Creative Expression for Positive Mental Health [Part 1: Peter Murphy]

Hello & thanks for joining us! Please could you tell us a bit about yourself & your creative work?

No problem! I was born Peter Murphy (not the goth guy) but I use the alias Cursed Murphy for most public misdemeanours. I’m a writer and performer. More specifically I’m a novelist (John the Revelator and Shall We Gather at the River, Faber & Faber), spoken word performer, bandleader, (our first album Cursed Murphy Versus the Resistance was released last summer), journalist (Irish Times contributor), podcaster (Cursed Murphy’s Podcast) broadcaster (mostly as a contributor to RTE’s radio’s arts show Arena) and occasional actor (Eoghan Rua Finn’s play The Kill God, directed by Laura Way). I also released an hour-long ‘movie for the ears’ called The Hands of Franky Machine in 2020, in collaboration with drummer and Basciville member Lorcan Byrne, and my other chief collaborator Dan Comerford.

Can you list any specific influences & motivation for your work?

Influences: punk rock, graphic novels, performance poets, early hip hop, film noir, early 80s freaky sci fi, the Beats, cyberpunk, very early blues, folk, jazz, gospel, southern gothic fiction, analogue electronica, 70s rock journalism, German cinema. Everything from Flannery O’Connor to The Clash, Blade Runner to Lester Bangs. Motivation: Excitement, anger, aggression, imagination, envy of other people’s work as a spur. And sometimes it’s something as simple as a phrase or an image that won’t exist if I don’t make it exist.

How do you feel (if at all) your creative work has helped you maintain a positive state of mental health? (As a preventative measure or to aid recovery)

It’s taken me waaaay to long to realise that my creative state and mental health are inextricably linked. For years I used work as a means to ignore deeper issues or indications of stuff gone badly awry in my private life or professional practise, but you only do that for so long before it comes back to bite you in the backside and you burn out – usually somewhere between the ages of 38 to 46. Bad mental health is kryptonite for the creative process. The creative process is a powerful tool in the struggle against ill mental health. There’s a reason why psychotherapists prescribe writing/journal-maintenance as part of their work. One thing I’ve noticed: if I’m not reading or playing music, it’s a sign of some sort of malaise. Art — or the resistance to it — can be the canary in the coalmine.

Have you ever felt creatively stagnant or unable to express? If so, how did you work through it?

Yes. Sometimes for what feels like excruciatingly, painfully long periods. I try to wait it out. I try to have faith in some wiser higher power and hold my nerve and trust that something is coming, and it’ll become clear if I keep on showing up for work. I try not to beat myself up too hard, while still putting the hours in. Writing blind helps, as in, get up early and write for a prescribed length or time without judgment, or even reading it back. Trying to regain the sense of doing it for the experience, not the end result. I try to keep a couple of projects on the go: a long-term one, like a novel, and a short term achievable goal like a short story or a song, and if possible something that also involves collaborating with other artists from other disciplines to keep the creative spirit limbre.

Do you have any advice that you could recommend for those interested in entering your line of creative work?

From the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas: ‘Do not tell lies, and do not do what you hate.’ The film editor Walter Murch reckons if you can dedicate your life to some adult incarnation of the thing you were completely immersed in at the age of ten or eleven, you’ll be not only fulfilled, but more than likely successful.

Where are you at the moment creatively & do you have any projects on the go?

I’m working on a third book project and writing material for a second album, among other evil schemes, which will become apparent as the Spring comes on.

Where can we find your work?


The Hands of Franky Machine:



It’s been a pleasure hearing from you, thank you Peter! 🤎


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