An interesting little article in the Guardian states that writing is an occupation that quite often leads to depression:
Novelist Simon Brett, who has acknowledged his own struggles with depression, agreed with the tenor of the findings, citing writer suicides including Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Ernest Hemingway, Anne Sexton and Arthur Koestler.
“You spend long hours sitting on your own,” he said. “Writing can be wonderful therapy, but you are digging into yourself, and if you are writing fiction and creating characters, a certain amount of self-examination and self-doubt is inevitable.” Many writers are also introverted, quiet people, and find it stressful to have their work assessed publicly, Brett added, saying: “Now there are reviews on Amazon, for example, that happens even more.”
… Many writers, including Stephanie Merritt, Gwyneth Lewis and Sally Brampton have articulated their experiences of depression in personal memoirs, with novelist Marian Keyes revealing a serious bout of the illness to fans on her website earlier this year. “The medical department call it ‘a major depressive episode’, but I’ve been knocked sideways by a multitude of feelings, not just depression, but agitation, anxiety, terror, panic, grief, desperation, despair and an almost irresistible desire to be dead and it’s gone on for a very long time,” Keyes wrote. “Every day for six solid months I’ve had to try really hard to stay alive.”
I think I’ve been pretty lucky in avoiding such roads so far, but from my conversations with nearly every writer I’ve ever met, these feelings – no matter how small – are far from uncommon. The internet hasn’t helped. I dread to think how many hours I’ve lost online following pointless debates, and cringing over bad opinions. Having publishers tell authors to get a web presence can’t help everyone – it’s like lighting a fuse for those individuals whose minds just shouldn’t be exposed to flame wars.
There is something about writing and the internet that aggravates the mind: a curiousity for opinion, then a need for affirmation; which is linked to confidence, which is linked to doing the damn job in the first place. Throw in money woes and that leads to very dark nights (this is why I still have a day job). And where’s the support for all this when people will likely respond: you’re only a writer, it’s not like you’re stressed out by saving lives every day. Such a sequence of events would leave many writers feeling vulnerable and isolated, and I dare say quite a few editors are part-time therapists, too.
Not mine, of course. She just says I’m a diva and tells me to get on with it.