Dear writers who feel depressed,
I know you’re out there. I know because you’re in here, too — in me, sometimes.
Listen, because I have something to say.
Maybe sometimes you don’t feel like a writer. Maybe sometimes you feel like a depressed wannabe-writer who doesn’t-actually-want-to because you feel so down. Maybe you feel depressed that you haven’t finished that first draft, haven’t written in six months (or longer), don’t know how to start, or haven’t perfected your editing skills yet.
Dear writers, I have been there. We have all been depressed writers from time to time. And it’s sad. It should not define us, but sometimes it’s hard to see past it. I understand, but I also believe in hope.
Here are some tips I have for helping you shake off that heavy mantle of depression that’s tripping you up on the road up your mountain of writing.
I’m hardly ever this serious about things on my blog, but it’s a serious topic and my heart bleeds for each of you who is struggling. Because I’ve felt it. So I decided to put my heart out there and say something, for once. Even if nobody wants my heart, at least I’ve tried to give it, right? 🙂
I’m not saying I have all the answers. I definitely don’t. But if even one of these touches your heart and helps you lift your head and move forward a little stronger, to write and do great things, then I will be so very happy. 🙂 Some may seem very simple and obvious, but maybe give them a try anyway.
These are things I’ve been learning help me to shake off depressed-writer moments, and are largely to remind myself of them. Most of them can apply to life-in-general as well, but I’m applying them to writing today, because I’m a writer. 😉
They’ve helped me from time to time. I hope they will help you as well.
(And if you don’t have time to read this whole post, skip to the end and read the ending. :))
Take care of your health.
Yes, this does matter. I say it as one who neglects my own health far too often. Get enough sleep, remember to eat halfway nutritious meals, and be sure to drink enough water. (I could have made this into three separate points, but I’m generalizing and putting these together. Sleep. Food. Water. Most important after air, yes? 😉 Sounds simple, I know, but sometimes I at least don’t take them seriously enough!) Living on caffeine and adrenaline can work for short time periods, but if you do it too much you’re going to burn out, get tired, and not feel the motivation to write. I started drinking ten glasses of water every day, and I’ve felt so much better since then (I used to get headaches a lot, and now I have them much less. And I can’t write with a headache. :P). I know it’s easy to neglect one’s health, because I do it ALL. THE. TIME. Do not be me. Let’s all try to do better about it, okay? Because we’re doing this living-on-this-Earth thing and that seems to require taking care of ourselves… much as I’d like to just read or write 24/7. XD
Yes, this can definitely include going on inspirational walks. Always, always. So much inspiration out there! But it’s more than that, too. We writers, and anyone whose job is sitting at a computer most of the day, do not move around enough. It’s a proven fact that most people nowadays in this digital age do not move enough out of our repeated, unvaried motions, and it’s taken a toll on our musculoskeletal alignment. (Like that word? :P) Have you noticed that your neck and head lean forward most of the time, even when you’re standing? No wonder we’re depressed writers! We’re constantly in postures of dejected sadness, and that DOES send a message to our body to be sad. Try walking around with your head up for a bit and see what happens. I betcha you’ll feel happier. Until relaxing back into our habitual slump. Because unfortunately we can’t just fix this by trying to have better posture; it has to go deeper than that, which is where moving comes in. I’ve only gotten over this at times by doing enough varied stretches, which I learned about after messing my back up in a major way. I managed to escape the pain and fix my back by doing exercises from this book: Pain Free by Pete Egoscue. (Or this one: Pain Free at Your PC.) I recommend it for anyone who uses computers. 🙂 Or… really anyone. I admit I’m not the best about doing it every day, but it makes me feel great, inspires me to move, and that in turn gets me more writing inspiration.
Let go of the past and your guilt and forgive yourself.
If you’re anything like me, you’ve had long stretches of time where you haven’t written, and you’ve felt guilty about it. Well, the past is the past, our past failures are OVER, and while of course there will be future failures because we’re all human, they don’t have to be the same ones, and they don’t have to be taken for granted and expected and feared. Any time I think “Well, I haven’t succeeded in finishing a novel in so many years that I guess I won’t be able to do so ever again”, I need to stop and say NO. Our past mistakes and failures do not define us, and we have stepped to the present, toward a future where we don’t have to live in our failures. We can try again, and again, and again, as many times as necessary, but we can’t try if we don’t believe there’s even a chance of succeeding; if we let our pasts define us. FORGIVE YOURSELF. Start over. Writing should be a joy; LIVING should be a joy. No matter the hardships, don’t let your mistakes or struggles define you. This is true of many things, not just writing. Let yourself be more than your past failures.
