The Medicated Writer

The first suicide was the hardest, but by the third, I began to realize that if I was to be a writer, I had to learn to let people go.

This is what belonging to the literary community is about. We all reach out, desperate to connect with other writers—those who understand us—but there is always that nagging sensation in the back of our minds. How long will this new friend be around before he or she too is taken by the darkness of mental trauma? It’s a downward spiral that we can sometimes anticipate through reading others’ works; and yet, so many cases go unnoticed until it’s too late.

It’s those cases that make me ask myself if I am next.

Even in the face of this, I rebel against the concept of mental health. I spend countless hours worrying that a healthy version of me just won’t be capable of the same inspiration. I know I’m not alone in this fear.

So what is the actual reality linking writers to mental illness? According to an article released by The Atlantic, there’s a pretty big one: statistical evidence supports the fact that those in our profession are more prone to “schizophrenia, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety syndrome, and substance abuse problems.” Additionally, writers are twice as likely to commit suicide when compared to the rest of the population.

I felt that suffering is what writers should be doing. After all, there are so many literary greats whose best-known pieces are (supposedly) a direct result of their mental illnesses.

In a line of work where creativity must flourish, it is sometimes easier for me to blame my lack of inspiration on outside forces. This is partly why it took me such a long time to jump on the treatment bandwagon for my PTSD and anxiety disorder. I was concerned the medication I would be given would dull my senses and take away from me everything that motivates me as a writer—and also, on some level, I felt that suffering is what writers should be doing. After all, there are so many literary greats whose best-known pieces are (supposedly) a direct result of their mental illnesses.

That last thought is what spurred me to write this column. The idea that I needed my pain to be a successful writer made me ask a question of myself: Is treatment of a mental illness the culprit of a creative downward spiral, or is that really just the stigma the literary community attaches to it?

An article by The New York Times captures such an idea perfectly in a quote from Diane Middlebrook, biographer: “Both Sylvia Plath and [Anne] Sexton shared the notion that a great artist’s life must end in death. You stop before you write more bad stuff. Sexton applauded Hemingway’s suicide. She said, ‘Good for him.’”

This philosophical debate could go on for centuries without any true answer, just as the quandary of whether the chicken or the egg came first. Yet still, there are those that insist medication dulls their senses and turns their writing to shit. I feel as wordsmiths, we’ve all either been the person to say this, or we know at least one acquaintance who has.

According to Everyday Health, it’s the other way around. Depression can actually have a numbing effect, where those afflicted insist they feel “dead inside.” But what of those parties that actually do seek treatment, and still feel that way? One of the experts interviewed for the article thinks he has the answer:

There is, in fact, some clinical evidence that a number of antidepressants that boost the brain chemical serotonin (sometimes referred to as “SSRIs”) may leave some individuals feeling somewhat “flat” emotionally. They may also complain that their sexual energy or drive is reduced, or that their thinking seems a little “fuzzy” or slowed down. These are probably side effects of too much serotonin — perhaps overshooting what would be optimal in the brain. The sort of emotional “flattening” may occur, in my experience, in perhaps 10 to 20 percent of patients who take these medications.

While I so often perceive my creativity to be borne out of suffering, when I take a moment to reflect on my personal experience with medication and writing, I find that concept skewed. During the times I wrote what I felt was my best work, I was medicated, and the worst came when I was at rock bottom—so caught up in my pain that I was numb to the experiences of the world.

I would love to see the difference between a literary community that suffers in silence versus one that emphasizes the importance of mental health. What would that look like? Would our library shelves become dusty voids where words go to die, or would the world see a revolution of inspired art that changes society for the better? In answer to this, Everyday Health quotes Peter J. Kramer, author of Against Depression:

What sort of art would be meaningful or moving in a society free of depression? Boldness and humor—broad or sly—might gain in status. Or not. A society that could guarantee the resilience of mind and brain might favor operatic art and literature. Freedom from depression would make the world safe for high neurotics, virtuosi of empathy, emotional bungee-jumpers. It would make the world safe for van Gogh.

So now I must ask the loyal masses: what is your experience with medicated writing, and what do you think would happen if the literary community began to embrace health versus suffering?

Part Number:
Raine Winters

Column by Raine Winters

Raine lives in Cleveland, Ohio and works as a freelance writer and graphic artist. From an early age she has harbored a love of reading and writing, and is lucky enough to incorporate both into her daily work routine. Raine is a lover of all things fantasy and horror related, has a soft spot in her heart for middle grade and young adult fiction, and spends most of her free time running, wakesurfing, or wrangling in her husband and three cats while they perpetrate a massive amount of mischief around the house.

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Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 21, 2016 - 12:11pm

Who can write in the middle of a hurricane on a sinking ship? That is the person who can write while mired in their darkest depression.

While fully immersed in my depression, I can't function. Anything I write is sporadic and mental masturbation. However, I do manage to get some beautiful lines during those days. And I use them to create characters or plots after the fact.

