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Today there’s been a lot of attention focused on an article that reiterates what I think humans have known since the advent of artistic expression:creativity and mental illness seem to go hand-in-hand, with writers being the most at risk for disorders such as depression. I know this first-hand because I have struggled with depression for most of my life. Right now I am in what I call a functioning relationship with it; I can work, take care of my daughter, do a decent job of keeping life going. But more than that requires great effort to maintain, and this impinges mostly on the creative side of my life. Writing consistently is always difficult, but the more that I can do, the more I can keep slogging through the fatigue and ennui the depression produces.

One of the activities that has helped push back against the depression has been my column at SF Signal, which requires weekly creativity from me. I rarely miss a week, even when ill, because without it my writing gets spottier. When I moved last month I missed two weeks of columns and I felt very uncreative. To make up for it I will do a very focused writing exercise when I am really dragging; one of them, a “doodle” flash story, has been picked up for publication later this year. I did another one this morning, giving myself 15 minutes to write a poem. This was the result:
Instant Zombie Poem:

I can’t wait for
the inevitable zombie apocalypse
what a time that will be!
Yes, there will be panic and rampage and death
but there will also be
We will become lean and hungry, and appreciate
every single thing we have.

We will make every headshot with a grin
capable of impossible feats
yet still
vulnerable to a single mistake that changes us.
We will know that every second is precious
every action has immediate consequence
and when that bite comes
when death grips us and chews deeply into us
awakening the demise that has always lain within us
We will know that we struggled
that we felt every instant
and that while there are no more tomorrows
as we slide into pale intensity
becoming all hunger and no humanity
we will know that those we fought alongside
which is everyone living
will try to do right by us, and keep
something more voracious than hope or death alive.
My creativity still functions more on inspiration than perspiration, and in the last 18 months I have been working to change that. But the depression flares up, even with some medication, and it is exacerbated by other medications I take for health conditions. Some days I move through a light fog and forget things easily, little things like phone calls and such. Only when I can claw through the fog and write something can I really push it back, My creativity both emerges from and alleviates the depression, and only by writing more, with consistency, can I harness that creativity and work through the feelings that have little basis in reality.
Creativity is about expression, and to express thoughts and feelings in the face of a condition that tries to steal any good sensation away and replace it with emotional sludge is exhausting but powerful. I don’t think I will ever write enough to satisfy myself, but I will keep writing as much as I can to turn the gifts that have come with the depression back on itself.