Creativity and Depression

I think that creativity and depression feed off of each other. Not in the way that you think. My opinion is that if we do not have an outlet for our creativity it increases our depression. However, in cases where that creativity is a solo act, it can feed our depression. Not because we’re doing something creative, but because we’re further cutting ourselves off from the people around us.

From my personal experience, using creative outlets like a blog or writing a short story, can be very rewarding. It allows you to work through what’s on your mind in a manner that other people can relate to or might be interested in what you’re saying. In many cases it allows you to be someone other than who you are at work. Personally, i do not talk about depression, much at all, with my work colleagues. For one, it makes them uncomfortable when I’m up front about going to therapy and couples therapy. For two, I write about topics, generally, that are completely unrelated to my work and the culture in my office does not really allow for that sort of conversation.

Creative outlets also enable you to take a step away from the constant braying of social media. For a person to be truly creative, you must focus on that task (assuming you want it to be any good), which gives you some space for breath. It gives you time to step back and process things that have been going on around you without constantly shoving more unprocessed information and emotions into your brain. We need down time. We need the ability to sit with ourselves and process who we are and who is around us. Without taking that time for ourselves, we just continue forward as if on auto-pilot. We don’t reflect on what values we have. We don’t reflect on how our actions may have run counter to the values we hold.

Creativity is scary because it forces us to confront the fact that we might produce something no one wants to look at. Something that may be judged. Something we’ll judge (and probably judge too harshly). Something that is uniquely and whole ourselves. Something that, even if imitated, is and always will be ours. On top of that, because we’re alone with ourselves, we have to be alone with ourselves. Which is terrifying.

If you are depressed, try something simple and just doodling for a few minutes. Get a notebook and write something. If you can’t think of something, go to and grab a prompt that seems interesting. Hell if you want to, just write your idea there for other people to vote on. most of the stories I’ve read on there have positive comments on them.

Just do it for a little while. Then go and do something away from a screen for a little bit. I don’t know about you, but I sure as hell feel better when I do.

Talking about Depression: Explaining to a pair of Friends

Last night, while having a few drinks, I followed my own advice and talked about my depression with two good friends visiting from Austin. The conversation started because my wife is considering starting a business around helping people deal with their depression. Which naturally result in a conversation about my depression, since she, ultimately, wants to help me and people like me. Which is just about the sweetest reason to start a business.

Anyway, I started the conversation with points from Lost Connections. Which helped them understand that there are multiple types of depression and that most of these are very natural reactions to problems that we face in every day life. I explained how I would feel and how that sensation wouldn’t go away. There were definitely points where I was on a bit of a diatribe, but they asked some good questions. Specifically about how I felt and if it was easy for me to identify the root cause of my depression. At that point I explained how meditation had helped me figure out some of that. Because it allowed me to sit with my emotions and sift through them. To hold a thought, feeling, or memory then to let it go through returning to focusing on my breathing. It allows me, as my therapist puts it, to chew on those things, digest them, and then shit them out. Which is a lot better than just “burying” the emotions and things that had happened to me.

All in all, the experience was a really positive one for me. I’ve unconsciously (and in some cases intentionally) pushed people away my whole life. Much of that is related to my depression and the pain and hurt I experienced while growing up with a household where fighting was the norm. So, this was a big step really letting two of my friends understand what I’ve gone through and how I’ve been working through addressing it. Explaining that it’s a long journey and I’m a year into it and I know I have more things to work through and more time to take to fully heal.

Having this conversation was both easier and harder than I thought it would be. First, it was certainly easier because I’ve been writing this blog for a while now and because I had been drinking for a bit at that point. Second, it was harder because, even though I’ve been writing this blog, it’s still hard to talk about some topics. So I ended up glossing over them or skirting past them. Similarly to what I do about some harder topics with this blog. However, I felt good this morning for having talked with them. I wasn’t judged (I didn’t expect them to judge me) and my friends cared about my wellbeing and want to see me be healthy. They really didn’t know what was happening or understand it. They attributed some of my behavior before to being drunk or something immediate going on. So, I think they appreciated a deeper understanding of me.

I hope that you take the time to talk with a friend or loved one about your depression. If you think that’s too big of a step, writing about what you would say, even if you delete it immediately afterwards, can help a lot. Write it by hand as well, so that way you don’t have to worry about the internet machine gobbling it up and saving it somewhere. According to “The Body Keeps the Score” writing can really help processing trauma. So, give that a try. Write it down, throw it out, do it again tomorrow.

More than two sides, the complexity of a story

In a lot of my writing, I typically focus on one aspect of the story. For example, with my writing about Ferguson I really focused on the wrong that I believed the police were doing. I didn’t really touch on the violence that the protesters were doing to the community (contained to the first few days) or the violence they were committing on the police. I didn’t ignore it personally, or as I was thinking about the articles, I just didn’t want to discuss it because it didn’t fit with the story I was trying to outline. That’s perfectly fine. You can’t fit everything into any given story. However, that doesn’t mean that omission was support of the actions of the protesters. I abhor their behavior and I think that it really negatively impacted their message. 

