my motivation has been drained and I’ve had real trouble getting out of bed (or wanting to do anything but sleep forever). It’s an awful feeling and in the depths of it quite terrifying because there’s a fear in there that things will never get better.
But inevitably they do.
I’ve started light therapy and that paired with the recent bloom of good February weather seems to have pulled me out of my funk. I’m full of energy now and back to writing (before I was only thinking about writing).
Luckily in the depths of my listlessness I’ve still managed to keep up on some reading I’ve been doing as research for my next book. I’m reading a book called ‘Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament’ by: Kay Redfield Jamison. This book is completely fascinating and I mention it because it doesn’t only touch on manic-depressive illness, but also on SAD and the ‘artistic temperament’-the general trend of writers and other artists to follow seasonal patterns of productivity.
According to the book many artists have seasonal periods of creation that align with the seasons in nature. Artists are cyclical creatures prone to productivity in certain months and less in others. It’s different for everyone when these peaks are, but they are present and have been studied. This idea relaxes me. Curious about the effects of the seasons on my own work I recently looked up each one of my novels to find the date in which I created the document to start writing them. The verdict: Spring and Summer (mostly summer). All of them. Not one of my novels was started in a winter month. Fascinating!
For me, my cycles seem to be even more extreme, as during the times when I am truly active I write like there’s no tomorrow. I have been known to write most of my books in no more than three weeks, sometimes even two and any short stories come out fully finished in an hour or two tops. Pages and chapters fly by when I am in a ‘flow’ period and honestly I love it. I like to get things done quickly and to leave the rest of my time for thinking and planning my next piece.
So what’s the point of me writing all of this?
I want to say I’m relieved. These cycles and seasonal ups and downs can seem strange and confusing when you think you’re alone. But reading about other artists and writers who share this cyclical spirit makes me understand myself a bit better and want to give myself more leeway when I’m not writing or inspired every hour of every day.
As issues of mental health are my muse, they can also be my comfort as I ride the waves of my creative productivity and try to make sure I’m being kind to myself.
I also want this to be a reminder to be kind to yourself too. Give yourself space if you need it and don’t push too hard.
Have you noticed any cycles to your writing life? I would love to hear about them!