Only after the storms have abated can I write with any sort of clarity or purpose. I can look back at the storm and write what it was like, how it felt to be drowning while the world looked on indifferent. Not so much not caring, but unseeing, nor did they desire to see. Then again, I never reached out for help. Only after my attempts did anyone bother to help me, and even that was just so they could legally get rid of me without it biting them in the ass for having let me go.

It is only with medication that I can abate the storms, the falling, the sinking, the darkness. I wish I could call it horror, but I can deal with horror. I can't deal with the nothing I feel followed by the dizzying spin that refuses to let me hold onto something, anything meaningful. So, with medication, I feel like the seas calm and I can write about it all. But the storm is always there, it will always come back, it is my reality. The medication is the lie that allows me to tell the truth. The medication is like a little safe room where I can regroup for a moment.


I think I would need more information as to what we are willing to call healthy and who gets to decide. Healthy to whom? The religious version of a healthy mind? The white male straight feminist version of healthy? The trans Afghani woman? Is it just the individual writing from a healthy place, and then society gets to accept or reject such work? <-- The latter is probably what we're talking about, so let's use that.

Would it matter to the person who writes from a healthy place if their work is accepted by society? Would they, after constant rejection, end up in a negative space? Would society accept that it was the cause of such a result? But with suffering, whether society accepts or rejects, it is not culpable. If it rejects, then either the person continues to suffer, which isn't their fault, or the person commits suicide and there is no one left to really blame them. If it accepts a person suffering, then they get the warm altruistic feeling of having fed the starving child. They did something nice, the individual is better off, the society feels redeemed and absolved from any past transgressions.

So, from a society point of view, there is more to be gained from suffering artists than from helping a healthy artist.

Of course, science will come in and butcher this idea. I'm sure it's loaded with fallacies of one kind or another. But I don't think I'm too far from the mark. I think Zizek Slavoj would maybe agree with me to a point.  

Christina Cardinale's picture
Christina Cardinale June 21, 2016 - 1:22pm

There is no writing without suffering. Well, good writing, I guess.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 12:20am

Disclaimer:  I am a believer that very few people who take medication for depression and some of the "newer" disorders the medical establishment has dreamed up to make money are "really" ill.  And don't bother trying to convince me otherwise, as this is predominantly a late twentieth century "American" thing, and mental illness doesn't operate demographically.  People have been duped into medication by the medical establishment just as cigarette makers duped Americans in the last century and "Big Agriculture" is duping Americans into obesity today -  convincing people to take the easy way out and not do what it takes to live a healthy life--and to give people an excuse for being miserable and accepting that as normal.  I recognize some people really are ill, but many, many are not.

Embrace "health" vs "suffering"?  Why are these related?  "Suffering" as a writer doesn't need to mean being ill. Suffering should be sacrifice and hard work, not pretending you have some mental illness and medicating yourself into oblivion.  What has happened to us?  The medical establishment has taken Americans for fools and has convinced us a huge % of the population is in need of medication for mental illness of some sort.  We didn't have this problem 50 years ago.  Just like half the population didn't suffer from the dreaded "illness" of "obesity" 50 years ago.  It's just people looking for excuses for being pathetic, frankly.  I'm weary of hearing people trying to make peace with being "unhealthy".  Americans have become obsessed with finding excuses rather than taking ownership and responsibility and taking up a healthy lifestyle and making healthy choices.  The percentage of Americans that have decided they are ill and need medication is absurd.  And it's only getting worse.  A healthy mind and a healthy body improve "everything" in your life, and medicating yourself into creativity is simply an absurd notion.  


L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami June 21, 2016 - 8:16pm

I'm not absolutely certain. I know I didn't over medicate (that's putting it mildly) in order to stop before writing bad stuff per say.

Rather it's more my old work reminds me of weird memories of late teen to early twenties I'd rather forget (unresolved parental issues I didn't want to discuss with others). And yet this seems to be the book I seem to get the most tublresque vague blogs about.

All this to say, PTSD isn't fun. As my room mate said, please don't put yourself through this. Now that I live with Katie, a lot of those feelings subsided.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 21, 2016 - 11:04pm

@ Templewl: You are correct, there is no point in arguing with you.

“If someone doesn't value evidence, what evidence are you going to provide to prove that they should value it? If someone doesn’t value logic, what logical argument could you provide to show the importance of logic?”

--Sam Harris

I mean, if you're right, provide your evidence and win your Nobel Prize.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 12:23am

@ Jose F. Diaz

You can send your Nobel to Medco.  

From a Medco Health Solutions study concluded in 2010:

One of the more startling statistics in the report, which analyzed prescription claims data from 2.5 million insured Americans from 2001 to 2010, is that one in four women is dispensed medication for a mental health condition, compared to just 15 percent of men.

25% of American women are medicated for mental illness....Seriously? 25%!

