Artists and writers often need to retreat from the world or go on a sabbatical. Sometimes these periods away from the outside world are by our own volition to recharge our creative batteries such as going on artists’ and writers’ retreats but other times life events such as bereavement, illness or mental health challenges force us to recover or seek a safe haven away from the world.
It has been suggested that creative people are more prone to vulnerability and living with the ‘black dog’ as well as experiencing other mind states such as bipolar disorder and various stages of dissociation, than the average population. Perhaps it’s because artists and writers pay closer attention to the smallest details such as labouring all afternoon whether to leave a comma in or out or agonising over the choice of a certain tone in a painting that carries over into the ‘real world’ making events, even the small ones, seem overwhelming.
At certain stages in our lives we may experience the death or loss of a loved one, or go through our own metaphorical death or ‘dark nights of the soul’ when we feel as though our art, words or even our own lives are pointless and we begin to doubt ourselves to the point of developing an imposter syndrome even after we have successfully published numerous books or had our art displayed in the public sphere.
In reality, there are no failed artists or writers, only those artists and writers who give up. What my own recent experience has taught me is not to over intellectualise everything but to remember to express myself from the heart. It is all too easy to ruminate about past failures, which leads to depression, or to worry whether you’re ever going to make it as an artist or writer, which can often lead to anxiety. Both states can hinder us from doing the work we are truly meant to do.
In reality, there are no failed artists or writers, only those artists and writers who give up.
As human beings we cannot escape life’s inevitable ups and downs. All we can hope to do is to go through the various stages of bereavement, grief, loss, internal strife or whatever life throws at us and try bounce back. These are processes we all must go through at some stage in our lives. Through my journey I discovered that mindfulness can help heal and to recover from some of life’s traumatic events. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious, depressed, sad or even to experience what psychiatrists may classify as personality disorders. Mental health issues can affect anyone and none of these define you.
Depression like discomfort passes eventually. When we are hungry or we feel discomfort we can learn to sit with that discomfort in the knowledge that we are (hopefully) going to eat and nourish our bodies. It’s the same for our minds. Our minds are in constant flux so its helpful to be mindful that change is the only constant. Eventually some kind of equilibrium or ‘normality’ can be achieved. I found that mindfulness really assisted me through my recent turmoil as I learned to acknowledge and release. To simplify, mindfulness is living in the moment rather than living for the moment.
In many ways our lives can mirror the hero’s journey (pdf) who is called to undertake a process which can be anything from having to go through any of the issues discussed above to a personal odyssey. Essentially, the hero’s journey in narrative and mythology is the conventional motif in which a hero goes on an adventure, endures a crisis, and wins a victory, returning home changed or transformed to share his or her experience with his or her community, family, friends or social group.
Preview this book by Rohan Gunatillake which takes a modern approach to mindfulness..
Preview this book by Gill Hasson which takes an informal approach to mindfulness..
Feel free to share your experiences or contact us here to enquire about how Writerful Books can help you on your own personal journey. Have our beta readers beta read your manuscript or hire an editor to assess your manuscript and have your book reviewed for free! We feature author interviews (click link to find out more) for writers who incorporate the hero’s journey and/or write about personal transformation or mental health issues into their work.
Read a review of In Two Minds: A Novel by Gordon Parker (related link)