Movingpictures 20: on happiness

We've not had a video for a while, so here's one for those of a certain age and disposition, since my last post about happiness and resilience generated a fair few emails, and even a few comments. 

One of the themes of responses was that happiness and artistic creation do not always go hand in glove. (Sorry, couldn't stop myself.) Even if the work is not sad, unhappy, depressed or depressing in itself, the artist or writer may be. This is one of the paradoxes of art - from the tragic comedian to the backstage transformation. It is what we want from art, and one of its limitations - sometimes, you can't write or sing or joke your way out of yourself.

Some years ago I did some research in the therapeutic benefits of writing, and whether quality, or trying to write well (as opposed to simply for therapy, regardless of literary quality). made any difference. I found some evidence that it did, both in writers' own testimonies, but also in psychological literature. There is something in making special, powerful images, which is good for you. (Virgina Woolf made the connection herself in her diary, when recovering from depression: 'returning health: this is shown by the power to make images...')

There is though, a paradox here too: writers, especially ones of a certain standing, are more likely to suffer depression and related illnesses. It may be that striving for excellence can become a burden to some when pushed too far - perhaps those with lower 'resilience', perhaps. 

You can, if you're interested, read the paper, 'Writing well: health and the power to make images', that came out of this research in the archives of Medical Humanities, where it was published. It feels a long time ago now, but I was happy to be reminded of it, and particularly the other Woolf quote I use at the end, which I'll share here for those not minded to read the full thing:

“And now with some pleasure I find that it's seven; and must cook dinner. Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down”


  1. Thanks = very cheering for us miserabilists to see the Queen of them all and his wonderful nostrils. And the Woolf quotes I will carry like stones in my pocket.


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