No other country in the world has a statistic even close to that.  Anyone who believes that 25% of American women suffer from mental illness needs their head examined (pun intended).  If 25% of American women had STDs or High Blood Pressure, that would be an "epidemic."  But that 25% of women are medicated for mental illnesses is NBD, because it's nonsense - it's like a fad, and having some "disease" allows to people to excuse their behavior. And it's made billions for drug makers and physicians.  The point is, there are a lot of people out there who have fooled themselves into believing they suffer from some mental illness as an excuse for not owning their lives.

It's like ADHD.  It was called bad behavior and poor parenting thirty years ago - now it's an excuse for gullible or irresponsible parents to medicate kids and explain away bad behavior and poor parenting (for a certain % of families).

And why I mentioned that it's not worth debating, is the only people who take up the debate and get defensive about it are those that have been drinking the Kool-Aid and haven't come to terms with their own lack of self-control.  The people who are seriously ill are seriously ill and that's terrible for them; it is what it is and they don't need to debate the point.

Leah McClellan's picture
Leah McClellan June 22, 2016 - 1:33am

While I recognize the value of medication in many cases, especially disorders like bipolar, schizophrenia, and major depression, medication isn't the only route to "health." It's not like a scale with pills on one side and mental health on the other.

Psychotherapy should go along with medication when used with the goal to get off the medication (not including severe/psychotic disorders etc.). In addition, there are all sorts of other paths on the road to mental health: meditation, yoga, exercise, mindfulness practice, healthier eating, lifestyle changes, staying away from unhealthy people when possible or learning coping skills (maybe a family member has issues, for example.)...changes that promote good mental health. 

There’s plenty of peer-reviewed research and general articles that show therapy is as effective as medication in treating depression and anxiety, etc.

If you google “therapy as effective as medication” and similar keywords, you’ll get lots of results.

From The American Psychological Association:

"With an effective therapist, science shows that psychotherapy even works better in the long-term and is more enduring than medication...

I don’t believe creative writers need to suffer (except maybe from long hours, sore rumps, frustration with the process and all that as another commenter mentioned).

But getting healthy doesn’t have to mean medication, and it doesn't mean a writer can’t draw from painful experiences and strong emotions (and with therapy, there's no chance of flat-lining emotionally). Sometimes writing itself is therapeutic, too, especially if the writer has a trusted therapist to talk with (journaling is often recommended, and for writers, that can lead to all sorts of ideas to work with). 

One more thing. Someone mentioned the definition of "healthy." Here's a good defintion, in my opinion:

"Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realizes his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community."

I'm speaking partly from experience, by the way, and my defintion of healthy for myself is just feeling good, relatively peaceful, productive, and positive; experiencing happy high points; and handling what life throws at me. 


templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 1:44am

@Leah McClellan


And meditation and exercise and a healthy diet and good friends and others.....medication is simply too easy to use as a crutch.  It's like having liposuction or a lap band instead of giving up the 2-liter sodas and the venti Frappucinos...

Leah McClellan's picture
Leah McClellan June 22, 2016 - 5:23am


I know what you mean about a crutch, but I personally wouldn't call it that. People are bombarded, after all, with highly persuasive (and obviously successful) TV and other ads that say "Talk to your doctor to see if xyz medication is right for you." And antidepressants are prescribed by people we're supposed to trust—medical doctors who don't say a thing about lifestyle partly because they're subjected to the marketing as well but also because they're not trained to discuss lifestyle changes—so why wouldn't people take them? We, the culture, take drugs for everthing else, after all. Headache? Pop a pill. 

I was given an anti-depressant years ago for fibromyalgia, and I tried it. Awful. Then another one and another. Absolutely awful effects I wasn't willing to put up with. The cure (or what controls it) was, of course, lifestyle changes (mainly a divorce from someone who was stressing me out horribly, and no, I couldn't write). But that's not what doctors told me, and the pain was horrific sometimes with muscle knots/chronically contracted muscles that were actually visible. The difference between me and many others is that I'm willing/able to track down information, but back around 2000 there wasn't much available on fibromyalgia (nor the Internet as we know it now). But I figured it out. If the anti-depressants had worked, I probably would have continued.

And I don't quite agree with the comparison since I know someone who recently had weight loss surgery because of her lack of success in battling her compulsive overeating/eating disorder. Even with long-term therapy, she wasn't winning, and she was at a very high risk for heart attack and some other stuff. For her (and others, I'm sure) it made sense.

In theory, I do know what you mean. It's not too hard to make lifestyle changes for those of us who know it's possible and are willing to do so, but it's not so easy for others who don't have that mindset and have all sorts of pressure to *not* change from friends, family, and so on. There's a lot more to it than simply deciding to do something different. Still, it should be encouraged, seems to me. 

Reminds me of Stephen King getting off the suicidal amount of cocaine and alcohol he was on. From what I know, he had a hard time writing at first, but he got the hang of it, and some critics have mentioned that his writing is a lot better.


Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 22, 2016 - 12:35pm

Change your Google search to Google Scholar. And change mental illness/disorder/disease to psychiatric illness/etc. get on JSTOR, EBSCO, go through APA and JAMA, and I feel you'll get a very different list of results. The studies that show the actual science being done, not some quick compilation of cherry-picked data.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 22, 2016 - 9:00am

@ templewl  WOW!.  I looked to see if you have posted anything that I can read. I don't see any work posted. I am curious to see what you would put on site to share with us. You talk a good game. What is your work like? You have me curious.  I dare you to post some work. Dare you to take a look at mine and tear it to shreds. I could use a good trip through the wood chipper.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 22, 2016 - 1:10pm


I wanted to say much more, but then realized this is a strawman argument. You set up the general US, showed a couple numbers and how it is being abused, and ended with that's why you don't buy into any of it.

Great for you.

But we're not talking about the "whoa my dog died" or "my boyfriend left me" crowd. We're talking about the very real people like Hemingway and Plath who committed suicide because of their illness.

So pardon me if I don't give a jolly fuck that people are prescribed medications they might not need. "Oh the terrible America and their easily manipluated ways." Let's keep it on the fact that people do have serious psychiatric issues and they need medications to establish a chemical balance in the hopes they can begin to find the mental energy to go eat right and workout and talk with friends.

Then, let's talk about the writing those people produce vs the people who don't write from a suffering (psychiatric suffering) perspective.

Leah McClellan's picture
Leah McClellan June 22, 2016 - 3:13pm

@Jose I agree it's best to go to Google Scholar. At a glance, I found a number of articles supporting cognitive therapy, in particular, as more effective than medication. I also found one that didn't support it and so on. You can see the same results for yourself, of course.

It can depend on so many factors. However, it's generally well-accepted in psychiatric/research/medical circles (has been for years) that therapy is, in the long run, more effective than medication or a combination of the two is more effective than medication alone. I used to do medical writing (surprise, surprise) so it's something I've been keeping up with for awhile.

And I agree medication can be the best choice in some cases, as you mention above, especially when it's so severe the person can't function or suicide is a risk. 

My main opinion is just that suffering isn't necessary, mental health is better, and mental health doesn't always depend on medication. Plenty of excellent writers don't suffer like Plath or Faulkner or anyone else. It's just not a requirement for writers.


L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami June 22, 2016 - 3:54pm

I also add that it's all fine and good to say a little frusteration with the process is normal. But when you're hounded by people on social media wanting to slam you as a BBA, even though on closer examination if they were in the same lifestyle they would bitch about many times as much is "normal" then please fuck off.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 6:26pm

@Jose F Dias

"We're not talking...?"  Who is that "we" in your pocket?  I'm not talking about people that are "really" ill.  It's only a straw man to you because you don't read thoroughly.  I recognize there are people who are really mentally ill.  I mentioned that several times.  I am also sorry for those people.

"I" am talking about the huge numbers of people in the last twenty years that have moved into the "now I'm mentally ill and have an excuse for not taking care of myself" camp.

It's no different than the obesity epidemic.  There are certain few who have real medical issues, and then there are those who choose to not live healthy lives and claim "obesity is a disease" as an excuse for all their woes and so they don't feel bad about choking down hot dogs between slugs of sugary sodas.

I know both kinds.  I know people who work very hard to live a healthy and well-balanced lives and take ownership of their own health rather than gobbling up every new drug they see with a two-page spread in Good Housekeeping....

Like I said before - the people who debate this vigorously are those looking for excuses. You seem to fall in that camp.  I suggest you forego the drugs and take charge of your life and maybe you'll find some happiness.  And you should probably quit drinking and smoking so much and your life would be better.  And given you have almost 1600 posts on LitReactor, you might want to consider a real life at some point....

If you are really mentally ill. God bless you; hope things work out the best for you.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 4:56pm


Before you mouth off next time, try and read.  I didn't tear the article to shreds.  The author asked an open question at the end of the article.  I gave my response to that invitation.  Perhaps if you read the article and gave your own thoughts on it rather than trolling those who provide thoughtful comments, you might not have so much angst.  Perhaps you need to get back on your meds....

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 22, 2016 - 6:26pm

Templewl: Fine, not we. I won't speak for the other people who have posted. 

I, as one of those people, don't need your sorry. If I said "I'm sorry you're a woman" would you be offended? It's who I am and nothing I can change. It's bodily difference, no better or worse. I deal with it how I deal with it.

I don't give a jolly fuck, once again, about the epidemics in America. "What is your experience with medicated writing? What do you think would happen if the literary community began to embrace health versus suffering?" And once again, I am talking about suffering from mental illness. I believe that's what the writer of the article, Raine Winters, had in mind when she asked the question. 

And this is definitely not about obesity. It may help you make your point, but it's a point that serves no purpose. You're basically regurgitating the same remarks to no effect.

Great, good for you that you know people who really try to be healthy. It kind of helps facilitate life. Still has nothing to do with writing or the literary community and it's view writing coming from those who are healthy and those that suffer. But, again, good for you.

