The twenty-first(and final) post in The Education of a Writer (TEW) series.
The dictionary defines melancholy like this:
a. gloomy state of mind, especially when habitual or prolonged; depression. b. sober thoughtfulness; pensiveness.
“b” is healthy. Normal. “a” is not healthy nor normal.
Creative people enjoy b, which makes them prone to a.
Listen: the creative freelancer is going to be moody. Manic. And often sad. But here’s what to do if you find yourself sad longer than is healthy.
The Things a Melancholy Freelancer Loves
I say “enjoy melancholy” because, well, we like it. It is essential to being creative.
Let me give you an example.
Here are a few of the things I like/liked:
- Failure by the Swans
- Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins
- Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Doestoevsky
- Darkness Visible by William Stryon
- The Noonday Demon-an Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon
- Magnificent Ruin
All of them are elegant in their sadness.
Ezra Pound said the poet is the antennae of society. That could be said of all creative people. Designers. Writers. Illustrators. Sculptors.
In other words, they are sensitive.
Tragedy overshadows everything in our memory. We don’t suffer from post-celebration syndrome. But post-traumatic syndrome–to whatever degree–is very real.
But for creatives there will be moments of mania. Our production will be ridiculous. Through the roof. And we are happy Italian children stomping on grapes.
Then there are days of melancholy.
We do not know where it comes from. But there it is.
Our production, like our mood, plummets.
It is a grave situation. There is something in us that draws us to the tragic. Some more than others. We have to be careful.
What to Do When Melancholy Becomes Chronic Darkness
Why am I sharing this? Freelance is an emotional ride. That’s just another secret the cubicle bound can’t tell you.
Granted, it has paid off financially in spades. But recently I’ve gone through some of my most darkest days.
Of course, as a melancholic, its an occupational hazard.
I spoke to one young lady who immediately suggested I get on meds. Depression, like diabetes she said, is chemical. Thus, treat it chemically.
I don’t know enough to say either way, but I know this: meds would not bring me out of the dark. This was situational…
I’d made the bed. I’d been sleeping in the bed.
It was now time to get OUT of the bed.
We often start to self-medicate. A beer or two to get us through the afternoon. Even more at night. Even more over the weekend.
I like beer. But I like self-control better.
So I made some changes:
- Stopped taking every single job that came through my door. I learned how to say “no,” which is not easy. Money is nice…sanity even better.
- Scaled down even more of the current work. I learned how to be efficient. Focused. Lean. And mean. Production, up.
- Started getting out of the house more. Hunched over in my office in the upstairs corner of our house was not healthy. I may be an introvert, but I need people. Ask my wife. I was driving her nuts.
- And started nurturing my creative side even more. Working on two side projects that have nothing to do with money. Sheer creativity and love of the work and the work alone.
America wants to medicate melancholy. Creative people…we want to enjoy it. But NOT be destroyed by it.