Fiction Writing and Mental Health Stigmatisation

You’re crazy. Delusional. Mad. Insane. Nuts. Psychotic. Loony. Off your meds. Around the twist. Freak. Psycho. Weirdo. Schizo. Mental.

Other.

We like to think we’ve progressed as a society. In centuries past, humanity liked to just lock away anyone who deviated from the norm, preferring to pretend they didn’t exist. Insane asylums and travelling circuses were where you’d find the humans too “delusional” for regular society. The Nazis aimed to eradicate who they perceived as deplorable and below the rest of humanity, with Josef Mengele, among many in his rank, attempting to normalise eugenics and wipe out what they perceived as defective human beings.

Creative spheres are typically full of progressive people, and literary awards are chock-full of stories about struggle in the human condition, about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. BookTube, BookTok and all the other literature-focused parts of the internet, are always sharing books and entertainment that attempt to fix some of the frankly shocking portrayals of mental illness. In the last few decades, a wealth of literature has come out trying to help with the dismal public awareness of both physical and mental health. Far from the days of WWI vets hiding their PTSD in a locked box and suppressing their emotions, newer generations (millennials and Gen Z) are supposedly more open with mental health and mental illness, proudly proclaiming their diagnoses in their Twitter bios and claiming to be all about empathy and compassion.

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How To Be The Bestest of All the Writingers

Are you an aspiring writer who has never picked up a book since you pretended to read the pictures in There’s a Hippopotamus on my Roof Eating Cake way back in first grade?

Back then, you decided you would write a classic epic about a hungry grey creature with a dessert problem, and once the Big Five publishers—yes, all of them—contacted you en masse for a trillion dollar book deal, you would savour the taste of all the cakes while lounging in your money pool, and promise to never look at another book again. But the pandemic hit you hard. Now you need to *gasp* write again. As an aspiring writer who runs to the grocery store wearing your trench coat and vaping, clasping your MacBook in one hand and vape pen in the other, you need more ideas. You need a story. You need to remove the ‘aspiring’ out of your authoryness once and for all. You need to be the bestest of all the writingers and authorydoos.

But how? you ask.

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{SimName} gained some Writing skill! Using ‘The Sims’ as a Framework for Fiction Writing

The Sims is the perfect video game for writers.

As someone who first got into the franchise over twenty years ago with The Sims (no numbers) on Windows 98, each new incarnation of The Sims has been more inclusive of telling stories while also escaping from the real world by making your Sim a corrupt detective with six lovers and seventeen kids and a secret side-business drowning work rivals in his underground basement pool…or alternatively, a dedicated single mother who’s just doing her best while changing the world building rockets and rocketing off into space in her spare time.

It was a lot harder back in 2001 to keep the storytelling alive—mostly I was trying to keep my Sims alive with their thrice-daily showers and constant bad moods. However, over time, the sequels have made it easier to keep your Sims, well, alive, contrary to Will Wright’s original goal of making Budget Simulator 2000, it’s become an immersive storytelling tool. I’m not about to wax poetic about how amazing the later games are. Sims 3 no longer has the appeal it did back in 2009—it’s a laggy, bloated mess with empty lots and a map screen filled with Steve Jablonsky’s ‘Expansive Vistas‘ that will give even the cheeriest of folks a traumatising case of crippling existential dread at 5am they never even asked for. Don’t even get me started on the current brouhaha over the latest Sims 4 game pack. We’re here to talk about The Sims from a writer’s perspective. That’s what this blog tends to be about. Writing. Writing accessories. I hope you weren’t expecting a list of songs from Sims 3 designed to give you maximum existential dread. Or a list of reticulating splines. Not today, reader. Not today.

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Are You Distracted?

Can you believe the pictures that exist on Pixabay? I promise I’m not distracting you…or maybe I am?

Everything is trying to take away our precious time.

The internet and social media. Family and friends. Dishes. Lunch. Bills. That delicious tub of boysenberry ice cream in the freezer. The book that just arrived in your mailbox. The books in your bookshelf, calling your name, begging Read me! Read me! in an insolently nasal accent. Work. Zoom sessions. Grocery shopping. Perusing the latest news that You Season 3 will be out in October and predicting what will happen on Twitter and Reddit and random messageboards and to the neighbourhood bin chicken. When our time is all we’ve got, what happens when we’ve got none left to spare?

Back in May, I blogged about our deteriorating ability to focus in the current attention economy. The attention economy being “the business model of keeping our eyes glued to the specific apps and sites maintained by those with vested interests who do not care about our health and wellbeing” is one of the many things in life distracting us from using our time the way we want to, in our best interests.

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k: Writer’s Edition

Can you guess which audiobook I listened to this month?

Mark Manson and his million billion incarnates (read: copycats) have it right, even if their message is too crass and gross for innocent or petulant ears. You’ve got to stop giving a fuck.

