I’m going through a minor spell of depression at the moment. Nothing serious - I have that very boring, barely noticeable form, the kind that makes you just disinterested and demotivated; a sigh, a vague haze of malaise that barely seems worth mentioning. I’ve had it on and off my whole life, but never dared think it deserved the label of depression. Then, about seven years ago, a therapist asked me “do you you think you might be depressed?” and as I considered the very idea of it a huge wave of emotion suddenly rose up from nowhere and I broke down in tears.
Seven years ago, that was when I was last living in London and now I’m here again and blue again and wondering if it’s this place that doesn’t sit with my soul. Or is that too easy a way out?
Or, how about this take, which I found in the pages of a book on character drawing (of all places). Walt Stanchfield, who ran drawing classes at the Disney Studios for many years, left this formula tucked away amongst gesture poses and demonstrations of Squash and Stretch:
Impression - Expression = Depression
It’s cute isn’t it? His idea is that if you have an awareness of the world around you (impression) and are unable to express it to others somehow then depression follows as reliably as MC² follows E. “You must create” he says.
“The injunction of life is to create or perish…The creative energy that created the universe, created you, and its creative power is in you now, motivating you, urging you on - always in the direction of creative expression.”
(Important caveat: Walt’s definition of depression is a narrow one. Depression is, for a lot of people, a very serious thing to live with, with many complex causes. If you suffer from it, please don’t think I’m saying it’s because you’re not drawing enough!)
That said, I do see a correlation between my own creative output and the ups and downs of my mental health.
I have let my creative routine slip in the past couple of months. Work has been demanding, C & I have been flat-hunting quite unsuccessfully and I have lost those sacred few hours in the morning to create.
Which is really a way of saying I never made them sacred enough.
It’s amazing really how hard it is to build a creative habit and how easy it is to lose it. But the way forward, as always, is to start again, to find something small to do, just for a little bit, every day; to believe creativity begets creativity and with enough repetition, like a little dynamo spinning away, momentum will be built, and the haze will clear.
My only creative expression of late are these little letters I write to you each Sunday. Thank you for reading them, I feel especially grateful for it this week.
Until another Sunday soon,