I do appreciate you viewing my profile to find ammunition to for your ad hominem attack. Once again, it's my life, I will live how I want. Your helpful tips come from a place of pure stupidity. This website, one that caters to the literary community, specifically those that aspire to become writers, is why I am on here on a regular basis. I network with other writers, I read articles about literature, and the craft of writing. I'm attending a masters program for creative writing. This is my life. If you don't get it, you have a different way you think I should live, I don't give a fuck. Perhaps don't come on a website geared toward writing and literature and talk about the American epidemic of obesity and the consumption of pharmaceuticals. 

As for my willingness to argue with you ... I'm a writer. I write all day. Responding to a post doesn't take a lot of effort. Especially when it concerns a shallow post. 

I look forward to your next response. I look forward to your regurgitation. 

If I really am mentally ill ... If you really are a woman ... I don't believe in god, but I understand the sentiment. 

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 6:39pm

@Jose F. Diaz

Wow, for someone who claims they "don't give a f*ck," you certain seem to...

Good luck with the "writing" thing, Jose.  Clearly the drugs, cigs, booze, and addiction to commenting on forums are taking you to greatness.  It's a lesson for us all.   Hopefully, with your guidance, I will be able to write deeper posts.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 22, 2016 - 7:20pm

That's it? Attack my character and nothing else? That's kind of pathetic. 


smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 22, 2016 - 10:13pm

@Templewl Bogus bullshit and bad improvisation. Post your work. Answer the questions posed. This is bad theatre. I'm calling bullshit. Pretty good button pushing  I must admit. "Les Miserables" should have tipped me off right off the bat. Insults, baiting, and intimidation....pretty good. I do have your number though. You had me going there for a minute. You are a fraud. Or should I say you are a  pretty good actor in a rather attractive, if somewhat glossy blonde wig.  Sorry I said bad improvisation. It actually was pretty good. How many faces do you have? As for my meds, and my angst, and my poor your stuff girl. Put up or shut up. I wanna see what you got. I wanna see your work.    I just did. Go ahead and take your bow. Applause. gsr

Trolling, trolling, trolling.....

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 22, 2016 - 10:22pm

Ah hah. Oh no don't let the raine come down, aha oh no don't let the rain come down.....

Trolling, trolling, trolling...


templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 11:16pm

@ Jose F. Dias

I didn't say your character was pathetic, but if that's the label you like, fine.  

I haven't really attacked your character, actually.   I have taken a couple of cheap shots at your addictions, but when you brag about them in your profile, seems you aren't too worried about that right?  And you don't let your addictions define you, do you, Jose?

PS:  You might want to tug your skirt down a bit, your misogyny is showing. 

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 11:19pm


I don't pretend to be a writer.  Never said I was, so not sure what led you to that belief.  (Paranoia?  Persecution Complex?)  And I haven't commented on anyone's writing (Though, I  must say, yours could do with some editing.  I charge $2 a page, if you're interested.)

Also, I never mentioned your literacy—I only mentioned that you failed to note that the author was asking for opinions—which is what I gave (and what instigated your trolling).  That's not an attack on your literacy; it's a comment about your lack of attention to detail. (ADHD?)

So, you've asked to see "my stuff."  What is it about my "stuff" you're so anxious to see?  Would you like me to edit something for you?   Dance?  Show you my library?  Sing a song?  Give you a grammar and punctuation lesson?

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 22, 2016 - 11:27pm

Nope. I'm actually done with you,


templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 22, 2016 - 11:49pm


Awesome.  That would have been a better first decision on your part.  Good luck with your writing.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 23, 2016 - 12:02am

So, according to you, ma'am, a person who argues against your posts, never once saying a single thing derogatory against your gender (I did reference it to make a point), never said anything against your looks, or anything outside the context of the information you provided is a misogynist.

Is that where you draw the line? Is that really good enough to throw that word at me? 

The sly attack on my sexuality is a nice touch with the "tug your skirt down" bit. Of course that only works if you think a man wearing a skirt is something to be ashamed of. Do you think a man wearing a skirt should be ashamed? I certainly don't. 

Would you like to try again?

Emasculation is a big thing in many cultures. It pops up in most every major piece of literature at one point or another. Nikolai Gogol liked to use missing appendages as symbols of castration. In a magical realist story, a man searched the entire time for his nose. And the supporting characters helped him look. Only later do we find out his wife had left him, thus the metaphor. 

I mean, in China masculinity is a very big deal. Attacking a man's libido, sexual orientation, basically anything that deviates from the norm must be a giant insult. And it must work really well. 

Though, I've never actually been to China. I lived in Japan for 18 months when I was younger. Is there a similarity between the two in regards to masculinity? Does it all come back to something mystical like in Haruki Murakami's stories? Is it something that we just can't know? 

Or is it simply a matter of feeling attacked and thus striking back, like the fight or flight response? A matter of saving face? If one feels they need to impress others that is. 

Then again, why would I use the word attack so often? Aren't these like little pokes and prods to find weakness that can be exploited later? Not really attacks, per se. 

Perhaps I can get a story out of this. The person who argues to defend something and realizes there is nothing to defend because there was no offense? Usually the protagonist would recognize that the antagonist is not actually trying to fight him/her, they would recognize they are arguing against a past offense they can't get past. Very bildungsroman. But that's fiction.

