During one of those moments of hysterical creativity that sometimes comes with chronic depression, Cat scrawled an idea for a self-help Edgar Allan Poe biography on a cocktail napkin…now she has manifested that idea into one of the funniest, weirdest, and darkest (yet still useable) personal development books of all time.

AI-generated transcript of this episode available upon request.

About the Guest: Catherine Baab-Muguira

Cat lives in Midlothian, a suburb near Richmond, Virginia, where Poe spent his formative high school years. She wrote the dark yet funny book Poe for Your Problems: Uncommon Advice from History’s Least Likely Self-Help Guru because sometimes life is so full of darkness and failure, you have to laugh at it. She’s also a professional journalist (for Slate, WSJ, CNBC, NBC News, etc) and a new mom, so her next book is forthcoming…slowly. Follow her on Instagram @author_catherinebaabmuguira or Twitter @CatBaabMuguira for updates. Also subscribe to her free newsletter on Substack, Poe Can Save Your Life, for more of her writing. Cat’s website is catherinebaabmuguira.com.

Multiple times during this interview, Cat gushed about a novel she recently read, Ghost Eaters by Clay McLead Chapman. She also recommended This Is Horror Podcast.

Catherine Baab-Muguira

Episode Show Notes

Making art is a path to destruction.

Catherine Baab-Muguira

Use your darkness to create

From the description on Cat’s funny, dark self-help book: “Of all the writers anywhere, Poe might be the least likely person you’d ever turn to for advice. His life was a complete dumpster fire: He married his cousin; got fired from one job after another; constantly feuded with friends and rivals; and he was always broke. But that’s also precisely the point. Though Poe failed again and again, he also persevered.”

Poe carved out his position in the literary world by making a parody of dark thoughts, and being too tacky for academia. We can relate! But does this mean that history’s famous tortured artists were able to produce their great works because of their depression and mental illness, or in spite of it? What does this mean for creatives who don’t struggle with mental health issues? And what does it mean for future generations who have more and better tools, chemical or otherwise, to overcome these issues? Stay tuned for an upcoming episode where Becky and Diana pontificate on the relationship between mental health and creation.

Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence– whether much that is glorious– whether all that is profound– does not spring from disease of thought– from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.

Eleonora by Edgar Allan Poe

Self-help through dark comedy

But in the meantime, what do you think about the nature of creating through the darkness? Have you used your dark thoughts to create beautiful art, and were those thoughts necessary to the creation process? And who are some other famous anti-heroes we might glean uncommon life-advice from? Maybe someday in the distant future in our queendom by the sea, our little dark comedy podcast will spawn a self-help book. That’ll be a spooky day!