Butthere's a downside this otherwise idyllic, emotionally healthy life we lead.>>

Creativepeople in general tend to suffer from more mental illness, including depressionand substance abuse, than the population at large. (Edgar Allen Poe, Van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway,Virginia Woolf off the top of my head.) One study showed that creative people tend to have more blood relativeswho are institutionalized. >>

Noone is really sure whether writing and painting lead to insanity, or whethermentally unstable people are drawn to creative endeavors. One theory suggests that people with mentalillness are drawn to creative outlets as a form of self-therapy. (This is whatI personally believe)>>

Atany rate, lots of writers either suffer from depression, which suppresses your immunesystem and causes illness, or are obsessive-compulsives, which causes stress,anxiety, and all their related health problems. An astounding number of writers I know personally are either on Prozac,Zoloft, Paxil, Xanax, Atavan, Valium, you name it. (I remember the moment I discovered my entirecritique group had psychotropic pharmacies in their handbags.)>>
Thesedrugs can be life-savers, literally, and please make no decisions about yourmedications based on what I say, as I am not a qualified medicalprofessional. But be aware that drugscan have a noticeable effect on your creativity. (LSD might have contributed mightily to somepsychedelic rock masterpieces, but I don't recommend it!) Drugs can also produce a negative effect onyour writing. Anti-depressants, inparticular, tend to flatten your mood. So while you get rid of the suicidal tendencies and the hystericalcrying jags, you also get rid of the highs. When I was on Zoloft, I couldn't write worth beans. I lost my edge, my passion, and a lot of mymotivation for writing. There was no"creative high.">>

That'snot a very attractive choice, between depression and an inability towrite. Because if you're a writer, ifyou're one of those people compelled to write, then NOT WRITING can make youdepressed.>>

Sowhatever your frame of mind you're in, keep writing to maintain your mentalhealth, even if you're not feeling particularly motivated or inspired. I know sometimes life gets in the way. Illness, death, mandatory overtime, movingacross the country, family obligations all can cut into your writing time. And especially if you're not published or ifyou don't depend on your writing income for your livelihood, it's very easy toput it on the list of "frivolous, non-essential activities" andthrust it aside in favor of laundry.>>

ButI really urge you not to do that. Nomatter what is going on in your life, you have the right to pursue a creativeactivity that fulfills you. I'm notsaying you shut yourself away for days at a time and ignore your family incrisis. I'm saying you can find an hourSOMEWHERE in your day to write, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. (I could do a whole workshop on guilt'sdetrimental effects.)>>

Ifyou're waiting for your life to "settle down" before you write,forget it, it's not going to happen. Youcan actually write your way through a crisis. I know some writers that use their writing time as therapy, as an escapewhen life gets just too grisly. You needthat time. Give yourself permission totake it. Overall you'll experience lessstress and anxiety and a healthier body.>>

Thereare some natural ways to combat depression, including sunlight, regularexercise, talk therapy, getting good quality sleep. Although I no longer take Zoloft, I stillhave mild depressive episodes and I know these things help me.>>

Tomorrowwe'll discuss positive and negative imagery associated with writing.>>