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Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness

"But it is a melancholy of mine own, compounded of many simples, extracted from many objects, and indeed the sundry contemplation of my travels, which, by often rumination, wraps me in the most humorous sadness"
           --Shakespeare (As You Like It)

Writer Elizabeth Moon wrote a lovely blog posting some years ago about the common instances of depression among writers. I don't often use this blog to turn inwards, but every once in a while is okay, I suppose. There have been two traits that have been with me as long as I can remember: my love of reading and writing and my recurring depression. As a child, escaping into stories—whether written by someone else or the product of my own imagination—was my way of coping with the sadness that surrounded me, so often without any real reason.

I bring this up because my depression has reared its ugly head in the week since I've arrived in Las Vegas. The drive here involved an entire day of driving on hard-packed, unsalted, unplowed snow and ice in New Mexico, which drove my stress levels through the roof. I came down with an atrocious cold that took my voice and gave me stabbing pains in my ears. And since then I have been living in a hotel because my mortgage company has delayed my house closing (I have now been in escrow for nearly 60 days). Of course these might be described as "First-World Problems," and they are. In the grand scheme of things, they are short-term and relatively minor issues.

But I have found myself in a haze—unable to think clearly, certainly unable to write. I have been listening to the audio book of Stephen King's The Stand, which is not as successful at driving off my depression as The X-Men comic books were in my junior high days. But it is, to say the least, giving me some perspective. After all, what is a delayed house closing compared to being a deaf mute boy who is beaten terribly? What is a cough and an ear ache compared to "tube neck?" So my mood is still fairly dark, but long years of experience have given me the tools to dig my way out. I will buy Christmas presents, I will listen to a good book, I will edit (yet another) god-awful non-fiction diatribe. And then I will finish Isabella's story. I am very, very close. It's just a matter of letting my mind wander go and live in her world for a while


  1. Just dealing with the issues you've described are enough to take your mind away from writing, I'm sure. All creative people (at least the ones I've known) go through these times, and to me, it's partly a case of having to deal with things so mundane and irritating, that take you away from your creativity, that depress us.
    Give it a few days... work on something new that inspires you. Design rooms in your new house, think about color and texture selections, landscaping you'd like to do when the weather is better... Anything to help get you out of the doldrums. This too, shall pass. And before you know it, Isabella will be back in the forefront of your mind, and you'll be typing up those last scenes before you know it.

  2. Depression is a bane to writers everywhere but also part of what drives us to be writers, I think. If our worlds were perfect, free of the stress of driving through hard-packed snow and dealing with mortgage companies, then we wouldn't have the incentive to visualize other worlds . . . worlds in which our characters can do what we can't, experience adventures we'd like to, and come away with the profound changes and growth that often take us years to realize.

    The notion that our stress is triggered by first-world problems offers, as you suggest, an additional burden of guilt or self-criticism: how dare we feel so bad when others have it much worse? But self-judgment is unwarranted. Your stress is your own and need not compare to anyone else's.

    Sorry, no advice on cheering up from me . . . other than maybe dig out those old X-Men comics. (Hey, the LSH works for me!) :D


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