This doesn’t mean becoming a sociopath, superficially adopting the traits of Antisocial Personality Disorder crossed with extreme nihilism until you inevitably crash your stolen Mercedes Benz down a ravine after a thirteen hour police chase. It doesn’t mean dressing in trench-coats and fulfilling every media stereotype as you slowly withdraw from society, before your final evolution into a dormant sentient boulder.

It’s about giving a fuck about what matters most to you and giving the finger—at least metaphorically—to everything else. If you’re on this blog, that’s probably related to writing and writing accessories. You’re a writer, poet, novelist, aspiring author. Writing matters to us. Other things matter, naturally: only the sociopath of the last paragraph would sacrifice their second child for their work-in-progress (WIP). But this isn’t an either/or. Life isn’t black-and-white like a lot of extremists on the internet would have you think. What you give a fuck about is on a sliding scale, some more important than others, but still important enough to give more than a single fuck about.

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You Are Not An Aspiring Writer

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Have you ever heard of impostor syndrome?

You probably have. So many people have been throwing the phrase around like it’s about to go out of fashion. It’s not like the phrase “going out of fashion”, which went out of fashion ages ago, and is only used in pep-talky blog posts like this one.

Also known as impostor phenomenonimpostorismfraud syndrome and impostor experience, impostor syndrome is a:

psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

Despite external evidence of their competence, those experiencing this phenomenon remain convinced that they are frauds, and do not deserve all they have achieved.

You know it, don’t you? Most of us have felt it at some point or another. It’s a real problem, and it needs to stop right now. It’s responsible for so many potentially awesome works never seeing the light of day. It’s responsible for a lot of wasted hours, hours spent thinking…Am I a real writer?

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So…You Want To Be A Writer, Do You?

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When I was eight years old, I decided I wanted to be an author.

It was Grade 3, and I’d written a short story for class; the incredibly original The Adventure, a fantasy adventure about two siblings: shy narrator Daniel and his confident, leaderly sister Jezebel. The Adventure detailed their adventure (geddit) to the snow, where they saved a fairy from evil, children-eating dragons. Throughout the rest of primary (elementary for you North Americans) school, I kept writing, both for class and for fun. I wrote about crazy clowns and mad scientesses. I wrote about Barbie and her friends going on wacky adventures. I wrote about the preteen Jake and his Golden Retriever Ralph. I typed stories up on our Windows 98 computer (no internet) and printed out my words with our ancient, screeching printer. I drew pictures to go with the stories. I stapled them together. Some of them I sent to my encouraging penpals. I wanted others to enjoy my stories.

Not long after, I proudly declared to my parents that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.

I was quickly shut down and told that writing would never amount to a career. To my father, it was just a hobby. Just for fun. You can’t make a living out of that. Why don’t you think realistically? You should think about a real job.

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How Music Inspires Me To Write (And How It Can Help You Too)

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What inspires you to write? For those who haven’t picked up a pen since high school or tertiary education, what inspires you to do the things you love?

This isn’t a new question to this blog. Back in February of 2015, I wrote about how one shouldn’t simply expect to beat writer’s block. It’s not something simply beaten by inspirational quotes and the Perfect Mood. You shouldn’t just force yourself to write or sing or dance or act or design a video game. If you your hobby feels like a chore, you’re less likely to want to do it. Why are you even doing it? Even earlier, in September of 2013, I asked the big question: What inspires you? I told my 2013 WordPress readers that you should work out what makes you tick. What inspires you to write? Is it the soothing sounds of your cat lapping water from his bowl, or the disconcerting calmness of Resident Evil save room music?

Even if you don’t know exactly what makes you inspired, learning so will help you become a better writer.

If you don’t know what inspires you—the crux of why you write—you’ll make excuses not to write. That action romance you started back in 2007 will still be on that 256 megabyte flash drive, hidden away in your cluttered mess of a junk drawer, and by the time you finally get around to Konmari-ing that rubbish, you’ll have forgotten what USB is even an acronym for.

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Why Blogging Isn’t The Key to Success

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If you’ve started a blog to become the Next Big Author or Creative, then you should give up right now.

Despite what the myriad of bloggers on your WordPress Reader or Twitter are telling you—amidst their epic cries of Buy my book! Buy my booook!—you will not become famous by virtue of tapping your fingers onto the keyboard and blurting word vomit onto your professional writer’s blog. You’d have a better chance writing a letter in blood to the devil (The Big Five publishers) or begging for a short story journal to not pay you in exposure and love.

If you’re an unknown, the majority of your followers will be other writers and creatives. Sure, a percentage of these people may be interested enough to buy your book or watch your YouTube channel or like your social media accounts, they’re nowhere near the majority. If you’re a virtual unknown with a newly minted blog, your comments—if any—will read something like this:

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