This past week, I wrote a post on my personal blog and snatched it down shortly after pressing â€œPublish.â€ As I typed out the gory details involving my depression diagnosis, it never occurred to me that I was sharing more than necessary. As you can see, I donâ€™t have a problem mentioning depression–so long as I donâ€™t know you in real life–but I sometimes wonder why I bring it up at all.
I donâ€™t mind using it as a type of contextual framework for the column or essay at hand, but my blog went further than that. I outlined my depressive diagnosis, how it affected me, and even went into my treatment options. Now, thereâ€™s plenty of nonsense transmitted online every second and I doubt few, if anyone, noticed my little blog. But in the hour between publication and retraction, I felt easy. The blog served no one but myself–meaning, it belonged in a journal or in a Pages files on my iMac.
Annie Dillard said it best in her book The Writing Life:
â€œYour freedom as a writer is not freedom of expression in the sense of wild blurting; you may not let it rip. It is life at its most free, if you are fortunate enough to be able to try it, because you select your materials, invent your task, and pace yourself. In the democracies, you may even write and publish anything you please about any government or institutions, even if what you write is demonstrably false.
â€œThe obverse of this freedom, of course, is that your work is so meaningless, so fully for yourself alone, and so worthless to the world, that no one except you cares whether you do it well, or ever.â€
In my writing, I keep making the mistake that my depression is inherently valuable—but to whom?
Me? Well for what itâ€™s worth, depression makes it difficult to see value in anything.
You? Why would you care?
I donâ€™t mean to sound self-deprecating or bitter. I have depression; you might have early onset Alzheimer’s. A bit extreme, but the point remains: we all have issues, physical [or mental] ailments; literature helps to ease the pain, sometimes.
Even if you canâ€™t relate to the subject matter–maybe you never experienced cancer or dementia or a 9.0 earthquake–good literature dredges the universal from the personal or, rather, provides a conduit through the personal where, toward the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, universal appeal is accessible. It is the human condition in all of its yin and yang, its sunshine and pistols, crystallized by the personal, the valued, the worthwhile.
All of that sounds wonderful, except that itâ€™s not a guarantee. No matter how hard I try, I canâ€™t write about my depression in a meaningful way. I canâ€™t find the conduit to universal appeal and, as Iâ€™ve noted in the past, that might not be a bad thing. One of these days, Iâ€™ll realize the struggle to write about depression simply means itâ€™s time to mine new material.
A weakness in my creative development is the habit of writing about issues affecting me at the moment–okay, Iâ€™m depressed so Iâ€™ll write about that–versus exploring topics outside of â€œme,â€ yet interest â€œmeâ€ all the same: video games; sneakers; J Dilla; Apple products. Mundane things on the outside, but I like them.Therein lies the opportunity for me as a writer: to make you interested in my interests.
I suppose I could blame my problem on the immediacy of the blog form. I tend to open my blog dashboard and typetypetype until I can type no more. Something about that text box in WordPress begs me to quickly fill it up with words, to press publish and lean back, waiting for the comments to roll in [LOL yeah right].
My depression shouldnâ€™t mean much, if anything, to you and while itâ€™s cathartic for me to explore the disease as it relates to my own life, that doesnâ€™t mean I need to share it and, worse, take it personal when no one responds should I publicize the findings. Besides, deliberate writing requires discipline; anyone can blurt seemingly self-absorbed fodder into a blog template, and it makes for quick results but, in the long run, it pays to take some time and figure out the angles.
Steve Jobs famously, and perhaps mythically, said upon his return to Apple, â€œThink Different.â€ All blogs need a purpose, even if the purpose is to be confessional and exposed. As a reader of blogs, I have no problem with the confessional; Iâ€™m as much of a voyeur as the next man. As a blogger myself, it just doesnâ€™t work for me. Blog Different has become my motto, which might mean blog less often.