I’m currently writing a novel. My first. It isn’t very good. I daresay it’s actually pretty horrible. But, nevertheless, I’m writing a novel.
For a very long time I have wanted to write a novel about depression or, more succinctly, about a protagonist with depression. In the current world, the social media and 24 hour news cycle world. I had it all in mind. Depression, loneliness, isolation – something to really reflect my own experiences.
Things haven’t turned out quite like that. My character is funny, he is charming, he tries his best to talk to girls, and he trusts too few people with his problems – just like me. In fact, depression has been mentioned in barely three paragraphs of a story that currently has over 20,000 words.
It was only today that I was able to reflect on what this meant – that this is probably more of a reflection of my life than an entire novel dedicated to depression ever could be.
What I mean to say is, depression crops up every once in a while. Maybe one in every four or five chapters. And yes, when it does appear, it appears suddenly, ruthlessly. It is relentless in its pursuit of page-time in the novel, and it forces every other aspect of the novel to shift around it, just like gravity. Just like a black hole.
For most sufferers, I’m sure they will be in agreement that these chapters weigh the most heavily on their minds, most dictate the events that follow, and most shape the character.
Yet, and this is so important to remember, the other three or four chapters progress smoothly, without even the slightest hint that depression A) did not have the gravitas to have any significant effect over the day-to-day life of a novel’s protagonist but B) perhaps did not exist at all.
Of course, depression does exist. It is lurking in the background, hidden between the lines of the novel, between what the character is doing and feeling and thinking. And depression does have the gravitas to drag the story in a new, unexpected, unwelcome direction. This is one of the sad truths of depression, but at the same time it is somewhat reassuring to know that, once it is over (this time), there will be a period of however many months or years before we need to revisit it.
I’m struggling to get to my point because it so hard to explain, especially given that there are thousands of people out there who will swear on their lives that I’m wrong. I understand their gripe – I’ve been in a depression enough times to know that it is the worst thing one can experience.
However, right now I am okay. I’m fine. I’m not depressed. And only from the position of privilege of not being in a depression does it become possible (and sensible) to see depression (or any mental or physical aspect of one’s self) as being just one chapter in a book of a thousand traits and idiosyncrasies.
That is – we are not only depression. We are humour. We are generosity. We are wine-drinkers. We are orgasm-givers! We are sleepers, dreamers, thinkers, singers, dancers, administrators, free, rich, lucky, ambitious, responsible… human. Depression is one part of me, as it is but one part of you. And to write an entire novel about depression is as inaccurate and pointless as playing one note on a piano and then identifying that entire piano by that one, single note. To define oneself as being a sufferer of depression is one of the great tragedies of the modern man and woman. Because you’re missing out on so much else that makes your story worth telling.
I won’t ramble on any longer – I know as a budding novelist that taking too long to talk about something makes you lose sight of the purpose of the exercise.
Point is, I just want everybody out there to be okay in their imperfection.
Best of luck, and keep going. The next chapter starts soon.