In real life nothing is ever so simple. In real life people seldom have epiphanies. 

But I think that's what psychiatric disorders do. Those people are constantly locked in their own heads fighting against themselves, so, if they are lucky, if they make it out of the storms in their heads, they are able to find more in the world. I run through scenarios in my head constantly. Maybe others do as well. And that's where the stories come from. Maybe that's why those who are barely keeping it together find beautiful ways of explaining the world. They find connections, they desperately want people to act like humans and not like animals that attack at every transgression. 

So what if the literary community began to embrace health over suffering? There would still be people suffering I guess. We just wouldn't read about it as often. 


Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 23, 2016 - 12:17am

Templewl, don't worry. I'll keep responding. I think arguments are worth it. We don't become better by only surrounding ourselves with likeminded individuals. It comes through discourse.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 23, 2016 - 12:53am

@Jose F. Diaz

I have no doubts you'll continue to write.  That's what you do, write, right?  1600 comments—just on one website!  You are definitely a writer, and a prolific one at that.  LOL.  Troll Unbound.  Sorry I don't have the time or inclination to read it, but carry on by all means, as I'm sure your "readers" are rapt. 

What genre is that?  Who knew there was a market for "rolling troll commentary"?  Do you cut and paste these into cute little Chapters and send it with a query letter, or do you just give your readers links to your posts?  Cha-ching. LOL

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 23, 2016 - 6:12am

@Raine Winters  Nice work. Provocative.  

The devil is in the detail. 

I cannot answer the first question you posed. I don't know what it's like to write unmedicated. There's always something. Caffeine, industrial pollutants, fragrances, pain medication, sugar, booze, beauty, sorrow, death. It's all intoxicating. I just try to put one word after another, whatever is coursing through my veins.

If the literary community embraced health versus suffering we would grieve when someone dies needlessly and celebrate the kindnesses we receive from the pens of unknown strangers, and maybe we would stick around another day.  I would have enjoyed the writing of an eighty year old Hemingway or Sexton or Plath. From my experience, writers and artists are more kind than not, more embracing than not, more understanding than not, more empathetic than not. That's why I  hang out with them whenever I can, even if it inside a literary website/experimental theatre. I draw strength from being close to creative people.

It is the job of the artist to massage the heart. This article and ensuing discussion has exercised my spirit and my heart.  I appreciate the work.  I look forward to your next column. 

When I am suffering, I will try anything to ease the pain. Writing eases my pain. Doing this eases my pain. Playing eases my pain. Battling the bully of self hatred eases my pain. What a pretty playground this article.   Curtain.     gsr    

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 23, 2016 - 7:05am


"The person who does not read has no perceptible advantage over the person who cannot read." --Mark Twain 

If you also noticed, I've been on this site since January of 2012. If you do the math, it comes to roughly 1600 days. So, I have come on this site on average of once per day, made a post and that was it. Simple. I do like how you seem stunned by the fact it is on one website. As if it is unheard of for a person to post in only one location.

Have you ever kept at something for that long? Relationships, friendships, work? Do you own anything sentimental? Have you not found something in your life that you like enough to keep it around?

But I do know people who write and publish their text messages into literary journals. Sometimes, if two people in a conversation have depth and insight, they can produce beautiful prose.

I don't think that will be the case here.

So I put my money on you going back to insulting my sexuality/gender, but you may stray so far as to repeat your insults about my profile ... yet again. Since you aren't reading these, this could be viable entertainment for a bit.

If a person only posts insults, what does that say about the person psychologically? Are they really too cool to be bothered? Or is it indicative of something else going on in their life? Should that understanding be hinted at when creating bully characters? Should all antagonists be battling inner demons? Are any of us not battling inner demons? The inner duality. But i did recently read an article that says we don't have a simple duality, we have a definite plurality which is expressed depending on the situations. I wonder if they got that idea from the multiverse theory.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 23, 2016 - 4:30pm

@Jose F. Diaz

645: 301.81 (F60.81)  (669) You're in good company...

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 23, 2016 - 5:33pm

Oooh, narcissism. Again, it's a personality disorder and not something someone can control. Should a person be ashamed about that? 

 Do you like using bodily differences to make others feel bad about themselves? 

You understand that's discrimination. It's tantamount to being a bigot. 


templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 23, 2016 - 6:01pm

@Jose F. Dias

No, you needn't be ashamed of being yourself, Jose.  Just own it.

This quote in your profile, however, is another matter entirely:  "I like killing people..."

Explains a lot....I think the nutbag with the gun in Orlando said this too...

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 23, 2016 - 6:01pm

Then you agree you are a bigot.

I would be ashamed of that. Especially from someone who believes in god. 

I guess that makes you a hypocrite as well. 


These witty repartees remind me of being on a playground. Two kids would throw insults back and forth and the one losing would come up with the old, "No, you are. I'm rubber, you're glue, whatever you say bounces off me and sticks back to you."

