How top authors wrote with, about, and as therapy for, their hidden illness

“This article is submitted to the June to August writing competition on creativity and resilience.”

Writer’s block

Writing about what you know —cliché, or good advice? Does the maxim apply when our muse is mental health? Can ruminating about melancholy be healthy?

Sigmund Freud’s definition of mental illness, in ‘Mourning and Melancholia,’ has many parallels with writer’s block. How often have you experienced a ‘cessation of interest’, or an ‘inhibition of all activity when halfway through a project?

The most crippling block of all is the ‘lowering of the self-regard’ — a nagging voice that continually makes us feel our work is…


Rethink how you relive the past with this prompt.

Prompt

If memories could be stored in a physical space — what, or where, would it be?

Development

Memories are often captured in physical form: sun-blanched sepia photographs, ticket stubs, a slice of wedding cake in the back of the freezer, milk teeth reclaimed from the tooth fairy.

Keepsakes, mementoes, souvenirs, relics — to someone else they could be worthless, but to us they’re priceless time machines capable of re-invoking visceral emotions from the past.

Anamnesis can be more evocative when triggered by a sensory experience: the first drops of rain on sun-baked tarmac; sweet charcoal smoke from roasting chestnuts as dusk…


Free Verse

Mother
sounds the claxon:
action stations.

Father
lights the remnant
of her short fuse:
preparing drinks;
getting underfoot.

The family
falls in, sits to attention:
hands crossed on thighs
beneath a pressed cloth
(knife-edge creases parallel to table edge –
no tramlines).

I
feel a frisson
as my new girlfriend
returns the squeeze
of my warm hand.

The dog
risks expulsion:
taking up a covert position –
to snipe at crumbs.

Ceremonial placemats
dressed-off in exact rows.
Cloth napkins:
starch white; wrung tight in silver rings.
Crystal glass-ware:
projecting rainbows.
Cloud-stained tumblers and
chipped-china plates:
hidden from view. …


A free verse poem

Dear Father. God.
Do you really exist?

I asked Mum but
she said you’re,
“Just another bloke
who wants to shaft us.”
I don’t mean to be rude,
sorry.
It worries me though,
‘cos her cancer’s back again and
I want her to go to heaven.

Do people normally talk aloud?
Or in their heads?

I Googled you:
but didn’t get it.
When they said
there was three of you,
but you’re all the same,
that’s just insane.

Unless…
are you some kind of superhero?

Your Facebook status was funny.
I liked it, but –
not sure I know what
“smite” means.
Your profile…


Explore what age means to you with this prompt

Prompt

One man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages [William Shakespeare]

How do we transition between the stages of our lives? What is the modern equivalent of the seven ages? When does someone become a teenager, middle-aged, or old?

The seven ages

In Jacques’ infamous ‘all the world’s a stage’ monologue from ‘As You Like It’ (Act II, Scene VII) there are seven ages:

  1. ‘Infant’
  2. ‘Whining schoolboy’
  3. ‘Lover’
  4. ‘Soldier’
  5. ‘Justice’
  6. The ‘pantaloon’ wearing old man
  7. The decrepit man living his ‘second childishness’

With this prompt, there’s an opportunity to explore what defines the concept of age.

For example, I…

Dan Morrissey

Literature is the roadmap for understanding humanity | Reader | Writer | Teacher | Editor of the THE MUSE

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