The Tortured Artist

One thing I dislike about writing is that some writers project this image of the tortured artists. Some truly believe you need to be the tortured artist, doing your best work at two am.

Do you know what I do at two am? I sleep. Assuming I’m not suffering through a bout of insomnia – I got to bed between ten and half ten, feed the cats, check my kid, take my meds read and sleep. If I am suffering from insomnia then to be honest, my best work is not written at two am when I’ve had no sleep but been at work all day. And at the moment I usually don’t get up to even have a cup of tea. I like in bed and listen to music or just think. At least if I’m in bed I’m resting and in the right place if I do fall to sleep.

I cannot afford to be the tortured artist. And neither can my writing. Just this year alone has been a great example of the detrimental effect my mental health has on my writing. January was great, I was feeling positive, work was good, life was settling down. I wrote over 26,000 words. Then my depression started to kick in, my anxiety, and my word count went to down 26,541 > 15,608 > 6,770 > 10,756 > 7,621.

I April I hit my target word count 5 days out of thirty. In May it was four days. Most of the days I didn’t write at all.

Sleep is important to my mental health. My depression and my insomnia have always been very closely interwoven since I was thirteen years old. and yes, I have sat up in the middle of the night writing, and yes some of it was good but that’s not what I should be doing. It’s like writing at any time of the day, but instead of writing during the day, I was sleeping during the day, not coping, not getting out and doing other things. Like getting better. It’s hard to do those things at night when everything is closed and everyone is asleep. I need sleep. I can’t cope on anything less than nine hours sleep a night sometimes, I can and will sleep for 18 hours at a time. It’s both a mix of depression and catching up on the sleep I didn’t get between the ages of thirteen and thirty I swear. I need sleep. I need good mental health. I cannot be the tortured artist. I have a wife and a kid and a job and mental health that mostly relies on keeping all those things.

Van Gogh did some of his best work, his most famous work and my favourite painting – Starry Night – while seeking treatment in an asylum. All his mental health did was kill him. Nearly did the same to me.

I am hopeful for June, though there are no guarantees, I certainly feel better, more communicative which is usually a very good sign. We’ll see what happens.

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