So, obviously you'll respond by saying .....

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 23, 2016 - 6:03pm

Ah, there it is. I had a bet that you would go back to my profile and try using it. hahaha!

I win. 

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 24, 2016 - 2:05am

@Jose F Diaz

Yes, Jose, I'm deeply bigoted against Internet trolls, people who like to kill other people, people who enjoy being cruel in their writing, small-minded people, and others of the ilk.  I find them repulsive and pathetic.  Other people call them Trump supporters... LOL

And, Yes!  You Won!  Congratulations!

Sorry, Jose Charlie.  Better half saw my posts and accused me of being intentionally cruel to someone suffering from a mental disorder.  He demanded I stop.  So, apologies.  Carry on.  Good luck with your writing, but try to do it offline, as living your life on social media is NOT REAL, Jose. 

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 24, 2016 - 1:31am


smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 24, 2016 - 8:52am

@RaineWinter, Anna Gutman, Templewl, and any other interested parties. What is the  ethical perspective on posting an article and  waiting  for people to comment and  ambushing them? Something doesn't smell right here, and I challenge the honesty of this article and its author(s) and whatever other team players there are to come out of the shadows and talk about trolling. That is a new word, new concept, and definitely worthy of some discussion. Is this an honest article? I think not. I would like an authorial response here.

I can act like an asshole right along with the best of you. But, I would rather not Be an asshole, and I would rather not hurt anyone by vile or thoughtless comments that I have made or will make in the future. I would rather take full responsibility for my words, and make sure they are worthy of the ink.

So talk to me. I'm totally astonished and seeking full disclosure here. gsr


templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 24, 2016 - 5:24pm


645: 301.81 (F60.0)  (649)

"I can act like an asshole right along with the best of you."  For the record, that's pretty much precisely what you did with your first attack on me.  I offered up my response to the author's question without attacking either the author or any other posters.  In turn, both you and Jose jumped on me.  Your attack was particularly vicious, since you did it, clearly, without reading the article through.  I don't take it lightly when I am pounced on, so I responded to you both.  Maybe next time, you and Jose can keep your comments focused on the article rather than going after other posters - and that way you won't get sidetracked into thinking someone's out to get you.  Seriously?

L.W. Flouisa's picture
L.W. Flouisa from Tennessee is reading More Murakami June 24, 2016 - 6:31pm

Sometimes you completely lack energy, and don't feel like doing much of anything. My birthday was a weird one indeed.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 24, 2016 - 8:13pm


"Let me never fall into the mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."

--Ralph Waldo Emerson


I'll be standing by for your playground rhetoric. 

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 24, 2016 - 11:05pm

@ Jose F. Diaz

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.

Plato (427 BC-347 BC)

And then there's this one....

"I stare at the payphone trying to decide how to tell my sister I’m in a psychiatric ward...I have to demolish that façade and fess up to trying to kill myself."

Jose F. Diaz (Feb 22, 2014)

Clearly, you need more practice....

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 24, 2016 - 11:43pm

Thanks for being a stalker and reading my work. First my profile, now my fiction. I wonder how far you'll go to get the upper hand? I mean, you keep trying to use my life and my writing against me, and I keep telling you I'm not ashamed of it, but still you persist. Kinda seems obsessive. 

Me, you've already determined I have no life. What's your excuse?

And I never said I wasn't a fool. If you thought otherwise, thank you again. 


I thought your "better half" told you to stay off of here? Not to engage me? Are you sneaking around on the internet looking for something more exciting? Does your "better half" not keep you entertained?

And of course I need more practice. That's what this website is all about. What more do you ask of somebody?

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 25, 2016 - 12:10am

To face myself in the silence of the night and understand that by my own choice, I have been swept away and stranded in a place that has no regard for me, is my dark night of the soul. I had no idea I was so terrified. I begin again. This place is my worst nightmare, and my best hope.  I dive into my fear.

Jose, you scare me. I wannabe cool like you. Temple you scare me. I want to be beautiful and fearless like you. I have been screaming since I came to this place. Everyone scares me, except  the gentle ones who have friended me, and the people who have taught me. Temple I insisted on seeing your work because I wanted to know if you are  someone's pen name. Raine, I called you out for the same reason. I know now that is your business, not mine. 

If I were suicidal, looking at myself and how I have behaved in this place would have caused  me to wander as you mentioned Raine, if I am next. Am I the one to go next? I am not suicidal. If I were, the poisoned tipped arrows that you have in your pouch , Temple would have made me mad enough to stick around  to try kill you instead of myself. 

I am too old to do anything in any other name than my own. I need the credit for and the consequences for everything that I do and everything that I write. There is no time for me to fuck around with a pseudonym. So I sink or swim, as who I am with the name I was born with and married to. I wouldn't feel so naked if I had a stage name. Maybe I would be nicer. I have always known how to behave in public until I came to LitReactor. Something in the air in here. It's a horrifying place. Secrets and blind alleys and ghosts of all the ones who don't come here anymore. All the ones who have moved on. All the neon signs that still blink in front of abandoned buildings.  But it is the only place that I could find that had any balls. 