The past few days, we’ve had some pretty serious leaks. Over 100 celebrities have had their nude images leaked. The suspected culprit is iCloud. The iPhone, like most Android phones have the option to automatically backup your photos to a storage unit online. Apparently, there was a vulnerability in an application called Find My Phone, which allowed a person to try as many times as they wanted to access an account. What this meant was that brute force methods for cracking a login for an account would work eventually. It might have taken days or longer for whatever algorithm was used to crack the logins, but eventually it would have worked. There’s no way for it not. Essentially, the approach would run through as many permutations as possible for the login. furthermore, it could have actually been run concurrently on multiple different systems to test in parallel. It’s pretty horrible that someone was able to sneak into iCloud and steal these pictures, however, it’s also incumbent on the users of these systems and the owners of the systems to ensure that these simple lapses don’t happen. 

The users of these services bare a responsibility for understanding what is happening to their data once it leaves their phones. This is a requirement for any user, not just the famous. The famous likely should have someone help them with their security features, as it’s unlikely that many of them have the desire or knowledge to do it on their own. Not that this is any different for much of the rest of the population. They are as vulnerable as the famous, but aren’t a target simply by being uninteresting. 

In both cases, it’s fully acceptable to be upset by both sides of the story. It’s not impossible to say that police violence and militarization is bad and that the criminal element of the Ferguson protests is bad too. It’s also fine to say that you shouldn’t hack and that the people that develop the systems and use the systems are accountable as well. In most of our stories, there are complexities that are withheld or ignored because there is an angle the writer is going for, the story would take too long, or the writer has a low opinion of the readers. In my case, I was going for a specific angle with the Ferguson stories, because I assumed that it was obvious to the reader that the violence committed by the protesters was both known and understood to be a terrible wrong. Not mentioning it did make the police seem less rational than they were behaving though.

In the case of the leaks, most of the attention has been put on the leaker and the people enjoying the leaks, however, it’s important that we keep in mind that there’s a responsibility of the companies to keep that data safe. 

A retrospective, 250 posts and counting

I’m on my 250th post. Quite the milestone, I haven’t done a retrospective post in a while about the history of my writing. I’ve tried a few different tact from the beginning and I’m happy to say that I’ve managed to gather a bit of a following on twitter, largely driven by my association with KBMOD, but I’ve found a decent number of my own through tweets and retweets.

My initial goal with this blog was to write about a lot of different highly technical topics that I felt that would have some sort of impact on people I know that might not really understand what’s going on. I’ve gotten a bit farther away from that as I’ve changed life situations. When I first started blogging I was in my master’s degree in the Netherlands, which really lent my writing a bit more of a scientific perspective. During the first year or so of my blogging (I’m on year 3 now), I frequently sited the scientific articles that I was reading for class. The important piece wasn’t that I was citing these writings, which I did at the time feel lent some weight to my writing, but was that I was actively and continually applying my education to real world situations.

I was hoping that this blog, along with my education, would help me find a policy position either in the Netherlands or in the US. This turned out not to have happened, which after about 6 months of looking for a job, while still living in the Netherlands, I quickly realized I needed to switch to looking for a job in my field of Business Process Improvement and/or Lean Six Sigma. This impacted my writing, because I got a job at AMD, where I tried to applied what I had learned from the University to a corporate position. I believe my writing reflected this to some extent. It was a frustrating year. My writing suffered, I reduced my blogging and tended to focus on writing more about how internet things rather than some of the other things I used to write.

Now I’m at yet another company and I’m struggling to figure out what I want to consistently write about. I’ve bounced around a bit – I tried a consistent schedule but quickly fell off the wagon. I’ve tried keeping up with current events, but I’ve found my interest in many of the topics to have waned. This has made writing much more difficult and caused me to bounce back and forth between topics and to be focusing more on cultural aspects rather than other technology, innovation, or science topics.

I’m not sure what that means for me or for the future of my writing. I’d love to have my readers to contribute suggestions or topics that they’d like me to write about. I think that’s a lot of fun and really helps direct my writing to topics my readers enjoy and are hoping to understand better.

I plan on writing about some topics related to two books I’m in the process of reading, People’s Platform and then Capital in the 21st Century. I’m hoping to help people understand the impact of the internet more and an economics book that a lot of policy makers are talking about. If you have any book recommendations shoot those at me too!

Posting plan

I’ve been thinking about how I want to structure my blog moving forward. The full time I’ve been posting, I’ve written whatever has been popping up in the news and has been really dependent on how much time I was able to spend looking at the news and thinking about what’s been going on. I’m thinking of structuring my blog so that I’m writing something about different topics. This will allow me to collect more information over the period of a week or so for a topic rather than whatever came to mind. We’ll see how it works. This is what I’m thinking and I’d like some feedback on two things, first, is this a good idea. Second, if it is then do these topics seem interesting.

Monday: Healthcare
Tuesday: Security/Politics topics
Wednesday: Technology/Policy
Thursday: Science
Friday: Kickstarter/indiegogo technology/science or some other innovation topic
Saturday: generic current events
Sunday: Reader’s choice – follow up on a topic earlier in the week or something like that

Any feedback?