Biographies of the Greats / Opinion

I Am Depressed; Does That Mean I Am a Great Writer Now?


Err, hi.

I’ve just been diagnosed with depression.

Jesus. I’m really sorry to hear that. Depression is such a difficult thing to live with.

Ah, it’s fine. Because now I’m depressed, I’m also a great writer, and I can get published and immortalised and make millions!

… excuse me?

Yep. Depression has made me a great writer, just like all mental illness does!

Wow. I’m not sure that’s how that works.

Sure it is. You ever heard of ‘the tortured artist’?

The S&M club over in Piccadilly?

No! Wait, there’s an S&M club in Piccadilly? Ahem. Well, give me details later. But what I mean is how all great writers are crazy.


Well, yeah. Crazy for depression.

That’s not even slightly true.

Sure it is. Virginia Woolf. Sylvia Plath. That weirdo who bred cats with more than five toes.

Ernest Hemingway?

Right. Him. Edgar Allen Poe. Every single poet. Yep, that is a comprehensive list that totally proves my point. Depression makes you a great writer.


And now that list includes me. I can write amazing things. Starting now. DEPRESSION, ACTIVATE!

Have you considered that maybe the depression didn’t actually have anything to do with their writing abilities.

I can’t hear you over the sound of my depression.


Wooooaaahhh. With my powers of depression, I can see things that non-depressed people can’t see.

Like what?

Like… errr. Like… well, mainly the freak cats with lots of toes. It chills me.

… Are you really depressed?

Yes! Well, not right now. Oh my God! That’s why all I can think about is cat toes! I’m not depressed at the moment so I can’t have any good ideas.

That’s… not what I said.

DAMMIT! Why can’t I feel depressed all the time?

You know, when I’m depressed all I do is lay in bed, and can’t think of anything but the total lack gnawing at the centre of my soul. It’s not even sadness. Sadness would be productive. It’s total absence, and I can’t move.

Haha! Yeah! When I’m depressed I curl up in a corner and take turns eating loads in an attempt to feel something, with long periods of starvation because I despise myself so completely that I don’t want to take care of myself! Haha, it’s so weird.

But, that’s kind of my point. Depression is pretty much the total inability to do anything.

Except write ‘The Waves’ amirite? High five!

I’m, like, 100% sure that she wasn’t depressed when she wrote that.

Whaaaaaaaat!? It’s Virginia Woolf man. Of course she was depressed. She killed herself!

Yeah, but her life wasn’t one long agonising build up to suicide. She was funny. She was happy. She was smart and she was creative, and she also had periods of depression. Yes they were bad. One was so bad that she couldn’t see a way out. But they weren’t every aspect of her life. Part of her, sure. But depression isn’t a monolithic personality trait, anymore than any other illness. I mean, do we retroactively judge all of H.G. Wells’ work under the knowledge that he was diabetic?

Yep. I wrote an essay on how ‘War of the Worlds’ was all about blood sugar levels.

… Moving on. My point is, she wasn’t depressed all the time, and she didn’t write these things because of her depression. She wrote them in spite of it.


Come on. It’s a miracle if you can summon the energy to pick up the mail when you’re depressed, let alone write an enduring literary classic. She was a great writer, and she was prone to depression. That’s it.

And she was played by Nicole Kidman in ‘The Hours’!


Oh. I thought we were saying Virginia Woolf facts.

I mean, we kinda were.

So you’re saying that mental illness doesn’t give you amazing powers that make you a great writer?

The hint is in the name. It’s called mental illness, not… mental… helpful thing.

Wow. That was really bad. You’re not very good at coming up with names.

Exactly! I’m a depressive, and I have the creativity of an accountant. Not all depressed people are great writers. Just look at… err, dentists. Or accountants!

You need to lay off of the accountants.

My accountant stole my wife and now I hate them all. It’s a personal issue that I need to overcome.

Ok. So not all depressed people are great writers, and in the people who are, it’s probably nothing to do with their depression?


So, I’m not a great writer? My book, ‘Ravaged by the Undead Whorde, a Zombie Erotica’ probably isn’t the next classic? Wow. That makes me feel kind of low.

Errr, it could be! I’d have to read it first.

You want to read it?

Err. Em. Err, yeah. I mean, like, later. I have work and I looked into an eclipse, so I can’t right now, but… sure… at some point.

Cool, give me your email address!

… I don’t have email.

Oh, that’s ok. I can send you an illustrated copy by mail. Hey, you know, ever since I’ve suffered with depression, I’ve become a really great artist.

Well duh. Everybody knows that mental illness makes you an amazing artist.



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