It is my habit to suffer when I hurt or offend. There is no time for that either. I have to humble myself and ask forgiveness for the offenses. The ones I understand and the ones I do not. And so I do that now, so that I can go on one more day.  Please forgive me. Good night to all. Tomorrow is another day, and having spoken my heart, I can face it.   with regard, gsr.

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 25, 2016 - 12:06am

Smithy: I am the last person you should be scared of, and I am definitely not cool by any stretch of the imagination. 

I wish you the best.

smithreynolds's picture
smithreynolds from Spokane, WA USA is reading The writing on the wall. June 25, 2016 - 12:21am

Thank you Jose. I appreciate it.


templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 25, 2016 - 12:25am

@Jose F. Diaz

Fiction?  Oops!  My bad.  I thought it was a confession...

[think about that], then, *headslap*


Upper hand?  You're kidding, right?  I eat Internet trolls and mysogynists for's like doing brain teasers.  I usually stop when they start running around pathetically crowing "I won! I won!" but it's the weekend already in the Middle Kingdom, so, what the hell...再见。

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 25, 2016 - 1:12am

For a person from the Middle Kingdom, you don't seem to have taken your education seriously. Kind of a slap in the face to your family and your heritage. You have no love for the world as a whole, so you obviously don't follow the teaching of Mao Tzu. Certainly not a Daoist. I'd probably place you as a Christian in China, which would definitely give you the feeling that you're constantly persecuted. Everything is a slight against you. Though, you probably haven't actually read the bible. Just another cherry-picker who quotes from the parts that pertain to your own beliefs. Or grab hold of what sounds good when you can bother to attend church. 

You say "I eat internet trolls ... for breakfast," and that saying hasn't been regularly used in the US since Adam Sandler used it in Happy Gilmore back in '96. So, despite having internet access, you can't keep up with world trends, just those local to you. But you are rocking the Pretty Woman wig, and that was from '90, so that's in keeping with your whole character. 

Only an older generation and really young children still worry about internet trolls. You're not young. Which accounts for your constantly calling me a misogynist. Any real feminist would see that I'm not. But then again, I'm just spinning my wheels here because you won't read this. Anything that looks dense will be simply skimmed. Hence why you don't recognize half of what you're saying is truly vacuous. It's 4pm on Saturday and you're taking the time to post online, so you don't have any plans to go out and socialize with friends. 

But this is all a big guess. But since I'm a fool, I do have to talk. This is all on the off-hand chance that you're actually a woman and from China, which nothing you've said really matches that. Most likely a kid in his parent's house being bored. Nor can you prove it, nor would you. That takes bravery.

templewl's picture
templewl from China is reading The Red and the Black June 25, 2016 - 1:58am

Pro-Tip:  Your posts, like your prose, are bloated.   You're throwing a handful of insults and hoping one might be clever enough to resonate.  Keep trying.

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration, and the Baroque is over."

Ernest Hemingway

PS:  If you'll check the time of my posts, you'll see they are all between about 6:00am and 10:30pm Beijing Standard Time (+12 hours from US East Coast).  Sleep is important to one's well being.  You, on the other hand, seem to be at the 24-hour Starbucks stealing Internet bandwidth at all hours.  Kinda hard to sleep in the Jeep; I understand.

PS2:  Clearly, you know nothing about China, so don't embarrass yourself...(shhh most of us are atheists, by the way.  Daoism [sic] is for grannies and monks; give us another couple of decades and we'll have them weeded out altogether).  Also, it's Lao Tzu 老子 (actually Lao Zi, in pinyin )  *Doh*

Jose F. Diaz's picture
Jose F. Diaz from Boston is reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel June 25, 2016 - 3:00am

I was talking about Mo Tzu (Mozi), not Lao Tzu (Laozi). Mo Tzu believed love should be bestowed equally upon strangers and family alike, Lao Tzu believed it was something like concentric rings, self, family, town, city, country, etc. 

Though most Chinese people may claim to be atheist, you are not. 

I have no doubt you'll weed them out. Removing anything different is kind of the thing. 

There are no rules when writing. Only what works. Hemingway was arguing against the heroic tradition that was still prevalent after the Great War (WWI). The prose in the heroic is baroque. We have moved on in literature. It is broad. It is plentiful. There is no one way to be.

I didn't know you were a professional writer? Let's see what you have. Unless you're too timid. I understand it's hard to put yourself out there. There are some that like to shit on people trying, while they, themselves, cower in corners. They have no guts to pursue their dreams. 


EDIT: I was wrong, in part. Mo Tzu is the utilitarian, Confuscious is the opposite. Lao Tzu, was all about the way. I jumble them up sometimes. It wasn't my focus in philosophy. I never much cared for Eastern philosophy besides a few really amazing ideas. But I do love me some Zen Koans.

Hmmm: "Kinda hard to sleep in the Jeep." Now where did you get that? Perhaps stalker is not far from the mark....