I’ve told you all about Realm Makers. I’ve mentioned it’s amazing to be among ‘your’ people and wear costumes. I’ve mentioned it is inspiring. I may not have mentioned that a common theme of several speakers this year was depression.
Many well-known authors have struggled with depression. Writers, as artist types, tend to get depressed more than non-writers. Did you even know that there are more suicides among artists/writers than non-artists?
Cheery thoughts, right?
We all know writing is hard. But when we think of hard, we tend to think about the physical hours in a chair, or pounding our head because characters won’t behave, or muttering to ourself as we work through plot holes. The constant mental, emotional strain and how it touches everything else around us is quite often overlooked.
Now, just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you’ll get depressed or feel suicidal. But the fact that there is a larger possibility of a mental and emotional strain is something to be aware of. Just as you ought to count the cost of writing when it comes to time with others, money, hobbies, and entertainment, you also need to be aware of the emotional cost to yourself as well.
Suffice it to say, there are times we feel down. Maybe everything is stuck. Maybe everyone else is doing better and going further than us. Maybe no one cares about our writing. Maybe there isn’t a logical reason for being down but a dark void is still sucking our soul dry (I’m a writer and get to be dramatic. Deal with it.)
Whatever the case, there are times writing is hard. Now I’m not an expert on depression. Someone suffering from true medical depression should consult professionals. There are plenty of other articles by people more certified than me.
This isn’t meant as a ‘do this and you will be happy your whole life article.’ (If there is an article claiming that, they’re lying.) What I have here is merely a collection of starting points, gathered from my own life and the advice of those wiser than me. They’ve helped me and I hope they can help you work through the times you are feeling down.
Enough of the disclaimers and such. On to the point of all this. What are some ways you can climb out of the ‘writer lows’ in life?
1. Recognize they happen. Don’t feel guilty about it. I tend to overthink things and spend way too long trying to figure out why I’m feeling this way and stressing over feeling the thing in the first place without even addressing what I am feeling.
Feeling down even when there isn’t a logical reason for it does happen. You don’t want to just park there and say ‘well, this is what I’m feeling. Too bad for me. I guess I’ll live with it.’
You do want to try to move past it. You are to act on what you know, not on whatever feeling is the strongest at the moment. But recognizing those feelings, instead of trying to ignore or explain them away, is also important.
2. Not every interaction with a person should be complaining about feelings, of course. But good friends are there for good times and bad. They want to help. To listen. If there is something wrong, talk it out with them. See what they have to say.
If they are my friends, they tend to shake their head and tell me to relax, like they have for the past three months before I finally crash. But, no matter what you are going through, there are others who have dealt with the same sorts of things. Learning from them is good, but just finding out you aren’t alone can be very comforting too.
3. Focus. Yep; you knew I was getting around to this. I won’t ramble on for too long since I’ve written a whole article on focus and priorities. But quite often part of the cause of writer depression is some source of not being able to reach what the writer thinks they should be reaching.
Maybe it’s getting a book done. Maybe it’s writing in general. Whatever the case, it’s easy to give ourself goals, start ignoring the rest of life to reach those goals, and then be sucked in a downward spiral as the goals become harder to grasp as well.
Look at your life. Where does writing fit in? Where does family and people fit in? How about yourself? You need time to eat, to sleep, to get your blood moving. Honestly, the time spent being healthy will be more than paid back in productivity during the times you actually do write.
Figure out where your focus is and where it should be, then…
4. Priorities! Similar to focus, but putting it into action. Once you know where your focus should be, prioritize your life. What should you be spending your time on most? What are you neglecting that you should do?
It’s very easy to shut out people, to stop taking care of ourselves properly, and drown completely in another world. Sometimes shifting priorities is as easy as realizing it needs to be done. Other times it takes more work on our part. Regardless, it is worth it. Figure out what is important in your life, in what order, then go about it that way.
5. Take your time. Honestly. The world isn’t going anywhere. Well, it’s descending into chaos but besides that…
You need time. You need it for friends. You need it for yourself. Don’t pack your writing into the tightest deadlines possible. You aren’t, in the words of another author, a writing vending machine. You are a person. As a person, you need to deal with your mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. You can’t be suck in a dark room writing for hours on end.
Yes, deadlines are good. I have plenty of them. But recently, I’ve been evaluating them more. Could I get that book published in November? Probably. Would it stress me out and give me no time for other things? Yep. So why not push the launch to December? Or, depending on the size of the project, wait until spring?
Don’t be afraid to take the time you need. There are times we need to push ourselves. But our life should not be one, nonstop push to do more and more and more until we are smothered in writing and the little bit of sleep we are forced to take.
Writing is hard, but writing is worth it. However, keep in mind there will be emotional downs. Accept that, reach out to friends, check your focus and priorities, and take the time you need. This life is not centered around your writing. This life is something you actually get to live. So live it and enjoy it.