Writing Through Depression

This is a little more personal than I normally get in this blog, but I think it’s something many writers struggle with. Given the title, I think you can probably glean that I have depression. It’s a chronic thing tied into a bunch of other nonsense, but when it hits I feel like I’m in a fog. I can’t focus, I don’t have any great ideas, and I can’t seem to get words on the page.

The good news is that when I do get something down it helps. I feel better. Many people will tell you to write essays about your feelings and all that to help get it out of your system. Sometimes it helps, so I’m not going to judge people who do it. But for me that type of writing ends up making me feel worse because I wallow in whatever upset me in the first place (if anything), and pontificating on how I don’t feel like getting out of bed that day won’t help me get up.

Instead I focus on my writing. I have a few pieces that are “comfort pieces” for me. Things I’ve been tinkering with or working on for years that I return to when everything new hits a wall for whatever reason. It helps me continue to write while distracting me from whatever woes I may be enduring.

Regardless of the subject of your writing, however, writing at all while depressed is a trial. Staring at your screen for hours while you pretend to write and actually watch Netflix is something I think we can all relate to. I do it often. Heck, I’m doing it now while I write this blog. I’m kind of embarrassed how long it’s taken me to write this much. Of course – Bones is an awesome show. So I could blame it on that, too.

Either way, it’s tough. And it’s often fruitless because the writing that does come out isn’t great. But the point is that it comes out. You can force yourself to write and keep yourself going through the depression. It’s rough, but you can do it. It also means you need to do something really tough when you’re down: you need to exert willpower.

I know, that word is miserable to hear when you’re feeling icky. I know that willpower is on the bottom of my list of “things I have when depressed” but it’s a truth.

One of the things we writers know is that many of us have struggles with psychological problems. It’s a common trait of artists. It’s not true of all of us, and being perfectly healthy and happy doesn’t mean you can’t write effectively. However, many of us do have struggles whether it’s traumas we’ve gone through in life, issues we may have with psychological problems… There are an infinite number of possibilities.

I know it’s corny, but when you’re going through these struggles you aren’t alone. Most writers can relate to the feeling of depression, isolation, and the difficulty of putting words on the page. The good news is that it’s possible even when you’re struggling; the bad news is that it isn’t going to be easy even if you know you aren’t alone, and there’s no quick fix.

The best advice I have is this: You can do it. Just keep trying, and be patient with yourself.

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