By Daniella Latham
According to recent study results reported in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, published in October 2012, there is a very definitive connection between creativity and psychosis or dysfunction. A variety of subjects were studied for the sample, but it was noted, “Authors also specifically were more common among most of the other psychiatric diseases (including schizophrenia, depression, anxiety syndrome and substance abuse).”
We’ve all got some level, some piece of our life (even if it’s only a sliver), that’s deeply mired in dysfunction or a type of psychosis. Who doesn’t? It’s pretty much the norm, especially for Generations X and Y. Think about it…divorced parents, jealously, depression. The list goes on and on.
But it’s different for writers. A screwed-up life equals a better read.
Or at least that’s long been conventional thought. The way that society views the value of works of the creative mind is based upon how much suffering they’ve experienced, and how that has been translated and expressed into a discussion-worthy book.
Take Hunter Thompson and Charles Bukowski.
Thompson’s mother was reportedly an alcoholic and his father died while he was in high school…he considered himself “a poor kid from the wrong side of the tracks”. A love of whiskey, guns and drugs propelled him from an ordinary author to a counter-cultural icon that knew no boundaries in his life, nor his body of work. Take the first sentence of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas…you can’t stop, you’re hooked. He changed the face of journalism and inspired even the most straight-laced to experiment with the “unknown”.
Bukowski, by all accounts, was a shy child also raised in poverty, but with an abusive father. Most at home among the less-fortunate, his history of random employment, unapologetic love of liquor and a drug habit all factored into his eloquent writings; his main characters carry the weight of an unmotivated, unrealized existence controlled by psychosis.
Enough said. They both battled with depression and it was their fuel; the drug and drink didn’t hurt their process either. Their issues contributed to some of the most gifted, yet slightly off-kilter sentences of our time.
But what if you saw life unfold in color? No depression or boredom; a house with the white picket fence; father wasn’t an alcoholic–he worked hard and came home on time. You were always told and considered to be “one of the lucky ones.”
In the absence of painful life experiences to reference, can you still weave the words together? Sadly, according to science, if you don’t have or haven’t lived through the problems that authors commonly share, it looks like the chances of becoming a decent writer are slim-to-none.
So, if you’re clinically depressed, had a drug-addicted brother or drink every night, there may still be the hope that a brilliant book is buried within. Kudos for anything you can dredge-up that will make for a compelling story.
It’s all right; you can suspect it, then call me crazy. And for once, I really don’t mind.
Daniella Latham is a senior writer for a global corporation and has spent her career in the advertising industry. She holds a B.S. in Journalism and English Literature from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and is currently working on her first novel.