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How do the affective disorders - depression and bipolar disorder - shape the creative act of writing, and influence the social understanding of writers and other artists? In a 15-year longitudinal study at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, a study little known outside of psychiatry, 80 per cent of the writers reported either living with, or having had a lifetime incidence of, an affective disorder (depression or manic depression), as opposed to only 30 per cent of non-writer controls. Affective Disorder and the Writing Life interrogates the age-old mythos of the 'mad writer' through lived experience, literary analysis, writerly reflection, and contemporary neuroscience. These essays explore how affective disorders colour, drive and sometimes silence the writing mind - and how affective difference has always informed the literary imagination.