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Having a Mental Illness as an Writer (and the movie Frank)

frank-michael-fassbender-trailer

I recently watched the movie Frank. There were so many moments that touched on mental illness and creating art that struck me.

For those who haven’t seen in, Frank follows John, an awkward man who makes stream of conciousness songs. He meets Frank, a very talented man who always wears a plaster head. John is invited to join Frank’s odd band and help create their very original album. John ends up trying to be more like Frank, and convinces him that what he wants is fame and to be liked, even if that means sacrificing originality.

This is demonstrated by John constantly trying to get Frank to remove his head, instead of accepting him for who he is like everyone else. Frank clearly has some sort of mental illness. Later when John meets Frank’s parents, he asks what trauma happened in his childhood to make him a great artist. The parents reply ‘Frank was always musical. Nothing traumatic happened, his mental illness is just a part of him. If anything it made it harder for him to create music’.

This resounds with me so much. I suffered with horrible anxiety for so long and while it definitely is an inspiration for a lot of my writing, it does not make me a better writer. It can make it even more challenging, I am even more critical of myself than most people and struggled to show my work to anyone for a long time.

I have succeeded in spite of my mental illness, not because of it. I am often afraid to share my work inspired by depression or anxiety because I am afraid people will assume that the story is exactly like my life and that I have gone through more trauma than I have in reality, or on the opposite end of the spectrum they might think I’m milking my illness for attention. I shouldn’t be afraid to get my feelings out on paper, and I shouldn’t be so worried about people misinterpreting my work. This is something I have to work on every day.

At the end of the day, I have to accept that people will think what they think, and I can’t do anything about that. If someone really cares about me they will clarify any concerns and talk to me about my work. Putting my emotions into writing only makes it stronger so I am going to strive to share my darker, riskier works with others. I am a unique person and my mental illness is a part of me, it is a part of me and is going to find it’s way into my work.

If anyone has any opinions on this topic comment below! I’d love to discuss this further 🙂

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