Starting is the hardest. I know this, because most of the time that I don’t write, I don’t write because I don’t know how to start. As long as you realize this is one of the hardest things, then you can fight it, and at least TRY. Set a timer or something to trick yourself into starting. Tell yourself it doesn’t have to be perfect (because it doesn’t). Just start.
Keep going and don’t you dare ever ever give up.
Remember I said starting is the hardest? Well, keeping going is possibly in that top spot as well. (Shush, they can share and be twins.) I’m not saying you can’t take breaks (because you definitely should), and I’m definitely not saying that if you don’t write for awhile, you should feel guilty. NOT AT ALL. But don’t give up the dream. Keep showing up to write, even if it’s only once a month, even if you find you can’t write for months together because of college or work or family or that amazing multi-volume series you’re reading. But come back. Don’t give up. Don’t say “I don’t think I’m a writer so I shouldn’t try.” That’s rubbish. It may feel like it sometimes — oh, so many times; I know; I’ve been there — but don’t give in to that. Take a break, or accept that in this season of your life, you can’t write at the moment; but do come back. And just keep writing. After starting, continuing is the next-hardest. But do NOT believe that you are a no-good writer who shouldn’t even try anymore, because that is so far from true, and if even a tiny part of you wants to be a writer, then you ARE one. Don’t give in to the doubts. Don’t give up. Keep showing up to write, even if you can’t do it every day (and let’s face it, not many of us can. But we can keep going all the same).
Don’t be afraid.
Another reason, besides the starting issue, that I don’t write much, is that I’m afraid. Of so many things. That I won’t get it right, that I won’t know how to start, that I’ll mess it up somehow, that I won’t know what to say, that I’m neglecting all the potentiality of the story, that someone will interrupt me, etc. etc. etc. So much fear. So don’t be. What’s the worst that happens? So it’s not as good as it could have been? Then keep trying, and it will get better, with time and patience and practice and courage. We writers can be a courageous bunch if we try, braving tired fingers, late nights, harrowing quests, mind-numbing plot-hole construction, battering against writers’ block, wrangling unruly characters, letting others read our hearts on paper, putting one word after another…
WRITER, YOU ARE BRAVE. I believe this, as I believe few other things. So be brave, and do not fear. The darkness cannot have you, because you are shining a light of story in defiance against it.
Get some sunlight.
This might be controversial but just stick with me briefly. Getting a bit of sunshine and Vitamin D is SO IMPORTANT. People who live in cold, northerly places don’t get enough sun in the winter and can get super depressed, so if you’re a writer who spends a lot of time indoors, you are probably not getting enough sun. (*raises hand* Guilty.) Believe it or not, this insufficiency really affects our emotions and can leave us feeling super depressed, which in turn can affect the rest of our lives, including our writing. The sun does NOT actually kill you, I promise. I don’t go outside enough and I know I get depressed when I haven’t had enough sun, which does not help my writing. -_- We were not built to live in caves with no sun; like plants, we need it, people. I don’t believe in sun lotion etc. because I’m a very natural person and I don’t want all sorts of ingredients on my skin because who knows where they’ve been. But if you’re afraid of sunburns, believe me, so am I; I sunburn REALLY bad, but I use coconut oil on my skin and it burns less, and I also use it afterward if I do happen to get a burn, and it really helps. (Coconut oil is amazing. <3) And I get all that lovely sun, which makes me feel so much better. 🙂 And I’m way less likely to want to write if I’m feeling depressed. 😛 (I know I sound like a health-and-outdoors commercial in some of this post, which is hilarious and/or ironic because usually I don’t take care of myself or leave my little writer lair, but I know that I SHOULD, and when I do, it tends to help. 😛 Remember, this post is to tell me things, too!)
Get some metaphorical sunlight too.
