Creativity and Mental Illness: Sigmund Freud and Sylvia Plath

I have long been interested in the connection between mental illness and creativity. My latest novel, A Dangerous Daughter, describes how psychoanalysis was used to cure a mental illness and to unlock the main character’s creativity. Some of our greatest artists, writers and musicians suffered some form of mental illness while producing brilliant and lasting works of art. Many of the 20th century’s great writers, including Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Schumann,Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda Fitzgerald, and William Styron, suffered from mental illness.  In this article by Jahnavi Ravishankar “Sylvia Plath– A Caged Darkness of the Mind”, the writer extrapolates how Freud, the Father of Psychoanalysis, might have analysed the poet and author Sylvia Plath, who suffered what would now be called a bipolar condition, and made several suicide attempts before succeeding in 1963. In this abridged version, Ravishankar analyses Plath’s famous poem, ‘Daddy” in Freudian terms (see poem attached): .“Sylvia Plath, a renowned American poet, was clinically depressed for most of her life and eventually became a victim of suicide at the age of Bnb thirty. The “Ariel” poems, including ‘I am Vertical and ‘Daddy’, were written shortly before she died. and posthumously garnered acclaim. These poems painted a vivid image of her inner psyche. Sigmund Freud’s position that the artist is a successful neurotic has been contested but, at the same time, has served as a key focal point for several psychoanalytic theories in literature. In his essay, ‘Creative Writers and Daydreaming’, he states, “The […]

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Writing in the Time of Covid

Escaping to the NT from virus-ridden NSW in March, I was confined to home in mandatory quarantine for fourteen days. What bliss! The tropical weather, the smiling faces, the feeling of being safe. Being home alone held no fear for me, being a confirmed introvert. The isolation and lack of pressure suited my solitary nature. At last my time was all my own, with no places to go, no people to see. What else was there to do but write? At last I could concentrate on finishing my novel, which I’d been struggling with for years. In spite of not going outside for two weeks, I managed to keep fit by tuning in daily to yoga classes on Zoom. How amazing to follow expert teachers online from the comfort of home, thanks to the generosity of Darwin Yoga Space. There followed the most productive months, in literary terms, of my writing life. In April I was honoured to be elected Vice President of our NTWriters’ Centre. In May, being shortlisted for the fiction prize for the 2020 NT Chief Minister’s Awards for my novel Capriccio, was a huge thrill. My short story, Procrastination, was accepted for publication in the new print edition of Borderlands, the new NT Literary journal, released here in September.

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Writing in the Time of Covid

Escaping to the NT from virus-ridden NSW in March, I was confined to home in mandatory quarantine for fourteen days. What bliss! The tropical weather, the smiling faces, the feeling of being safe. Being home alone held no fear for me, being a confirmed introvert. The isolation and lack of pressure suited my solitary nature. At last my time was […]

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Freeing the Writer Within

I have long tried to silence the critic in my head, telling me my writing is never good enough, I can never succeed, and what makes me think I can be a writer. It’s called ‘the impostor syndrome’ when your inner critic tells you your writing is worthless. For years I was governed by my inner critic, with the result that none of my writing ever saw the light of day, and remains locked away in dusty archive boxes on an unreachable top shelf. It was writers like Natalie Goldberg and Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) who began to free me from this destructive and inhibiting thought process. Freeing the Writer Within In her classic book, Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg contends that writers need to practise their craft in the same way that musicians, athletes or Zen meditators need to perfect their practice. She gives writers the following four rules: Keep the hand moving. It’s better to be writing anything that comes to mind, than to sit there chewing your pen or staring at the blank screen. The main thing is to keep the hand moving. Even if you write about how you can’t write, some words will appear before too long. Don’t think. Write so quickly that your internal editor can’t keep up with you. Most of us have a critic sitting on our shoulder, telling us what we’re writing is ridiculous, illogical, or maybe too revealing […]

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This Writing Life

Lately I’ve been reworking my novel, A Dangerous Daughter – hence you haven’t heard from me for quite a while. It’s a never-ending, always changing process of trial and error, good days and bad. Starting a new draft requires courage, determination and a belief that you can do this thing, killing your darlings as you go, silencing your inner critic […]

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Writing by the Rules (Or Not)

Is it only our greatest writers who are allowed to break the rules of writing? And what exactly are these rules? Mantras such as ‘Show not Tell’ ‘Point of View’ ‘Omniscient Narrator’ or ‘Close Third Person’ seem to abound in 21st century writing guides. I doubt whether the great Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Jane Austen, or Ernest Hemingway had ever heard […]

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Writerly Darwin

              Did you know that Darwin is a Mecca for writers, artists, and all souls creative? In my three months in the Top End, I have been published in the NT Writers Anthology, been shortlisted for a literary prize, participated in a left-of-centre Writers’ Group called ‘Write Now’, been invited to Government House for […]

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The Joys and Perils of the Writing Life

The Joys and Perils of the Writing Life So here I am, as Abraham said to the Lord when offering up his son for sacrifice. “Here I Am” is the title of a wonderful new book by Jonathan Safran Foer, a monumental work close to 1000 pages, exploring themes of cultural identity, fidelity and betrayal, the ephemeral nature of love, families functional and dysfunctional, and what makes them so. As for me myself and I, this post is in the nature of an apology to you, my readers, for my untoward absence. SInce I last posted back in April, life has overtaken me. There’s been illness, convalescence, slow recovery, as well as the joys of grandchildrens’ birthdays. and celebrations of their achievements, some sojourns in beautiful Darwin, home of my daughters and grandsons, and the minutiae of everyday life. On the writing side, I’ve been hard  at work on my new novel, ‘A Difficult Daughter’, and preparing my first novel. ‘Capriccio’, for publication. This entailed a major rewrite, mostly in appeasement to Faber and Faber, publishers of the works of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, and the Hughes Estate. Like Jonathan Bate, I fell foul of the Estate when requesting permission to quote thirteen lines of Hughes’s poetry, fully expecting dispensation for such a small amount of material. The lines I quoted were used to introduce chapters, each of which was given the title of one of the ‘Capriccio’ poems […]

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Yoga and Kabbalah

 The kabbalistic tree of life and the Ten Sefirot   There are many similarities between the Jewish mysticism of the Kabbalah, and other Eastern philosophies. In kabbalistic lore,there are ten Energy Centres (Sefirot), which correspond to parts of the earthly body. They are, in descending order, Keter (the crown), Chokhmah (wisdom), Binah (intuition, understanding), Chesed (mercy) or Gedulah (greatness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet […]

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