Mental Illness Visibility in the Creative Arts

Hello. It’s been a while. I hope everyone has been fighting the horrors the world has been throwing at us and reading a good book or two. I know I have.

Update on my life (I’m going to pretend you all care for a few minutes). I am neck deep (fun expression, good band as well) in Windwitch and I am so upset I haven’t had the time to devour it yet like I wanted to. Rest assured it will get done. As soon as it does I’ll have a review up for you all.

I have not been writing nearly as much as I’d hoped. At least, I haven’t been writing for anything other than school. I wrote a speech the other day that had to be fictionalized. That was an adventure. Let me say, I do not think I have a future in speech writing. I think I’ll stick with fiction.

Also, I saw Twenty One Pilots in Chicago last weekend. (I know what you’re thinking: “What purpose does this have on a book blog Kailey? Why do you always go off on tangents Kailey?” I promise this has to do with my topic today. And I go on tangents because I have a lot to say that isn’t always relevant but I enjoy sharing anyway). On this subject let me just say something about that band: they put on a show. I’ve been telling everyone I know how it’s the best live show I’ve ever seen. I’m pretty sure everyone is really sick of hearing about it (minus my friend who brought me with her)(she’s a massive fan and this band means so much to her)(I’m trying to get her to meet them but it’s not going too well)(story for another time though). 

One of the reasons I say this was such an amazing show was because of the energy in the room. I have been to a lot of shows. I’ve seen a lot of crowds: good, terrible, and everything in between.

I have never seen anything like this. 

There is a moment when Tyler Joseph is singing “we’re broken people” and the crowd is singing along with him. The ability for thousands and thousands of people to take up this chant, not as an admittance of guilt but as an empowering truth, it blew me away. It really made sense to me then, why everyone loves this band so much. Yes, they make good music. Yes, they are phenomenal performers. But the reason they speak to so many people is because they have paved the way for everyone to admit that it’s okay not to be okay. They have done what people loathe to do and talked about mental illness, brought it into the world in a way that shows the reality, not the romanticization, of it.

This is something that I feel like needs to be done more. Yes, there are people out there who are open about their struggles. More and more people open up every day. In the world of creativity, I would argue doing this is more important than ever.

There is a long history of people in the creative arts struggling with a mental illness of some sort. Addiction, depression, and alcoholism are just three of the most commonly associated diseases that come to mind when people are talking about artists or writers. But the problem is, no one talks about this until after the fact. It’s the same with ordinary people. So many people cannot or will not talk about their struggles because there is still such a stigma surrounding mental illness. No one, save for a brave few, is willing to take on the judgment that comes with opening up about their problems.

I don’t think I need to tell you all how much I hate this. It makes me very, very, very, a thousand times very mad. However, I know you guys don’t read these to hear me rant. (Side note: I’m not sure why you read these posts but thank you if you do.)

Obviously this issue means a lot to me. Like the two men in that band, I want to help people. I want to reach out and show people that not everyone is okay, and that’s alright. Some people’s brains are just different and that isn’t their faults.

My very first manuscript is about a girl struggling with demons. It’s been a project four years in the making and probably another four at least before it’s  going to see the light of day, if it ever does. But I will not stop writing about this issue because it is one that needs to be addressed.

Off the top of my head I can only name a handful of books that have characters or struggles like the ones I’m talking about. This is potentially due to my lack of exposure to such books (as much as I’d like to I cannot read every book out there). I would argue though that it’s also due to the lack of people writing about these problems. I see more and more upcoming books that have characters like mine and who suffer from similar problems as so many in reality do. I cannot wait to read them. But there needs to be more. 

Like the men in Twenty One Pilots we need to talk about this. We need to show the world that this is what we look like, this is who we are, and that this is not our faults. That is why I write what I write. One day I hope to have helped even a fraction of the people that they have. 

I was inspired last weekend. I saw something I could never have even dreamed of. It was a reality that I want to see spreading, through books, music, anything, and everything. It was beautiful to witness, and certainly put a fresh energy into my writing. And this is just the beginning. I’m excited for what is to come.

So, that’s my incoherent, strange rant for the day. I hope this made some sense at least. Organizing this post was a struggle but I hope it came out alright. 

This definitely turned into a more pro-Twenty One Pilots thing than I had planned. They’re a great band and I hope you guys listen to them. If nothing else, do it for their lyrics. It’s some of the best song writing I’ve ever seen. Use it to inspire your own writing.

I am picturing people reading this going “Yes I already know that. I’ve been listening to them for years. What rock did you just crawl out from under that you just found out about them?” Well, to tell you the truth I’ve only been listening to them for a few months, and even then only because my friend invited me to go with her to this concert. BUT I was hooked in right away. So yes I know I’m super late to the party but I’m here now! (If you’re a super fan I’m sorry don’t hate me)(so many fans at the concert gave me looks guys. I was so afraid. They are intense human beings)(but they were all super shocked when I started rapping almost every song alongside them hehe)(okay I’ll get back to the point now).

