Hi <<First Name>>,
Having a creative outlet is supposedly a great indicator of mental health, and yet, when you’re staring at an empty page, it doesn’t feel that way. I would love to see an official study, but if I were to guess which artists are most likely to have mental health challenges, I would say writers. Writers in particular have a lure around disordered thinking and behavior. Ernest Hemingway had depression and bipolar disorder, and drank so much that he has a daiquiri named after him, a strong and delicious one at that. Sylvia Path wrote about receiving electro-shock therapy for her depression. In her episode of the Highwater Podcast, poet Bassey Ikpi and I talked about how mental illness affects the creative process. So what is it about writing, as opposed to painting, designing, making clothes and other crafts? One theory I have is that the nature of writing is part of the problem. Writing is usually done while sitting down, with limited movement, in a solitary environment.
In the book “The Creative Cure” by Carrie Barron M.D., which I highly recommend, the author writes about creating a mental health plan centered around creative work. The key is to find work that allows you to use your hands. If you are a writer or your tools have low physical demands, try a creative outlet that is more tactile and kinetic.
Because I spend so much time in front of a keyboard, for both my primary creative pursuit and my day job, I’ve tapped into the healing powers of creativity by taking on a sewing project. The feeling when I sew is way different from how I feel when I write. Even though I am a better writer than a seamstress, I don’t get as frustrated. I’m able to enter the state of flow more quickly. Having a tangible finished product, one that I can hold in my hands or wear on my back, is a different feeling as well.
If your creative practice isn’t doing your mental health any favors, consider taking on a hobby that requires you to use your limbs. Safety first, of course.
Creating a Cure,