Monday, 19 October 2009


Writing and depression. Not easy bedfellows, even though artistic endeavour does seem to have some connection with extreme states of mind.

Depression is a dark cloud muddying the waters, all the filth that you hoped was lying undisturbed on the bottom, compacting into immovable layers, gets swirled up by some passing thought or incident. There is no real way of knowing what is going to do it. It’s not always the large things that disturb the detritus. Small things flitting past, inconsequential things that flip their tail and loosen just enough to set of a landslide that gathers speed down some subterranean slope and before you know it vast clouds are swirling up to choke you and the beautiful waters of your existence.

Yet in all that garbage, all that filth, all that choking misery, are the diatomic particles that provide food for the ever hungry imagination. I was swept away recently by just such an upsurge. I live in a fragile world. Poor physical health means I cannot do many of the things I would love to do; cannot be many of the things I would love to be. Like financially independent.

And trying to make something of an artistic talent (well, I think it is a talent) means you are climbing out on a thin branch over a long drop. Magnificent view. Great potential for a world of hurt. Artists are dependent on others. Not for their talent, but if they want to put food on the table, a roof over their heads, and contribute to a decent standard of living for their loved ones, other people have to like and buy their work.

That involves other people. Most of whom don’t give a shit about you, your talent, or your desire to live an unassuming life somewhere warm, dry, and with food in the pantry. These days the situation is more difficult. Not only is publishing largely in the hands of bean counters, but there is an increasing number of people who have grown up thinking books, music, movies, TV, and the like should be free; that the people who create their entertainment shouldn’t actually get paid for the hard work they put in.

At the same time, artists who try to go it alone are looked down on. If you self-publish, it is considered a ‘bad move’. Can’t think why. It’s the ultimate test. Writers are increasingly expected to do all the work. Not just write to the best of their ability, but spend time that could be spent writing another book on marketing, publicity, writing blurbs and press pieces, organising events. All of that out of their ten per cent (sorry, nine per cent, because if they have an agent, they will be taking their cut).

Can you blame a writer for getting tired of this and deciding they will do the lot and take all the proceeds? Easier, of course, if they are already well known and have a fan base. But they sink or swim on their own efforts and do not have to rely on others, especially all those others who don’t give a shit.

Now, I am well aware that there are plenty who do care, who work hard to get good books into the book shops and maximise sales. I’m not sure they’re on the winning side at the moment.

Like banks, publishers have approached the recent financial crisis with that always useful approach of: more of the same! Which is obtuse. I talk to people about books and like me they are hungry for new, good writing. It doesn’t have to be heavy, literary stuff. But all we seem to get from the world of entertainment at the moment is an incestuous mix of celebrity produced/endorsed ‘reality’ (like any of them know what the real world is like). There are good books, films, plays, works of art, and so on. But do we really have to pay the price we are paying to get them? Do we really have to sift through all that garbage to find something nourishing? Maybe we do.

So what has this to do with depression? No idea. I’m trying to write myself out of one at the moment. It isn’t helped by seeing trite garbage paraded and lauded as the next best thing since the last best thing; by successful people forever telling me I can live my dream (it’s only materially successful people who say that, isn’t it); by having to rely on others who really don’t care (because many of them are fighting the same battles as you – whatever happened to good old socialism? how did we let those few greedy bastards get away with it?).

Often, the only way I can do it is by venting the same old arguments and asking the same old questions. Maybe one day I’ll find some answers. If I do, I will share them. I could keep them to myself and get rich on the back of them. But I’m not like that. I’d rather spread the happiness around a bit. Because that’s what I really want. The security that brings happiness. Nothing more. Nothing less. Somewhere warm and dry. Food on the table. Loved ones safe and protected.

OK. That was one step up toward the light. Thank you for indulging me.


Carol said...

Your right, you do have to rely on other people and, your right again, that some of them don't give a shit....but....some do and don't want anything in return.

As a blogger you have a whole load of people based all over the place quietly cheering you on....I know....I'm one of them!! (Ok, so with this comment I'm not doing it so quietly but hey....I'm still cheering you on!!)

C x

Graeme K Talboys said...

Aw. Bless.

Humbled and considerably cheered by this.

Thank you so much.

Pom said...

Understood - in more ways than one.

Wishing you the best. Truly.

Graeme K Talboys said...

Thank you. The sun is shining a little today.

Vague said...

Hope you're soon out of the dark and back in full sunshine.

Graeme K Talboys said...

I'm beginning to head that way. The discovery of damp in the bedroom (and the total lack of interest by the Council is proving to be a bit of a test).

Anne Brooke said...

It is such a nightmare and October is such rubbish - sending love & hugs your way ...


Graeme K Talboys said...

Thanks Anne. Still struggling out of the pit. Trying to deal with agents doesn't help.