Above: A fairly accurate representation of the inside of my head right now.
I recently read a very good blog post by the legendary Chuck Wendig regarding writer “self-care.” The post wasn’t so much about self-care as it was about an affliction many artists suffer from, at least on an occasional basis, and that is depression.
This post was so timely and so good, I had to bookmark it. I read it over at least a half dozen times. I tweeted it. I talked to other writers about it. That’s because we have all experienced the dreaded ‘writer’s block.’ However, Mr. Wendig draws the comparison from the blockage to depression, which is a pretty astute connection.
One that I had not thought about until I read his blog post.
Normally, I have too many thoughts in my head, so many that I can barely get a few onto paper. But there are times when I am totally devoid of creative thought, and that bothers me, especially if I find myself unable to create after a few months. I call these episodes being ‘extremely uninspired.’ It’s a major pain in the ass to think, much less form words or make jewelry.
Well, folks, I hate to admit this, but I have been unable to create for the last few months. Maybe six. And my inability to create might not be from blockage, but is likely from depression.
That’s not to say I have been in bed all day, filling my head with insipid reality shows (although I must confess that Judge Judy and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares are especially entertaining). I’ve been depressed before; it’s not a big deal to admit it. The era of the ‘shame’ of mental disorders has thankfully passed. If one is sick, one goes to the doctor; it’s the same with depression.
I must admit that it has been extremely stressful around here lately, and stress doesn’t help with psychic well-being. I also have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), so I am well-aware how my mood changes with the seasons. I can feel the sadness turn into something deeper, and that’s when I act. I start my prescription in August, but antidepressants aren’t the total answer. As fall turns to winter and as the daylight hours shorten, I have to (vehemently) tell myself to get out of bed. To do the laundry. To shop for groceries. To get gas. To go to work. To work out. To go to my class. To make dinner. To be somewhat sociable.
If I didn’t nag myself into action, then yes, I’d be in bed watching Judge Judy. All. Day. Long.
While I’m waiting for my inspiration to be ignited, I putter. I read. I pull out an old manuscript or an old story and perhaps work on it. Half the time, I don’t have the memory of writing any of these stories. I’ve been writing random new scenes, for a novel I hope to cobble together someday. I did last year’s NaNoWriMo, and I’ve signed myself up for an online novel writing class, just to get out of my shell. (It’s embarrassing to have so many manuscripts that are unedited and undone.) On the jewelry side, I will get out my jewels and rocks and look at them, maybe evaluate some of the smaller pieces I’ve started and never finished. I force myself into action.
I force myself to breathe. (That’s tough to accomplish when you’re depressed.) Square breathing is essential for calm.
Mr. Wendig’s blog post reminds us as writers that we are human, too. WE need tender loving care, in order to create. WE give ourselves a high bar to reach for, instead of giving ourselves a break. WE take reviews and comments too personally, instead of letting these things slough from our backs. WE feel the need to produce, or we will be ‘less than.’
Sometimes ‘producing’ might be thinking about writing or creating. Whenever I’m not producing, I’m thinking about future creativity. And that’s okay.
Writers, cut yourself some slack. We are not super-human. Even the greats are/were not super-human. Believe me, a lot more people are depressed than you would think. For most of us, the fog will lift and things will get better.
Do the best you can, with what you have, and keep going.
Take care of yourself, and keep going.
Live, learn, and love, and keep going.
To keep going is the only way to get unstuck.