Writing is hard. Yeah, it’s fun and a dream come true and I would never trade being able to read and write. But sometimes, it gets you down. It’s an extremely isolating profession. You spend long hours at your computer, forgetting to eat, your only company the characters in your story. To top it all off you’re rarely surrounded by people who “get” why you write. It can be challenging.
It’s during these times that you start to get self-conscious. You think, “I can’t write” and “This entire manuscript is a piece of crap,” and my personal favorite, “Why, oh why, didn’t I go to business school like my dad told me to?!?!” These feelings get overwhelming and before you know it you’ve sunk into a deep depression.
Depression is a real thing. It’s a problem. It’s not imaginary or “all in your head” or something you can just “get over.” It’s an honest-to-goodness disease, just as real and serious as pneumonia or a broken leg or Netflix withdrawals. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) Unfortunately, because symptoms of depression differ in everyone and aren’t as easily recognizable as, say, a giant wart on the tip of your nose, depression has become somewhat of a faux pas.
Guess what, guys? It’s okay. It’s okay to have depression. It’s okay that all you did today was get out of bed to use the bathroom. It’s okay. You’ll try again tomorrow.
(Just a quick note to say that if you’re at the point in your depression where you are only waking up to go to the bathroom, having any suicidal or self-harming thoughts, or basically at the point where you feel like a Dementor is sucking out your soul, it’s time to get some help. Go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org, call your insurance agent, or Google psychiatrists and/or therapists in your area. There is help out there. It’s filled to capacity with inspirational quotes and encouraging memes just calling your name. But seriously. You don’t have to be alone in this. You don’t even have to think you’re “that bad.” If you or someone you loves thinks you need help, get help.)
Since I feel like a lot of writers suffer from various forms of depression, I thought I’d give some tips as to what helps me round-house kick writers depression in the face.
1. Don’t write in your pajamas.
I know what you’re thinking. “WHAT?!? The best part about my job is that I get to write in my pajamas!!!” And that’s partly true. What I mainly mean by “don’t write in your pajamas” is that you should get up at a set time in the morning and get ready for the day. If you shower and put on clean pajamas then that’s fine. Just get ready in the morning.
One of my triggers (something that triggers my depression – hehe) is when I stay in the same clothes as the day/night before. I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything which leads to feelings of self-loathing and I just kind of spiral from there. When I get up at a decent hour and go through my normal morning routine, I feel like I’ve at least accomplished something — I got up.
2. Exercise (even when you don’t want to).
Because I work out 4x a week, people don’t believe me when I say I hate to exercise. I do. With every fiber of my being. But exercising helps depression. It’s just one of those sad facts of life, like acne or how Khol’s sells out of whatever item you just put in your shopping cart. The first few times (*cough* weeks *cough*) it won’t feel like it’s helping. You might even be more tired and irritated than you were before you started exercising. But once your body gets used to it and you are able to get through a workout without wanting to strangle your trainer or break the elliptical, you’ll see how much it improves your mood. You’ll feel better emotionally and you’ll be keeping your body healthy in the process.
3. Take a break.
But…you’re on a roll! You can’t take a break! That’s crazy-talk! Unfortunately, it’s a two-sided coin. If you don’t take breaks you will go crazy. Marathon writing is all well and good. It’s awesome and feels great to accomplish so much. But too many marathon days will burn you out. You might get tired or sick, and then think all your writing is crap right before you go headfirst into a downward spiral.
Take a nap. Go on a walk. Run up and down the stairs for two minutes. Watch an episode of Gilmore Girls. Do something where you don’t have to think about writing for just a little while. When you come back you’ll feel more energized and be ready to hit your next 2,000 word goal.
4. Eat healthy snacks. Really, just remember to eat and drink (water).
That grumbling sound in the pit of your stomach? That’s your body telling you to eat something. When you’re crazy-into your story, the last thing you want to do is mess up your groove by getting something to eat. You’d have to leave your computer and everything! Being Hangry is a thing. Not eating right can contribute to your depression just as easily as not sleeping well.
You can prepare your snacks for the week beforehand so it’s just a thirty second break until you’re back writing. Cut up some strawberries, watermelon, carrot sticks or whatever you fancy and put them in snack-sized containers so you can easily grab them, take them back to your desk/couch/park bench, and enjoy. Believe me, I’m all about the sweets. Self-proclaimed Reese’s addict. One thing I try to do is to eat super-healthy during working hours and then I can have a treat at dinner.
Another thing you need to remember to do is keep hydrated. When I’m working, I’m constantly forgetting to drink water. It’s like my thirst disappears when I’m writing. It’s important to stay hydrated because all sorts of bad stuff can happen when you get dehydrated. If you have to go to the hospital for an IV you’re going to lose writing time. Keep drinking that water even if you have to set a reminder on your phone.
5. Don’t write in your bedroom.
Again with the “WHAT?!?!” reactions. I currently don’t have the luxury of having an office, so I do write in my bedroom. If that’s your situation, that’s okay. But try writing somewhere different – in a coffee shop, in the park, at a table in Denny’s (they won’t mind, they’re pretty much empty anyways and they have great pancakes). Get out of your house and be around people. I get that you have to do what works for you and if the only way you’re inspired to write is in a dark room with the glow from your computer as your only light – then that’s great. For the rest of us, I suggest trying a change of scenery.
Not all of these tips will work for everyone. The real trick is to identify your triggers and start to recognize them. Once you do that then you can figure out ways to combat them. It’s a complex business, but with enough practice (and possibly therapy) you’ll be able to head writers depression off at the pass. Not only will identifying your triggers keep you from sinking into a depression, but they’ll also help increase your productivity because you won’t spend half your time worried that you’re losing your ability to write.
I can’t be the only one who has writers depression. What are your triggers and how do you combat them?