Writing yourself well

I’ve just read, over at the wonderful Stuck in a Book, that he’s just about to read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper. He has a treat in store.

And that reminded me that Perkins Gilman also wrote about why she wrote The Yellow Wallpaper. You can read the full article here, but here’s an extract:

For many years I suffered from a severe and continuous nervous breakdown. … I went … to a noted specialist … [who prescribed] the rest cure [and when that worked, very quickly he] sent me home … [saying] “never to touch pen, brush or pencil again” as long as I lived.

… I came so near the borderline of utter mental ruin … [but with help] I cast the noted specialist’s advice to the winds and [began writing once more] … and sent a copy to the physician who so nearly drove me mad. He never acknowledged it. … But … many years later I was told that … [he] had admitted to friends of his that he had altered his treatment of neurasthenia since reading The Yellow Wallpaper.

She wrote herself well, and she had the satisfaction of discovering that the ‘specialist’s’ treatment changed as a result of what she wrote.

Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto appears in Speaking of Love because he ‘wrote himself well’ when he wrote it (he thought he’d never write again after a drunken performance of his first and a vile review but, with Dr Dahl’s help – a wise psychiatrist this time – he got back on the horse).

I know that I am a miserable old bag if I’m not writing, or at least dreaming about a new piece of work. The alchemy is in the doing.

About Angela

I write fiction about the difficulty we have when we try to say what's in our hearts.
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3 Responses to Writing yourself well

  1. Justine Picardie says:

    I can completely relate to what you say about the alchemy being in the doing — the writing. That’s what “Daphne” is about, in part — because Du Maurier wrote herself out of unhappiness — out of madness, at times. I think writing took her out of herself, but also brought her back into herself — if that makes sense?

  2. Angela Young says:

    It makes complete sense, Justine. It’s partly what Speaking of Love is about too. And I think it’s what artists of all disciplines do … but it only works, I think, when the artist isn’t completely aware of what it is she’s doing (otherwise it’s conscious therapy and that’s another thing altogether).

  3. StuckInABook says:

    It leapt to the top of my tbr pile!