Depression and Writers

Too Depressed to Write?

sad blog

Let’s be honest. Some of the best authors have taken themselves out of the picture. I’ve often wondered: Is depression a prerequisite for writing or is writing a prerequisite for depression? My Brit husband would say, “You creative types just need to get over yourselves.” There’s some truth to my pondering as well as his statement, yet, I find myself in a funk and it has affected my writing or lack thereof over the past month.

Anxiety is part of my life. I cannot imagine my life without it. I can’t ever recall existing anxiety free. Even as a child I was anxious. I have also always been a creative and with creativity there comes a certain amount of sensitivity and for me it’s wrapped up in anxiety, especially if I do not think I am producing at the level I know I am capable of I feel totally unbalanced.

For the first time in about five years, I have struggled with writing. I’m near maniac when it comes to writing. I can put it out. I never understood those types that hemmed and hawed, contemplating just being in front of the page. It always came freely, until almost a month ago when I was dealt a whammy regarding my sister’s health. I clammed up. I had absolutely no desire to peck out even a few words or edit a single page (can’t blame me for the lack of editing motivation). I felt my physical body seeping into depression, quite literally burying myself under thick layers of covers for days. “Oh, well,” I said. You deserve a break. “You’ve received bad news and you haven’t stopped writing even one week in over, what, five years? Go on. Just sink in.”

So, I did what most depressed folks do…I binge-watched one series after another. By the way, I do really like Castle Rock, but the second season with the Misery character addition (Annie Wilkes) is better than the first. I ate too much. I didn’t eat. I didn’t exercise. The mattress seemed to contain magnetic properties, always beckoning for me to enter and refusing to let go. I kept thinking: I need to write another post for my blog; I never submit my work; Hulu and Netflix are my best friends. Uh-oh; I haven’t edited the last piece I got back from my writer’s group; I need to write, I need to write, I need to write.

As an attempt to escape my wallowing, I signed up for The Art of the Short Story through MasterClass taught by Joyce Carol Oates. It’s worth it if you aren’t depressed and actually listen to the lessons and complete the assignments. My plan was to force myself out of my blues. It worked for about 48 hours. After that, I started guilting myself for not treating the course like a 9-5 job, and then the guilt made me even more depressed. In lesson three JCO mentioned the importance of journaling, something I never do because it’s always utter crap. She said to not worry about that, to just purge. That got me writing a little. I purged some of my bad mood onto the pages. It’s nothing I will use, but it was cathartic releasing emotions.

What rose me from the dead and got me to at least write this post was Audible. I’ve been listening to this great novel by Stephen Chbosky called Imaginary Friend (buried beneath the covers, of course). His pacing is something else and he writes some of the best similes I’ve ever read. Go ahead and buy it or listen to it on Audible. The narration is very good. I digress. I finally rose from the dead because every time I’d heard yet another amazing simile or the author added a plot twist I didn’t see coming, I felt jealous. I can do that too, I thought. I could write something good if I got off my ass and started writing again. Then the wicked mattress said, “Oh, but you’re feeling glum, Dawn.” The covers convinced me it was better hanging out with them. “Maybe just listen some more,” they reasoned. “Or, there’s the Rosanne Cash memoir, Composed that’s been sitting on your nightstand forever, and you won’t have to go far from the bed. Just reach over and turn the light on.” The light! I’ve been existing in a near vampiric state for weeks. It could cause serious damage if I absorb too much light too quickly. Okay, this is getting silly. The point is I read and listened and read and listened until I became envious that someone else out there was writing and I wasn’t. There are people at this very moment outlining a novel, composing a metaphor, and what am I doing? Nothing. So, yes. Envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but it got me writing something. Even if it is about how I’ve been low lately and fell into a writing slump, it’s more than nothing.

That’s all I’ve got folks. If you don’t hear back from me in two weeks, it’s because I grew into the mattress, but let’s hope this small post is the beginning of the end (not in a jump off the balcony way, but in a positive back to writing way).

Happy Writing!

4 thoughts on “Depression and Writers

  1. Thanks for the post. I’m also a writer and have struggled with depression as well. It’s complex for sure and defies simple explanations, but I’ve come to believe that depression is a sign of sensitivity. As you point out, that’s a good thing in terms of the creative process, but our culture doesn’t teach us how to deal with the intense experiences that come with being sensitive. We don’t have spaces to feel or process things, or the capacity to do so, so we shut down. At least that’s part of what happened with me. I had to learn how to be sensitive in a culture that encourages us to ignore rather than listen to what’s stirring within us.

    Liked by 1 person

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