Writing and Mental Health Representation

Hey guys,

Today is a pretty low day for me, to be honest. Not because of the specific date, but it’s the first day in a while where I have woken up still feeling tired, still feeling simultaneously overwhelmed and underwhelmed by everything.

For a few of you, those feelings will be all too familiar. After all, one in three people will suffer with depression and/or anxiety in their lifetime, and I am certainly one of them. For those of you who don’t know those feelings, I can assure you there is little worse for your self-confidence than barely being able to extricate yourself from the sheets in a morning.

"Man, all that sleepin' made me feel hella sexy."
This sort of represents how I feel in a morning, except less attractive and more zombie-like.

The reason I bring this up – besides actually feeling like that right now – is because it’s something intensely important to me, and it’s always been tied in with my writing one way or another. When I was back in high school, I used writing as a dual coping mechanism – firstly, to deal with the disappointment and boredom of daily life, and secondly, to occupy my mind and stop ruminant thoughts and overthinking situations beyond my control.

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Teenage Daniel – skinnier perhaps, but just as much of a nerd and just as confused by life.

As I progressed through life, writing became less of the second part – I could still overthink while writing, still ruminate over things that would make me worried or sad. Nowadays, those things can cut me down in my tracks while I’m in the middle of a dramatic action scene or a pleasant exposition of romance in one of my books. In a bizarre way, writing has become such second nature to me, that it’s an extension of who I am and what I am, it’s not really a hobby so much as a natural state of affairs. Unfortunately, that comes with its drawbacks, and the most major of these is that my depression and anxiety can interfere with the process quite significantly.

This is a Game Grumps joke.
Coming soon to Polaris, Laptop Flip!

In my books, I try to include characters suffering with mental health issues as I feel it’s important to represent the process of dealing with these things.  Whether it’s a character with intense social anxiety, or OCD, or depression, it’s important to humanise these issues and make them relatable. For a long time, mental health has been a plot device rather than a character trait; the ‘crazy’ serial killer or ‘obsessive’ detective in crime fiction, the ‘sociopath’ villain in dramas or the ‘ruthlessly ambitious’ king in a high fantasy. Now that the understanding of such issues is greater, I think it’s important that we stop that ‘convenient’ dismissal of struggle for its base traits – even if your fictional society isn’t a modern one where these things would be recognised, or a historical one where anxiety was dismissed as ‘hysteria’. As writers, I feel it’s our job to make the intelligent decision, to sympathise rather than sensationalise. We can leave sensationalism to journalists and clickbait bloggers.

Thanks to NewsWhip's 'Clickbait Headline Generator' for this gem.
Man, I hope not. Drake already has enough shit to deal with, like putting sad things on Twitter, and people laughing at said sad things on Twitter.

I also think the big issue here is part of the whole spectrum of representation, and that’s something that I feel is hugely important in fiction. If, as a writer, I’m creating this fictional, fantastical world, it’s important to let my readers know – whoever they are – that who they are is important to me. If I can inspire by writing a particular character then that’s enough of a reason for me to keep writing.

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Updates, and a warm welcome to new followers!

Hey guys and hello to all the new people who are following my Facebook page! It’s astounding that my number of likes has almost doubled just because I put myself out there and did a shameless self-promo!

First up, I am talking to you from my brand new laptop. My opinion of said laptop is this: “Shiny.” As much as I love my desktop which is – a la Old Spice Odor Blocker – powerful enough to turn off the sun, I have missed the convenience of a portable computer. I can now go and sit in a coffee shop drinking Earl Grey and writing my books. By the Eldritch Gods, I am such a hipster. It’s embarrassing.

Embarrassment aside, I would like to make a second call for beta readers! I am not expecting editing or an elaborate critique – I’m simply looking for a few people who are interested in science fiction to read my book. In fact, an interest in science fiction isn’t even necessarily required. It’s a light novel, just over 50,000 words  and in the hands of a quick reader would take no more than a few days to finish. If you’re interested, drop a comment below, message me on Facebook or email me at danieljaeger413[at]hotmail.com

If I may, I’d also like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about a project I mentioned briefly in a previous blog. Foxfire. It’s a story set in my universe, but in the United States rather than Tonlist. It follows a mercenary group called Foxfire, who are split into three squads of three based on their tactical specialisms (stealth, assault and support). All the members of Foxfire are female and a mixture of former military personnel and civilians who are particularly handy with firearms, vehicles and/or magic. And magic’s still real outside of Tonlist. That never stopped being a thing or anything. It’s based on an old story I wrote called Blaze Squadron (when my talent for titles was derived from 90s British R’n’B groups) which featured so many characters it was a veritable nightmare to write. It was like an 11 year old me trying to write Homestuck. I can’t even remember the characters’ names, which for me is heresy.

There were male characters in that which included a young Solid Snake lookalike with a magic broadsword, a cliché-anime-protagonist-cum-skater-dude with a plasma pistol and a giant robot, an alien similar to a Covenant Elite from Halo who stole Samus Aran’s arm cannon, and a hulking great dude from Alaska with a literally square head called… Steve.

The only name and character I remembered of the copious amounts of badass ladies was Acei Macino, who throughout time has wielded dual submachine guns and used to be a princess of a distant world, and she has survived the 13 years through to now where she will appear in Foxfire as Gracia ‘Ace’ Macino, an Italian-American with a penchant for cute uniforms and kicking bad guys in the face.

She’ll be joined by the Vixens recon team, the Firebelles assault team and the Kits support team. Together they’ll fight a shady corporate collective, religious zealots and otherworldly spiritual beings so they can afford to keep their group on the go and pick up a few pizzas on the way back from the mission. It’s a story I’ve wanted to write for years, and I think I’ve finally found a way to handle it. If I come up with any more ideas for it, you’ll be the first to know.