And by metaphorical sunlight, I mean some happiness and joy. I know books thrive on the scary and the darkness and all the problems for the protagonists. I know many readers enjoy dark tales, and many writers delight in penning those darkest nights in their stories. But don’t forget the dawn. Don’t forget about metaphorical light. Don’t forget that sometimes we need happy endings. Happy endings — and, well, happiness in general — have gone out of fashion in the world of late. (Though that’s, perhaps, a topic for another time.) But if we focus always on the bad, the dark, the depressing — no wonder everyone’s depressed! So don’t always think only about the darkness — remember that there is light, too, and joy and love and goodness. Read a lighthearted book, or throw in some jokes or an unexpected happy moment for your protagonist, or just think about good things from time to time. It helps. If all you think about is the fact that you’re a depressed writer, you won’t know how to be anything else. So find that sunlight!
“There goes Mig with her happy endings again,” Chris said. But I don’t care. I like happy endings. And I asked Chris why something should be truer just because it’s unhappy. He couldn’t answer.
I’ll briefly touch on this one. For Christian writers, who are depressed about writing etc., try asking God to help you with it. It does make a difference, I promise. 🙂 Pray that you’ll know what to write, that you’ll not feel as down or worried. This is something I neglect often, I’m afraid, but it’s super important. If you’re not the praying type, at least try thinking positively about your writing, okay? It can make a huge difference. 🙂
Take a break.
This may seem counter-intuitive. And sometimes, for me at least, I’m pretty depressed about my writing because I’ve taken too long of an (accidental) break and haven’t written in too long. Writing makes me happy, and I get pretty down if I haven’t in awhile. But sometimes, especially when we’re stuck or not feeling it… take a PURPOSEFUL break. Decide you are not going to write for this week, or this month, or whatever; set that time, and relax and notwrite GUILT-FREE. Just don’t allow yourself to write, and usually (at least for me), we will end up inspired and re-energized and itching to write again once that time is up. Even if it doesn’t happen quite that way, it’s still important to take time where you don’t write and where it’s okay. Recharging is a good thing. So rest sometimes. And don’t worry about it. Come back to writing when you’re done, but do rest.
Know that your story matters.
You matter, and your story matters, and nobody can tell your story like you can. It’s not just your little unimportant scribbling. Subcreating and telling stories and being poets is IMPORTANT. Stories have been around as long as there have been words to tell them with, and something seemingly “frivolous” and “unimportant” as that would. not. be. around. still. if they were not extremely important. I know sometimes our little tales just don’t seem like they matter, but they DO. So do not give in to doubts. Know that writing matters and whether it’s for just yourself, or your family and friends, or the whole world, no matter how big or how small, it’s important, and it’s important to keep telling good stories. I know it’s easy to sink into the trap of thinking that nobody will care, that if we just quietly fade away and don’t write, that it’s okay. But if you have a passion for telling stories, it’s far more important than you believe. So just do your best, and don’t believe in your niggling worries that none of it matters, because it DOES. You are the only you there is out there. Just remember that. 🙂
Don’t try to do it alone.
I forget about this one all too often, but it’s so important. Especially if you’re feeling depressed about your writing (or anything else for that matter), find some good writer friends, or a sister, or somebody, who will be there for you and listen and encourage you. If you don’t think you have anybody, you might be surprised — I know I have. In my darkest, loneliest times as a writer, is when I feel the most alone, but that’s when I discover that I’m not alone after all. When I turn elsewhere for help, that’s when I find it — but you have to look for it — you have to ask. I’m very bad at that, and I’m very much a loner (Tare and I have that in common. *cough*), so if I’m stressed about my writing, I don’t always remember that I have beautiful, kind friends who will listen and encourage me and tell me it’s going to be okay. I don’t usually post about such problems on my blog, but when I have, I’ve been overwhelmed by the kindness, love, and support I’ve received from so many of you, and I can’t thank you enough. ❤ Don’t do this writer thing alone — find somebody who will exchange emails with you about your writing, or talk over a coffee about it, or respond to a snippet you’ve written, or just tell you to keep going. Writing can be a solitary business, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one. So don’t try to do it on your own. Find someone, or several someones, who will walk that path with you, and lift you up when you fall. 🙂
That’s all I have to say today. Thank you so much for reading.
Dear writers who feel depressed:
I love you. Be loved. Know that you are loved.
And write. Tell stories. Live. Be brave.
Look for the light, because it’s out there. 🙂