This was a really long and confusing post but I hope it made some people happy, or thoughtful, or that it made sense to you in some way. If anyone can think of some good books that have characters that are neurodivergent feel free to comment them below (they don’t have to be YA but if they aren’t please specify)! I’ll be making a post soon of recommendations of books that showcase these stories, and would love some input if anyone has it!

And, as always, I must go do work now. I will leave you with this lyric that speaks to me from (naturally) the Twenty One Pilots song “Fake You Out”:

Our brains are sick but that’s okay.

Kailey

P.S. – I know this was really heavy about the band. I blame the concert partly. Almost a week later and I’m still buzzing from that show. But their message really is relevant to what I’m trying to say here. I am sorry if I went a little overboard though. Okay. Bye.

Updates & Some Notes on Inspiration

Hello I am alive! Barely. So for whatever reason I thought this semester was going to be super easy. HA GOOD JOKE! Nope it sucks. Crazy hard. Next semester is going to be worse. Yay for me.

But no one really cares how my life is going. Nope if anyone is reading this they are doing it for the writing stuff probably. So here is that writing stuff for you.

So in my last post I talked about how I had special beta-readers in mind for my WIP. Well they all said yes! I’m so excited. I’ve sent two of them the first chapter already (I don’t think they’ve ever done this before so I wanted to ease them in)(plus they’re kind of really busy too) and I’m sending out the other three the first chapter this week. It will probably be a month until I hear from them again but I’m excited to get this process going!

You also might remember I said I wanted to have this done by, oh, October 9th? Guess what? It didn’t happen! Writer’s block is a vicious thing. It likes to attack you right when you need to make things happen. And when you’re on deadline. And, well, just about all the time if you’re me. Luckily I’m (finally) able to get my life together and (double finally) able to write consistently again. I should have the whole thing done by time NaNoWriMo rolls around. (Have you seen my post about it? Go look at it! Let’s be writing friends!)

So you are officially updated on my writing life. (If you want to be updated on my life-life follow me on twitter.) Now that you’re up to date on all the parts you care about let’s move on to the part where I explain why I’m typing this up for the world to see.

So, inspiration. Inspiration can come from a lot of places. So many of my own stories and writings come from my dreams. I find dreams to be a good source of inspiration because mine are extremely vivid. Certain details or experiences tend to unravel into entire plotlines in my mind. I always tell my friends and people I know and random people I see on the street to pay attention to their dreams because they mean something. Okay not random people on the street but you should still pay attention to your dreams! They could turn into an idea and that idea could be The Thing that gets your writing going. 

But recently I’ve learned that ideas can come from songs and music as well. Theoretically, I already knew this. But I’ve only put it into practice recently. My inspiration for my current work in progress came from the album Stories For Monday by The Summer Set (available on iTunes and at Best Buy)(they’re one of my favorite bands do not judge me for plugging them because their music is phenomenal). I misheard one of the lyrics and BOOM twenty minutes later I was plotting this story out. So music can be a catalyst for writing as well. Obviously you can’t steal stories from songs (plagiarizing is wrong)(and punishable) but if one sparks an idea go for it.

I’ve found that inspiration can also come from people watching or listening to conversations. Certain phrases you overhear or a person in a seemingly odd situation can make a great place to start a story. Build off of that. The story will come eventually. 

I know these were pretty basic places to look for inspiration but they’re also very decent (and simple and easy) places to start. Your stories are not just going to come to you fully formed inside your head (in most cases anyway). Look around you. Use your resources. DO NOT STEAL SOMEONE ELSE’S IDEAS but let other people inspire you. Stories are everywhere you look. It’s up to you to find them and write them down for the world to enjoy.

On that super cheesy note, I’m heading out. This story isn’t going to finish itself and I have betas to get it to (and a NaNo outline to finish)(and a presentation for a class to make)(but no pressure or anything). Go write something down. Even if it’s just “This Kailey girl rambles a lot about nothing.” It counts. Byeeeeeeee!

Kailey

PS – I just got back after going to a concert out of state last night so I’m exhausted. I did proofread and edit this but I’m sorry if it still doesn’t make sense. 

Save Me A Spark

Yesterday I spent the entire day at Vans Warped Tour. This was my second time at warped and I had an amazing day watching bands and meeting people. 

One of the things I got to do was go to a class with Kellin Quinn and Nick Martin of Sleeping With Sirens. In this class they talked about what inspired them and gave them their spark. Music.

It got me thinking about what my spark is. Writing. 

Basically the spark they talked about is what makes you feel good or like you’re contributing to your world. It’s what you’re passionate about and you love doing. For me that’s writing.

I’ve known since my freshman year of high school that I wanted to write books for a living. It’s something I love doing more than anything. A year after that I finished my very first novel. I wrote it by hand in a notebook that was supposed to be for my biology class. 

But writing led me to create so many things. It led me to want to draw, to sing, to take photos. Writing weirdly opened up an entire creative world to me. It led me to friends I never would’ve met otherwise. And it’s given me so much happiness. 

The way Kellin and Nick talked about their spark, I know that writing is mine. Writing is probably the spark for a lot of you, too. But I want to hear it anyway. Tell me: what is your spark?

Kailey