It’s a feeling he misses. He made lists of things he wanted to feel when he was younger, big things, small things, ice, snow, the sand at the beach, someone else’s hands holding his, feeling him feeling them, a feedback loop of feelings, which is what happens when two people make love. He wanted to feel things that made him feel safe and scared and things that ripped his heart out of his chest, things that made him want to go home and things that made him want to travel, things that made him proud and things that made him regret his choices and he, like all people, slowly ticked these things off the list in his head as he lived, as the world turned until soon, there were very few things left to feel.
He believed the last thing he would feel, would be nothing, as that was nearly impossible to feel unless you were dead or hadn’t been born yet. He wondered what it’d be like to not be able to wonder.”
– Intentional Dissonance
On the surface, Intentional Dissonance is dystopian science fiction book about Jon Salt, a young man obsessed with a drug called Sadness, which is the kind of drug you take if you live in a world that forces you to feel nothing. More than this, it’s a book I wrote about my own struggle with depression.
One of my greatest personal challenges has been to overcome a story I’ve told myself from an early age, that my depression is an important part of my identity and more importantly, my creativity. It’s a story I believe many creative people tell themselves – that their pain is an engine and the driving force behind what they make.
In hindsight, I wrote this book as a way to talk about that idea.
After the book was published, things got worse and in 2013, I stopped writing almost all together because I felt like if I wanted to write, I needed to be in pain and the two things became the same thing. So I stopped because I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t a writer and some part of me knew that what I was doing wasn’t healthy.
A good friend that I later married, and today I have a beautiful daughter with her, convinced me to look for help and I started going to therapy and slowly but surely, I came back to me and I started to see things as I believe they really are.
If you are a creative person, and I believe that everyone is creative, then you should know this – your talent is not your pain. Your talent is your talent. We romance the idea of the tortured creative person because it’s intriguing but while sadness and depression can be productive emotions, I can honestly tell you that the most resonant, beautiful things I’ve ever written have come from a healthy place.
While the chronically depressed, obsessive poet hiding behind a mask might sound intriguing, and this does seem to be what can best be described as a marketing strategy by some of my contemporaries, it is not healthy space for the reader or the writer to stay in. If you art isn’t helping you move through what you’re feeling, then make different art.
Or at least, that’s my philosophy.
If you read it, let me know what you think. I hope you’re well and I send you my best.
– Iain S. Thomas