Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Iowa Writer's Workshop

In Surviving Literary Suicide, by Jeffrey Berman, a work in which the author touches on Ernest Hemingway, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and William Styron, Berman quotes Key Redfield Jamison, who wrote An Unquiet Mind. Jamison’s research showed a 38 percent incidence of manic depression among students at the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, while less than 1% of the general population suffers from the disease.

As a graduate of and former teacher at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, I wonder why in the years I spent there the subject was so little discussed.

Numbers from the Centers for Disease Control show that 27 percent of high school students contemplate suicide and 8 percent attempt it.

Iowa, I can imagine the hell it would be... when the mind goes, as in melancholia, the imagination goes too. One ceases to dream, or is that just me? So where does it go? Maybe it doesn’t go anywhere. Maybe it just shuts down. “It,” "it" being the mind, "it" being imagination, "it" being something more than zombie-hood. I know zombie: Anhedonia, lack of energy, the feeling one has somehow been hollowed out. There's nothing like feeling hollowed out, soulless, to make one feel, later, when the melancholia passes--always with the fear it may return--that there's something more there than I had thought. There’s something clumsy in this. I hate my writing.

As someone who writes all the time, I lost all interest in reading, writing, attending movies... coffee was like poison, television was even more stupifying than I had thought possible, and there was the morning... well, that’s for later.

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