Monday, March 25, 2013

Mental Health in the Creative Community

    One of my most memorable experiences in medical school was participating in a project about mental health in the creative community. As it turns out, there are higher rates of depression and suicide among all types of artists in comparison to the rest of the population. Let's face it: everything from rejections to low pay to uncertainty can make the line of work brutal. Some of the artists I spoke with admitted that the dark, brooding, unhappy artist was a romanticized stereotype---a sign that the individual was taking his or her work more seriously. 

   Couple all of that with the fact that as an area of study, mental health was not always regarded as important. Thankfully, this has changed in recent years. The thing is, mental illness of any kind has a pervasive effect. Depression even changes sleep patterns. And unless you or a loved one has experienced it, it's difficult to truly understand. The worst thing anyone can do is tell someone to "just snap out of it." People aren't always encouraged to discuss it but that's one of the most important things someone can do when they are struggling.

   I realize this isn't the most pleasant topic to discuss but somehow, that seems to make it even more imperative. As writers, we always discuss innovative ways of improving our work and nurturing our craft but often, the most important thing for all of us is to take care of ourselves first. Reach out to your loved ones for support. Offer yourself to them when they need you. Be good to yourself. Distance yourself from anything toxic. 

    Most importantly, know if and when it is time to seek outside help or to tell your friend/family member that it's time.  There are professionals who are trained in coming up with customized therapy plans. Research has also shown that exercise and healthy diet can alleviate some symptoms. Don't fear that you are alone or that you have to let anything spiral out of control. 

                                                               Photo: Late night editing

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Quotes of the moment

"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you."
— Frida Kahlo

“And then something invisible snapped insider her, and that which had come together commenced to fall apart.”
 ― John Green, Looking for Alaska

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.” 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Happy International Women's Day!

Happy International Women's Day!

Every day, I uncover more gratitude towards womanhood. Strong, creative, and resilient women have sculpted my life in more ways than I'll ever be able to recall.

My mother worked three jobs when we moved to America and through her own actions, taught me the empowering nature of art, and instilled a lifelong romance with books. "Always cultivate things that are your own so you're never dependent on anyone else. Invest in virtues that will never be taken away from you." 

From my incredible friends to professors who always pushed me to do more, and to so many whom I've never met, I've been one lucky lady. 

Make it a point to celebrate the passion, beauty, and strength of all women today!
(Actually, make that a point everyday but feel free to do a little extra today ;).)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

IWSG: What I'd tell my younger self about criticism

This IWSG post will be written in the format of my previous If I Knew Then ones with a focus on criticism.

1. You need critique partners to show you the weaknesses in your work. There is no getting around this. They may come in the form of an amazing blogger/kindred spirit (Laura!), an agent, editor, etc. These people provide imperative insight into your work.

2. Sometimes it will be tough to accept criticism. Sometimes you won't want to cut out that entire chapter or fix a character's story line. It's okay that letting go isn't always easy---that just means you invested a lot of yourself and that's great. Be aware that the closer you are to your work, the more difficult it will be to remain objective about it.

3. There's the constructive criticism that's offered so that you can improve. Then there's the insulting criticism that deserves to be ignored because inherently, it's far less about you and far more about the provider. Whether they try to say their writing is better because it is thoughtful with quality or whether they try to use silence as a form of retaliation, just let it be and hope they find peace 

4. Following the previous point, remember that life is too short to hold a grudge. People make a variety of mistakes for a variety of reasons and there is so much to be elated about. When someone tries to bring you down, see that as a call for compassion and not combativeness. Forgiveness is the key ingredient to cultivating and spreading inner peace.

5. There is an abundance of love and friendship in this world. The people who are eerily similar to you will provide a sense of understanding. The ones who are different will force you to grow and expand your views. Writers by nature are a supportive and encouraging group. Relish that and give back whenever you can.

6. Rejections can provide that essential criticism to push you forward. It's okay to feel dejected for a bit after a slew of rejections but remember, even the seemingly unfavorable events can lead to something valuable. Welcome all different forms of criticism and use them to improve your work, outlook, or behavior.