Thursday, October 28, 2010

Don't Get Mad - Get Therapy

WARNING: READING THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE MAY IMPROVE MENTAL HEALTH

Just thinking lately about the things that drive my own writing, I have been wondering how much of my drive actually qualifies as some sort of dysfunction. OK, so you are nodding your heads wondering why it's taken me so long to figure this out for myself, and it's just par for the course. Still . . .

How much is enough? The answer, arising from the voice of dysfunction, is of course that no amount is ever enough. And what is the goal? Well, for me it is a complex mix of love of story, the need to bring that thing into creation, to experience that flow of words - and some other elements that are more in the way of demons. There is something under the hood that drives me to reach for some sense of connection to fill a personal void. Is that healthy? Is it like functional drug addiction? I don't know, who can judge it?

Not all writers are striving the fill the inner void like some crazy Japanese Kitsune armed with a word processor. But for those of us who are, my question is: are there other ways to fill that same need? Wouldn't writing be a more enjoyable activity, wouldn't the success that comes (how little or how much), the criticism, all be that much easier to deal with if there was not a desperate need that underpinned all the striving?

Sometimes it is worth stepping back and looking at it all - yourself, your goals, what your expectations are. And maybe, just maybe some therapy might help.

So what do you think? Can artistic achievement fill the psychological void? What drives your passion for writing, and how much of that verges on obsession?

22 comments:

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, I believe creative people can live functional lives.

For me, the worlds I build are more fascinating than the world we live in. The worlds in my head are where I go for a holiday.

And I go there almost every day!

Rita de Heer said...

I have to admit that if I don't do fiction on the page, I tend to start constructing fantastical and unnecessary enterprises in my real life.

MataPam said...

Runners talk about the high they get from endorphines that are released if they just run hard enough.

Is that dysfunctional?

To be the best you can, and feel good about it?

I think that's similar to how a writer feels when the words just flow and the story pours out. It's evolution saying "Yes! Here's a reward for being the best human you can be. You've got it right!"

The runner may catch the impala for dinner, but the creator feeds the minds of a society. A society needs all kinds of people in order to work above the basic hunter-gatherer stage. The hunter-gatherer (looks over at Dave)has to be everything, including the Storyteller and Keeper of Wisdom. Which is fine so long as you don't need plumbers, electricians, car mechanics, airplane pilots and comgressmen.

Extreme creativity, stepping way outside the box, and tossing instinctive behavior as far away as possible, is probably what distinguishes modern man from all those other Homo-whatevers who've left nothing but their bones behind.

What Modern Psychology seeks to label dysfuntional, IMO, falls into three categories. (1) Damage. (2) Suitable for a different environment. (3) Extra dosage of loosened instincts and heightened creativity. All three have problems, but without extreme creativity we'd still be chipping flint to slice up the impala.

Ben Godby said...

Hu-boy. I'm definitely obsessive, or at least enamoured, with writing. I recently tried to kill the urge and transform it into something that didn't have the somewhat obsessive tendency towards "the accomplishment," but no good. I've got to write, I've got to put those stories on paper... and that's just the way it is.

danielocasey said...

Not sure about everyone else, but personally my mind is living it's own life, and if I don't watch it the sneaky thing subtly twists what is real into that morass that drives me down the path of despair into the void (negative self-esteem, incorrect interpretations of the world around me, I think they call it cognitive-behavior-errors or something like that)

But!... When I write, I can refocus that part of my mentality that twists the good and wholesome to into the dark and dangerous, I can use the same areas to create and people and drive the worlds I am playing GOD with.

Therapy, I do see them people often enough, but in a way, for me, Writing is therapy.

Oh and a little bit of what Rowena said, the worlds in my head are more fascinating than my own real life.

DOC

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. Sounds like you have your process really working for you. At the moment I'm trying to get out of my own way to hopefully reach the same place:)

BTW: When is KRK3 coming out?

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rita. Sounds like it is a great outlet for you.

I find it hard to define what writing does for me. I love the ideas and building the story, but I think what I love most is being in that creative flow. Sometimes I really have to battle through the mud to get there though:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Matapam. Well said. I found that very inspiring. I get so focussed sometimes on selling, or crafting, I forget to take the limits off my own creativity. It is motivating to think that has a higher role in society.

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Ben. Hey, don't knock it if you want to bang the words out:) I find it frustrating when my need to write comes up against the other pressures in my life and I get too squeezed for time. Ideally I like to write for at least two hours, this allows me to get into the story and disconnect from the world. Unfortunately I seem to only have half hour to hour snippets at the moment. Very frustrating!

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, DOC. Dealing with that inner critic is a really battle. I think you are right though. I sometimes see that part of me almost as a separate person - who just happens to look a lot like some of my best villans:) Writing really is a relief. I just want to enjoy it even more.

Jim McCoy said...

I think if you get to the point where the void is filled you're doing something wrong. Writing is like any other hobby, except that some people get paid for it.

I don't think it becomes a disfunction unless you let it eat into your life to the point that you can't do anything else.

That said, there are times when writing borders on that extreme for me, especially during the semester when I'm working on a paper for class and I'm sitting there with this GREAT idea for a short, or my main character for my novel won't shut up and go away for five minutes so I can give Woodrow Wilson his due...

I'll get over though. Eventually, I'll graduate.

Chris L said...

Matapam,

You are so totally right! I'd never made that connection before, but the feeling of running freely is very like the feeling of writing freely.

That is so cool! I guess your brain, or nervous system, (or something) is giving you a little reward for doing something right.

That has made my day.

Kate said...

We creative types are, in modern psychological view, able to control our weirdness well enough to function in our societies.

In other cultures we might have been the shamans, or the priests, or the witches. We're the ones who touch something different, who can see things others can't. All of us - the scientists who uncover new ways to look at universe, the writers, the musicians, the artists...

Modern psych works from the assumption that if you get too far away from the mean, you get dysfunctional. But then, modern psych usually isn't the haunt of the highly creative.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris KRK 3 is out, running free on the book shelves, LOL

Pulp Fiction will have copies.

Rowena Cory Daniells said...

Chris, we all have dialogues in our heads.

In the writer's head there are other people doing the talking.

What's so strange about that?

(Tongue firmly in cheek)

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris, in my case seem to be driven by story itself. If I don't externalize them, they obcess me till I can't function them

Sarah A. Hoyt said...

Chris, in my case seem to be driven by story itself. If I don't externalize them, they obcess me till I can't function them

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Jim. Ideas never behave themselves do they? Always dropping in without phoning first:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Kate. Wouldn't it have been cool to be a shaman/seer? Coming back to the tribe after three days in the cave with this great vision. . . A captive audience who actually believes you:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Rowena. The real trouble starts when they get tired of standing around and push you out of your seat. The bed gets crowded as well, major fight scenes are damned hard to fit into the average bedroom:)

Chris McMahon said...

Hi, Sarah. Have you considered cloning technology? I'm sure there must be a little clinic in Shanghai that can turn out a few extra Sarah's to get those stories down.

twittertales said...

Yep, writing is an obsession. I've tried to temporarily give it up a few times without success (when I started a new job, or was meant to be helping aid organisations in Indonesia, etc). The definition of mental illness is whether or not it impairs your life. So the question is whether writing impairs my life, or is my life. It's probably best not to answer that :)

Louise Curtis