[Image: screencap of a tweet from @LKHamilton. “If most people had my thoughts running through their heads, they’d medicate until the voices stopped,[sic] I make a living at taking dictation.]
ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS SHIT.
Look Laurell, I know you like to think that you’re ~omg so dark~ because you write vampire books. Guess what? THAT DOESN’T MAKE YOU MENTALLY ILL. Having characters who swan around with fangs are in no way comparable to what people who actually struggle with mental illness have to deal with, and trying to compare them- and moreover, suggesting that you’re A STRONGER PERSON for not “medicating it away-” is the height of privileged arrogance.
Yes, I do medicate away “the voices in my head.” You know why? Because this time two years ago, those “voices” nearly drove me to suicide. I wasn’t producing jack shit in terms of writing, because it was too much of a struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I certainly wasn’t “taking dictation” from the thoughts that made me think the world would be a better place if I threw myself into oncoming traffic.
I am sick to death of the idea that creative people who take medication for their mental illnesses are somehow “lesser” for not channeling their issues into their writing. For one thing, you have no idea what they go through, and how dare you presume to speak for them. For another, the myth of the “tortured artist” who sacrifices personal happiness and the ability to function in the name of creating Great Art is an antiquated idea that needs to die. Most artists I know have a much higher rate of productivity when they’re not curled up in the fetal position. It’s a stupid, condescending idea. Would you tell someone with cancer to forego chemotherapy and die so that they could write a Great American Novel on their deathbed? Mental illness is an illness, and medicating it- if you’ve been advised to do so by your doctor- is the same as taking insulin for diabetes, or using an inhaler for asthma. Positioning yourself as someone who’s mentally ill because your characters “talk to you” or some such bullshit isn’t just arrogant and stupid, it’s dangerous. What if one of your fans read that, Laurell? What if they decided to forego their medication so that they could be a Great Writer like you? Because I can tell you right now, that won’t make them a better author. It will make their mental illness worse, because going off perscribed medication is dangerous. And it’s unbelievably irresponsible of you to encourage it.
The next time you feel like telling the world how dark and broody you are, try to do a little research before you open your mouth. Because shooting off uninformed bullshit like this? Doesn’t do much to make me think you’re a good writer.
I have suffered with hallucinations and delusions in the past; I am also a writer. I can’t name you a single one of my good works that occurred while I was having a psychotic episode.
Mental illness is different for everyone, and this person has no right to suggest that she is somehow superior for dealing with her ‘issues’ in a different way. Also, there is a huge difference between the creative spark and mental illness, despite the fact that they are often bedfellows. This person needs to stop presuming that she understands what other people go through, or acting as if she is somehow better because she doesn’t use medication.
for me personally, I sometimes feel that certain medications I’ve been on have hampered my creative impulses, but that’s me personally, and despite the fact that sometimes I get frustrated with my meds, I’m still on medication, because I need it, because otherwise I reach a point where creativity is the least of my concerns, because my moods and my psychoses start to dictate me. it doesn’t matter if I sometimes get ideas and inspirations while I’m having an episode if I can’t actually articulate them. but anyway, being on meds doesn’t mean you can’t be a great writer or artist or musician or any other creative pursuit.
it also doesn’t matter what my experience is like—that’s not what it’s like for everyone, and I would never tell someone they shouldn’t take a medication or pursue some other treatment that can be the difference between functioning and not functioning, living and not living, living in fear and not living in fear, dying and not dying. there’s no shame in doing what you need to do to survive (so long as it doesn’t hurt others, of course). self-care takes different forms for everyone, and encouraging someone to go off their meds cold turkey—especially if they’re already prone to medication noncompliance—is goddamn irresponsible, especially for someone who has a wide audience.
Urgh. This sort of posturing is obnoxious for all the above-stated reason, but also because, honestly, from my own experience with this stuff, if someone honestly thinks of their writing process as just “taking dictation”, they are probably doing it wrong.
It’s great to have characters who are so developed they seem to have minds of their own. I’m not going to judge that part. I actually can’t write something if its major characters don’t feel real enough to hold conversations with, and I will often, when describing my creative process, say things like “Rafe says we should mention XYZ” or “Joseph isn’t fond of this plot twist but I think I can make it work”. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, personally, and character input can be really invaluable for working out tough spots. If I’m writing something and Rafe seems to be actively resisting the dialogue I’m giving him, that usually means my subconscious has caught on that there’s a problem with what I’m doing and I need to reevaluate it.
But - okay, so, one time in a VERY, very early version of RafeDraft, Alex was gay and had a boyfriend, and I found myself sketching out a scene where Rafe meets said boyfriend for the first time. Rafe, upon laying eyes on the man, suddenly started spouting reactions and dialogue I hadn’t planned at all and announced, to my very great surprise, that he was his brother.
As I was only about maybe fourteen at the time and not very experienced in actually plotting things out, I immediately went “WOAH! What an incredibly cool and meaningful plot twist Rafe has thrown me in his total autonomy and knowing of things that I don’t!” and spent a lot of time trying to justify this, throwing things together about how, okay, they look nothing alike, but he meant metaphorically, they were both at the same orphanage or were street kids together or something, they were like brothers, and yet somehow managed to lose track of each other and never bothered to track the other down, blah blah blah blah. Finally I realized this made absolutely no sense, became obnoxiously redundant next to the developing Aria storyline, and was really just me wasting a lot of time because of a random impulse that I only wrote down in the first place because “Rafe told me to!” The boyfriend was eventually scrapped, partly because Alex started making more sense as a straight guy, but mostly because giving him a partner would have interfered with his singleminded attention to Rafe that becomes increasingly important in later parts of the book.
Because that’s what you need to think about too. If you only think about what your characters tell you, you’re probably going to end up with a bunch of excessively fabulous people swanning around being perfect and solving problems with improbably few consequences, because, well, why would they tell you to do anything different? They’re only your subconscious talking, and I know that my subconscious wants everything to be happy and everyone to be nice people and every problem to be only a hurdle in the path to eventual peaceful contentment. And also, it wants to speak fifteen languages and be improbably attractive. That’s what subconsciouses do.
I can definitely tell you, the Rafe in my head does not particularly want to be laden down with childhood trauma, self-hatred, and an abusive relationship. But he has to be, because otherwise the story would have no meaning, it would not be realistic, and frankly I would hate it. You have to use your actual brain in order to figure out what would make a good story, and what would be pretty awesome but in the long run just kind of meaningless.
People who go around saying things like this tweet are not only bigoted, as described correctly and at length above, but they’re also essentially saying “I have poor impulse control and no interest in editing my wish-fulfilment for realism, integrity, or indeed any sort of emotional meaning beyond shallow awesomeness.” It is just, it is not exciting. It is just snotty and obnoxious and rather a pet peeve of mine if you haven’t noticed by the totally unnecessary length of this response.