Writer’s Depression: Part Two of an Essay

In Part One of this series on writers and depression, I had talked about some of the statistics and surrounding factors on this powerful, mental health topic. I had sent out various emails, trying to get more research on the subject of writing and depression, but unfortunately I wasn’t able to get responses to help write this article. So instead, I will take a page from my personal files and share with you some of the things I noticed, in retrospect, that I was dealing with and methods that I, personally, took to help myself. I did find a comprehensive depression guide to help you read some medical tips on the subject.

Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression is a book of essays on the subject from other writers, and I recommend this work for other insights.

Depression, for me, is like looking at myself in the mirror too long. It becomes narcissistic, because the only voice I hear is the one in the back of my head telling me my writing isn’t good enough, or worse. Enchanted with those dark words, it turns into a kind of spell, shrouding me from seeing the bright, shining truth.

The only way, that I know how, to dispel this dark form of mental sorcery is to physically remove myself from whatever is causing my uncontrollable sadness, by remembering what it is that makes me happy, no matter how silly or stupid it may seem to someone else. It could be a new pair of shoes, or a frothing cup of real cappucino. It could be walking in a park, or spending time with your loved ones. Whatever “it” is, that thing, person or event can hold the keys to help you break yourself out of your depression.

Sometimes, yes, it is invaluable to just have someone listen to your woes and share your misery. But that too, can be addicting and, as I’ve learned, can damage friendships if you go too far.

Here are some small, inexpensive ways you can help yourself get out of that rut of “writer’s depression.”

  • Keep a “Writer’s Brag Book” Unlike a “journal,” a brag book contains anything you are proud of as a writer. From meeting word count goals to exquisitely-written passages, it’s your chance to remind yourself how awesome you are as a writer and that you HAVE achieved milestones.
  • Shift your Efforts to Research I know that depression can really put a damper in your writing, so to keep productive I would focus my efforts on research in a library. Not only does it help you get out of the house, it can turn up interesting ideas.
  • Go with What You’re Good at When your mood turns dark, it really helps to do something you’re good at. I usually make a list if I can’t think of anything, then look at my hobby activities. For me, it’s cooking so one of the ways I help myself (and others) is to make someone else a meal.
  • Walk and/or Travel You have to give yourself a break now and then, because writing is a full-time, 24-hour activity some days. Force yourself to go for a walk, or travel to some place new in your area like a coffee shop, restaurant, arboretum, or museum.
  • Teach Writing Sometimes, the best thing you can do for yourself is to give a little. What better way than to teach? Whether you start a workshop or simply donate your time to your local charity, you can help bolster your confidence and get back in touch with your talents.

The key was, for me, to act–not to continue venting, speaking, and discussing that which ailed me. You see, writers can get caught up in words, because that is what we do. In order to remain healthy, we sometimes need to remind ourselves to do the exact opposite.

If you feel your writer’s depression cannot be solved through behavioral changes, please explore the facilities in your community. There is help, even free, low-cost help, if you truly need it.

Monica Valentinelli is a writer, editor, and game developer. Her portfolio includes stories, games, comics, essays, and pop culture books.

In addition to her own worlds, she has worked on a number of different properties including Firefly, Vampire: the Masquerade, Shadowrun, Hunter: the Vigil, Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn, and Robert E. Howard’s Conan.

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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