How are depression and creativity linked

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I’ve always been an anxious person but for the first time in my life, I got a taste of depression. I couldn’t fall asleep, then I couldn’t get up in the morning. I couldn’t focus on my day job. I couldn’t muster any interest in my hobbies and everything I touched, I seemed to make worse. I couldn’t write. But the way I felt was so unfamiliar, I knew it wasn’t simple writer’s block. It was like my whole perception of reality had been blocked. Long story short, it took me a few months to get diagnosed with depression and severe anxiety. I started receiving therapy, got signed off work and started feeling a bit better. I’m nowhere near how I felt before this all happened but in a moment of mental clarity, I thought, did depression kill my creativity or is my creative self predisposed to mood disorders? 

Here’s what I found out. 

It’s difficult to examine 

There is a notion in Western culture that creative geniuses have long suffered of mental illnesses, going as far as to say that it makes them more creative. But that wasn’t my experience and as I delved into the scientific research on the subject, I found that such a link is difficult to prove or disprove. A full review of all available research by Christa L. Taylor makes a point that certain mood disorders, like bipolar disorder, have some proven links to creativity but depression and its possible link to creativity has been largely unaddressed. Overall, Taylor concluded that ‘the relationship between creativity and mood disorder differs according to the research approach’. So basically, it’s all up for interpretation. 

There’s anecdotal evidence galore of artists who had increased or consistent output while suffering from depression. Check out this case study of Picasso and his Blue period. While reading this, I was thinking – was Picasso getting inspired by his grief and depression or was he using art as a means of therapy, the paintings a mere by-product of his inability to access help which was unavailable at those times? 

Writing as treatment for depression 

study looked specifically into the benefits of expressive writing for people with major depressive disorder. The results were positive – the subjects showed ‘significant decreases in depression scores’; and not only that – the benefits persisted for at least four weeks. And to me it seems that what Picasso was doing was expressive art – whether writing or painting, I would argue the medium doesn’t matter. It’s the expressive part which is important – the feelings that depression brings about have to come out and when they do, relief follows. 

This is where I hit a wall with my own recovery – I was trying to do my fiction writing which had nothing to do with me expressing anything. It was me, logically, systematically, productively following a set-out plot and chasing a deadline. Depression brought to me the feeling of detachment from reality. Suddenly, it didn’t matter I wanted to finish this book. Days whizzed past. First there was guilt, there was bad writing induced by feeling like a failure. Then, there was nothing at all. 

After a while, I thought, finally, that I needed help. But that didn’t come without its own special anxiety—I know GPs are quick to dispense anti-depressants and I had heard that they can make one docile, a shadow of their previous self. So I knew that depression didn’t aid my creativity and I was afraid whatever innate writing drive I had, would be dampened by my possible treatment. 

Does medication kill creativity? 

There is some clinical evidence that anti-depressants can cause a dampening of feeling and desire in some individuals (not in everyone!). This is why I always hear so much about trying to find the correct type and dose of medication—it’s a balancing act between the benefits of treating depression and managing the side effects. 

The baseline is, however, that depression often causes the same feeling of emptiness. So the question whether medication is a way forward or not depends on your personal situation. Can you shift your writing to be more expressive, about your condition? Medication will probably work hand in hand with your healing writing practice. Do you struggle to finish a previously outlined project with strict deadlines? Then you might need to test and try until you get it right for you. 

Personally, I opted not to medicate and went into therapy. Its hard work but for me, it works. It’s the third time in my life that I have done it and I’m feeling hopeful (a sign it’s already working!). Therapy won’t be for everyone but it’s an opportunity to engage in reflection and expression without making that the focus of your creativity. 

Final thoughts 

While doing the research for this topic, I stumbled upon a great article which discusses a lot of the points I did, but also brings in the opinions of doctors and authors who deal specifically with this issue. You can read it HERE.





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Success and your writing routine

What’s this episode about?

Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways.

In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be disruptive and how to pre-empt any issues and establish a routine which will stand the test of change.

Success and depression

Firstly, we need to discuss why success can have a negative impact on our lives. A great article by Forbes writer Alice Walton looks at why the most-successful people get depressed. In theory, they have it all, so what do they have to be unhappy about?

She identified six research-backed reasons for it. Some of these definitely apply to the successful writer too, while others are more corporate.

The fact that we perceive successful people unlike us, the regular people, adds up to two of the reasons Alice puts in her article. Successful people may feel detached from their former selves, leaving them with a fractured identity if the success is too sudden, or they can be less resilient because they’ve always had privilege propel them forward. Difficult times will get those people down easier than when their self-made counterparts experience them.

Successful people often work a lot and without taking too many breaks – this doesn’t allow them time to focus on the small things in life which normally bring joy and are natural anti-depressants. The industry culture and competition can also wear a person down to the point of depression, something which is less common in writing circles but still could be an issue depending on how writers see their peers.

Finally, the values of successful people can change, and they might find themselves in an environment they no longer want to be a part of. Which is terrifying, and can happen to anyone. Do any of these apply to your writing career so far? Let me know after this episode.

Avoid the dark side

A lot has been said in the media about the dark side of success. The evidence that succeeding is not just rose petals and prosecco is very obvious when one looks at child musician and actor stars. As these people grow up, they frequently pick up a number of unhelpful or downright damaging behaviors.

Are writers safe from that? Writing is, in its essence, something that requires a lot of practice so children authors who become bestsellers are rare. If you encounter success as an adult are you then safe from its disruptive touch? Children celebrities grow up under pressure and many have a skewed view of their worth because so much importance has been placed on their achievements. Unlike children, however, the pressures successful adults receive are not only external.

Writer Jeff Goins, speaking about his experience with success on his blog, argues that fear of losing what one’s gained and a desire to appease consumers is what sets a person on a dark path ultimately leading to their loss of creative self. When he reached what he thought was his success and he had a chance to ask himself why he was doing it all, the answers surprised him. He was doing it because of three reasons:

  • People expected it and he didn’t want to disappoint them.
  • He felt like this is what he had to do to succeed.
  • He was too afraid of being ignored or irrelevant to try something new.

And for many of us these immediately sound like the wrong reasons. But the key here is writers are often oblivious to their own ways, their own fears and the mental obstacles they set for themselves. It takes courage to stop for a second and evaluate your practice. Jeff Goins managed to avoid a full-scale descent into the dark side of success and I know you can too.


The book to which you owe listening to this podcast. The Lavender Phantom, my upcoming romance thriller, is now available for presale at a special price for all the early birds. It’s 25% off and if you preorder now, you can join me in my preorder giveaway and win some gift cards, books and tea.

All details can be found on my website The creation of that book has informed a lot of the content I’ve discussed in this podcast, so I’m excited to share it with you all. It’s not been an easy journey but I’ve learned a lot along the way about writing, mental health and productivity.

Change spares no one

If you think perceived success pitfalls are for those of us who are just starting out with our writing careers, you’re wrong. Success, as we established, is a change in circumstances, and change spares no one.

Bestselling author Lorraine Mace faced a new challenge when she was signed on by one of the top-five publishers. It was the launch of her fourth book in a series, and she had gotten used to the marketing strategies of her previous small publishers. Part of her promotion plan was holding a book signing event in a bookshop.

Here is how she describes her initial feelings in Writer’s Magazine: “I was excited about the idea of taking over a book shop for the launch, but it didn’t take long for the doubts to kick in: what if no nobody turned up? […] What do people eat at these things? I asked the bookshop owner, but she only added to my anxiety. […] By the time it was necessary to make a decision about the drinks, I could barely think straight.”

