I ramble a lot, that should be the tagline for this blog.
A little while back I did a post about the film Side Effects, a film I really enjoyed and would probably put at the top of the list of the films I’ve seen this year so far. I ended that post by saying that I’d be doing a post on Silver Linings Playbook, another film that I thoroughly enjoyed.
I said my link into that post was something that Jude Law’s character says in Side Effects, when he mentions that a psychiatrist once said that depression is the inability to construct a future.
Now I’d never heard it put quite that way before but thought that it was – if not a complete definition – something that grabs your attention and gives people a way to more easily grasp what is essentially something very difficult to truly understand.
I’d also recently been blogging about the impact of environment on behaviour and how changes in a persons environment – and how these are dealt with – are the keys to not only fiction but also real life as well.
As I was thinking about how to structure this post, I came across this article on the BBC website which, in its opening paragraph, states that –
Creativity is often part of a mental illness, with writers particularly susceptible, according to a study of more than a million people.
It is an interesting article that sparked a few ideas on the subject. It just so happens that the article fleshed out things I was already pondering after watching Silver Linings and revisiting I Heart Huckabees, as well as dovetailing well with some of my previous posts on the impact of environment on personality.
Essentially, I was wondering what is it about writers that makes them more susceptible to mental illness. Now, none of this is an exhaustive look at any of these things, more just ideas and speculations – based on two films and an article – very loosely joined together.
Silver Linings Playbook
In Silver Linings, we learn that the big change in the environment of Bradley Cooper’s character was coming home to find his wife in the shower with her lover. Losing his temper and beating the lover up is a reaction that is not exactly unexpected but subsequently he also has to deal with the fact that he is diagnosed with bi-polar disorder.
From here, it’s pretty easy to see that it may be difficult to construct a future. He focuses on trying to win back his wife and during the course of the film he meets Jennifer Lawrence, another troubled character.
A quick side note, but one of the funniest things for me in this film is that they argue about who is more crazy. It made me laugh because even though they are in a place of mental anguish, the spectre of ‘you’re worse then me’ crops up, like, ‘I know I’m bad, but you, well’, but it is in essence I suppose a very human thing to do.
The really interesting about this film is looking at when the characters are at their most settled, happy and productive. Clearly, when the two main characters are preparing for the dance competition ticks those boxes. His mind is focused on something because it has to be, which leads me onto
I heart Huckabees
I heart Huckabees is a film that I love but even so, I realise that many people not only do not share my love for it, they actively dislike it and think it is a terrible film. But for the purposes of this post I’ll refer to it without going into a long and detailed description of just why I love it so much.
Quite early on in the film, Dustin Hoffman’s character says –
Your mind is always occupied on something…so it may as well be something helpful…
Which sounds amazingly easy but most definitely isn’t as easy as it appears, especially if you are caught in a position of not being able to mentally construct a future for whatever reason.
Another reason it isn’t easy is because very few people are in a genuine state of being mentally balanced. Most of us have a constant stream of desires, wants, needs, disappointments and many other things pulling us mentally this way or that.
But, crucially, most people are still able to have a feeling of advancement through work and life milestones.
So how does this tie in to writers? Well, there’s nothing to say any of this does, this is just me throwing thoughts and ideas out there but the BBC article I linked earlier played a big part in writing all of this.
A quick look around the internet will unearth plenty of articles about the inner turmoil people experience during their mid to late twenties as the true reality of adulthood settles in and things like long term partners, thinking about houses, jobs and careers all play a more prominent part in life, in contrast to the more carefree days of being a late teen and also the early twenties.
From personal experience, I have seen many friends start making real, genuine progress in their lives: marriage, babies, houses, settling into jobs.
The point I’m making is that by and large, people start to settle into what you would recognise as the next chapter of life.
But what of the writer?
From a purely practical perspective, you’re not in a position to construct a future because you have no idea when or if you will ever write something that will do anything more then be rejected. You need good quality time to actually write, which impacts on your job choices but you have the feeling that you should be advancing, especially in comparison to others of a similar age.
It is hard not to feel inadequate when people around you seem to be advancing through life with gay abandon, rising through pay grades and actually seem, on the face of it, to be rather happy.
Of course when you are writing you are lost in your own world and experience genuine happiness. In the background though, you can’t escape the feeling that unless something is published now, you are going to have to make compromises time and job wise, compromises you don’t want to make.
Now this is looking at it all from a simplistic perspective and not delving into the more, shall we say, ‘glamorous’ arguments of the tortured artist suffering for their craft, or talking about creatives that are out of sync with the rest of society because they vibe at a different frequency.
I don’t really have to do that because the things I mentioned sort of do the same thing but in a more down to earth way.
So in essence then, my main point is this: A mind that is unbalanced because it cannot construct a reliable image of the future and one that also will inherently struggle with the thought exercise of keeping your mind focused on positive things, seems to be a breeding ground for feelings of hopelessness and worry.
Whilst in Silver Linings it is a sudden shift in environment that puts everything else in motion and upsets the balance of life, a writer is more or less in a constant state of unease socially.
And that is an important point as well, as this is just a discussion of the social aspects, not to mention the psychological aspects and questions that are raised by the BBC article.