Friday, April 17, 2015

Writing and Depression

I've written many posts on techniques to get over dry spells in writing, conquering writer's block, where to get inspiration for stories and characters, etc. I want to do another encouragement post today, but I want to deal with something a step above writer's bock: Depression.

TRUTH: I have depression. I've struggled with it for 7 years. My depression stems from a brain injury, and for many years I didn't realize what it was.

How does depression affect writing?

1. Motivation. Depression sucks the energy from your body. In my personal writing, it's kept me from editing my fantasy novel draft; editing is hard enough itself, much less with a tired mind.

2. Stamina. Depression affects how long one can do something. I get tired easily, and that's not just a physical aspect. My brain often decides to "turn off" while I'm writing, saying "that's enough!" No matter how hard I fight it, once my brain clicks into off mode, there's hardly any chance of recovery that day.

3. Negative thinking. Another big one. Ever thought your writing was horrible, like you'd never become a great writer? I think this every time I go to write something. There are many times I avoid writing all together because I know if I get caught on one scene, one phrase, one grammatical issue, I will get so frustrated and depressed. That sounds drastic, but it's the truth. It's not me whining about my situation, it's not me pouting. My brain literally works differently since my brain injury, and in addition to the depression, I have a hard time working myself through or around problems.

4. Health. Depression and PTSD affect one's physical health. It's not easy writing when you have to take cold medicine that makes you sleep!

 Lately I've come across two ideas that have helped me to accept my writing once more, and I wanted to share those with you:

  • Write for yourself, not publication.   Publication has been my dream for years. When my depression halted my writing and editing, I realized my goal of being published wasn't going to take off for some time. I got depressed and stopped writing for quite a while. Then I realized my passion wasn't publication; it was writing. It's getting across a message. It is stories, characters, personal revelation. Once I stopped thinking that without publication there was no sense to keep going, I was able to connect again with my characters and gain back my confidence. Even if all my stories end up in binders lined up on my shelf, it'd still be pretty amazing.

  • No one else can write like YOU. I'm currently taking a course to improve my singing, and one of the tips I was given was to sing like myself because no one else has a voice like mine. I realized the same was true of writing; no one has a voice like you. Your stories are special. Your thoughts are unique. No one will view your story like you do.

    My guess is at least one of you reading this post struggles with depression, and if not clinical depression, you have had at one time or another severe doubts about your writing. So please remember your writing is worth it. Fight for your characters. Your voice is important. Pin these notes to your inspiration board and be reminded every day that YOU matter.

    Depression affects about 4% of the world's population — and that's just those who are diagnosed. Mental health is becoming a more recognized topic, between organizations like To Write Love on Her Arms and public figures such as celebrities stepping up to help destigmatize mental health, but still it's more than often hushed. Being an "invisible" illness, many people don't consider depression to be a real medical condition and don't understand how people can't just "get over it." If you think you or someone you love has depression, please reach out to someone, a parent, a friend, a doctor, and get the help you or your loved one needs. <3 


    1. Thank you for writing this. Although I don't believe I suffer from true depression, I have a panic disorder. It affects me much in the same way PTSD affects some people. There has been nothing in my past that should cause me to suffer this disorder. However, it is a part of me. I have learned to accept, if not embrace, my disorder. I love words. I like to write. I do not believe I have a talent for it, but merely a love for it. I never expect, nor do I seek out, publication. I write for me. Bless you on your writing journey in spite of your depression, You can do it, kiddo!

      1. Thanks for sharing, Dee. I too have anxiety/panic disorder and can understand how that affects life and writing. It's good to hear from someone who has a firm grasp on writing for themselves, for writing for the love of it. Never stop writing! Thanks for your encouraging words. :)