This sounds exactly like the stress and anxiety that comes from new-found responsibility. And then unfortunately for her mental health, a series of things led to a lot of people canceling their attendance, leaving her fearful that all her nightmares would come true. This couldn’t have been easy, but she went through it anyway and ended up having a successful launch with lots of people who hadn’t indicated they were coming.

In the end, it was her willingness to push through no matter what that made her event a success. That attitude is closely linked to adaptability and grit, skills we established in the last episode were crucial to successful writers.

Your rough action plan

So let’s say I’ve convinced you that achieving whatever you perceive as success is not all fizzy drinks and rainbows. What can you do to prepare mentally for the time your hard work pays off? Or what to do if you’re already stressing out about it and kind of lost in your career because you’ve achieved great things but it doesn’t seem to matter anymore?

Well. This won’t come as a surprise – you need to take a deep breath and then a longer moment to evaluate your practice. Why are you writing? What are you writing and for whom? These all have to align with your current goals and aspirations – and if you’re not clear on those, don’t worry, we’ll tackle that issue in episode 4 of this season.

Consider if you have taken too many new responsibilities that are negatively impacting on your previous commitments. Be realistic about your time – you’re a writer and if social media, marketing or other activities keep you from writing, you’re going to become unhappy in no time. Decide what the main things are for you, and don’t neglect them – anything else can be a bonus for when you have some free time.

And last but not least, remember that you’re only human. Don’t get sucked in a fairytale – burnt-out writers stressing about life each day might be interesting to watch in films and series, but in reality, being one is not fun – and not sustainable.


Before I discuss how to set proper goals for a successful writing career, I will look at the other side of the success-failure coin. Next Tuesday, in episode 3, I will talk about how to accept criticism and avoid the mental health traps that rejection and critical feedback inevitably bring. Writers of any kind will encounter this at some point in their practice, be it from agents, editors, clients, readers or even family members and friends. Learning how not to be discouraged is immensely useful both for your writing life but also for your overall mental health too.   

If you haven’t joined my newsletter yet, you’re missing out. I’ve now sent my first few ones and I’m really enjoying the process. Newsletters come once in the beginning of a season and once at the end so your inbox won’t fill up. They all feature a cute animal and a book recommendation which can improve either your mental health or your productivity as a writer. Feedback about the newsletters has been really positive so far, so after you finish this episode, go sign up. And if you think they can be improved, email me and I promise that I will do my best.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can poke me on The Pen Garden Facebook page or tweet me @laineydelaroque. Thanks very much for listening everyone. Hope you have an awesome week and speak to you soon.




Listen to all Available episodes of season 4:

Keep your writing career expectations in check– Success & Failure Episode 5

    Keep your writing career expectations in check What’s this episode about? Welcome to the final Episode 5 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In episode one of this season, an author I surveyed about […]

Set realistic writing goals– Success & Failure Episode 4

    Set realistic writing goals for 2021 What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 4 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Happy New Year! Let’s start 2021 with a bang and talk about setting achievable […]

Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey– Success & Failure Episode 3

    Accepting feedback and rejection in your writing journey What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 3 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. We’re midway through season four, so it’s the best place to tackle […]

Success and your writing routine – Success & Failure Episode 2

    Success and your writing routine What’s this episode about? Welcome to Episode 2 of the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. In this episode, I will look into why achieving your writer career dreams can be […]

Writers’ perception on creative success & failure – Success & Failure Episode 1

    Writers’ perception on creative success & failure What’s this episode about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. Listen to the full first episode and/or scan the blog post below for the main takeaways. Today I will try to define what writerly success and failure is, and how they impact […]

Season 4 – Success & Failure – Overview

    SEASON 4 OF THE PEN GARDEN IS HERE!   What’s this Season about? Welcome to the fourth season of The Pen Garden Podcast. It’s titled Success & Failure. After a short break, I’ve come back to the podcast with lots of new ideas so I’m once again very excited to share them with […]


Or the episodes from seasonS 1,2&3: