A Town of Anxious Writers?
Seriously? A town of anxious writers! Could that be?
An article on England’s unhappiest towns reports that Norwich, described as “a hub of literary activity,” home to many writers and actors, was not only third most unhappy but also the Number One Most Anxious community in the UK.
It certainly looks pleasant enough. (BTW, sorry about the wonky type. Can’t seem to get it right this time.)
I once knew a fellow who lived in this neighborhood, a writer as it happens. And he was a bit anxious, now that I think about it. Liked his drink, “a near-lethal dose of gin,” he called it, with a bit of vermouth. It’s hard to know which is the chicken and which is the egg, but alcohol and anxiety are part of a cycle.
Is there some similar connection between anxiety and writing?
Does anxiety rise in a community based on the number of writers in the area? It wouldn’t surprise me. And yet I don’t understand why it would be so. I find writing deeply engaging and satisfying. It’s the antidote to feeling bad. And my fellow writers tend to help me keep anxiety at bay.
And yet I do take an anti-anxiety medication, my great fear being making mistakes, causing damage, doing wrong.
I don’t think writing has any part in causing this problem. Others disagree, I read that Kay Redfield Jamison, author of Touched By Fire says career writers are eight times more likely to have mental illness than other people. Eight times!
And one explanation: the part of the brain that comes up with ideas (the right precuneus?) is constantly firing; it’s “a firehose of ideas.” And that takes a toll.
I wish I had a firehose of ideas. I have a mere water gun, less force than a garden hose.
So what do you think about the anxiety-writing connection? Any theories?
Tags: alcohol and anxiety, anti-anxiety medication, antidote to feeling bad, anxiety rise, anxiety-writing connection, anxious writers, causing damage, comes up with ideas, connection between anxiety and writing, doing wrong, England's unhappiest towns, Kay Redfield Jamison, keep anxiety at bay, making mistakes, right precuneus, Touched By Fire
Ho Ho! Now that is a big ole ball of wax!! This issue has crossed my mind, just a few times of course. . .joke, comma, feeble. . . I am anxious for sure, and I likes a drink . . .One of my theories is that artists in our current world culture, which does not respect them all that very much, are swimming upstream. That in long-ago cultures (perfect of course, way back when) artists and artisans were more valued. Lewis Hyde has that great book, The Gift. But I do also wonder related to the brain storm you talked about, that something about the activity of it requires sloshy boundaries (etc. etc.)? So I say to all usns: adjust and compensate and keep at it! It’s a game worth the candle! Thanks for this , Peggy.
Sure, Amey, just a few times! Certainly artists are swimming upstream, all but a very few and they have their problems too. I like your term “sloshy boundaries.” Another version is one that a baseball player said about how you need to be when you come up to bat: “loose as ashes.” Really feels right to me. I suppose that could produce anxious feelings; at the same time, why would anybody want to be anything else?
“Loose as ashes” —– that’s a keeper!
I find it actually helps me at times to visualize the loose ashes. And there’s nothing looser. By comparison, grains of sand cling to each other.
I’m so anxious and it is almost ALL about the book! But… long walks. Writer friends. Cups of tea, the writing itself. Reading amazing books. Finding a spiritual center. It’s an authentic, deeply encountered life. Oh, and also Antiques Road Show.
Sounds as if you’re doing well with it, Marj, and I like the term “encountered life.” In answer to your earlier question, my book is now in a flurry of last design changes. I posted on FB the tentative cover, asking for opinions. Do have a look if you have a moment. comment_id=735838841341009¬if_id=1674319555410674¬if_t=feed_comment&ref=notif
One of my favorite similes: attributed to Branch Rickey, I believe.
I got it from you, Christina. Thanks. It has been valuable.
I’ve never been a writer, but I can imagine the satisfaction if you feel you are good at it. I would think the anxiety would be if you were counting on it for a living, but otherwise just wanting it to be perfect and get a feeling or point across to the reader in a meaningful way. I also think many of the arts today; literature, art, good music and poetry suffer from the lessening of people who appreciate these and are able to even comprehend much of the meaning, poignancy and depth.
The business end of the arts is certainly worrisome a lot of the time, Mary Ellen. And there aren’t enough buyers of literary fiction in the country. None the less, we keep on. I think maybe anxious people are attracted to the deep immersion, the trance, that the process of writing produces.
Creative types deliberately, by temperament, or sometimes by psychopathology access parts of their minds thar most folks don’t go digging around in. Lots of amazing and powerful things live down there, but there are some truly scary creatures of the deep that also get woken up.
Great point, Lee. I think it’s largely by temperament and happens automatically and goes on much of the time. How can anyone not be curious? Watching true crime seems to both calm and stoke the impulse, somehow contain the whole business. (But, weirdly, I can’t bear to watch a show where someone’s feelings get hurt. Succession, for example, where everyone is being mean to each other.)
Since my writing has been limited to college themes and sporadic blogging, I don’t feel qualified to preach on the subject. Howe er, I can opine that your “water gun” has spurted much stronger at some points in your writing career!!
It has always been pretty steady at the current pace, kenju. Always enough to keep me busy. Right now enough underway to last me likely to the end of my days.