Writing and depression have been matched for centuries but is it really something that is destined or can you write happy?
Why does writing get the ‘depression ahead’ warning?
Writing is a delve into and a release of emotions that is necessary to write passages. It’s an ingredient that helps writers let out what they need. Writers write from a feeling of exile in their own life. They put their emotions onto paper and it comes out through their characters. There’s also a lot of alone time left to ponder over life questions which often take them out of their comfort zone that many other professions don’t even venture near.
Another aspect is how writing is a discipline that can be a self-defeating prophecy when you have to match it with making a living. On the one side, writers are imaginative people who can come up with all sorts of ideas, but how often has someone written an article or book only to feel a sense of disappointment afterwards rather than joy?
It’s more common than you may think. May people who finish something should be proud of the achievement but after they’ve written it then comes the need to make a living of course and with that means going public and then the scrutiny and rejection that may follow. It might end up being years of pondering thoughts and hard mental work that gets less than working part-time at a supermarket.
In a world that judges each other based on external successes, even if the article or book was absolutely crucial and useful to the writers progress, and even if it was a ‘worldy’ (as good as other book who got a lucky break), the writer would still merit their success based on the the praise or rejection ultimately. This leaves them to have their own self worth determined by an external source, never a good thing.
It shouldn’t do but as emotional people anyway it certainly does. But what about those who are successful in the eyes of the public? Many writer and creative types still feel depressed despite their successes. Part of this is the sense of having let something out and afterwards felt empty. It’s hard to explain but when you write you are both scrutinising yourself but also in a flow of creation, your happy place. When that has finished you feel a sense of ‘what next?’ uncertainty, and also a sense of a withdrawal-after-drug effect.
It can depend on what you are writing of course, but when so much of what people are writing depends on other people buying into it, there’s always a perfectionist feeling amongst them, that they have to get it right, or they must only choose articles that sell. This is not a natural feeling in writing as the most happy writers are the ones who write about things they feel (especially when more positive tones of writing) but yet they have to often stem the natural flow of their writing to fit into a format rather than just let things out.
Okay, so how can I write without the blues?
I certainly know as a writer, it can be both very enjoyable in the moment, but also a sense of dread in actually finishing something, as you know it’s going to be published and ridiculed. What got me over that fear was to write as if it was flowing naturally from the heart anyway and just do a bit of tidy-up editing at the end to ensure it’s readable for someone who isn’t in my brain.
When you are in a creative flow there’s no better place in my opinion. All sorts of things could be happening as potential distractions around you but you are lost in your imagination and writing as the thoughts and words formulate in your mind. This is especially true when writing stories and novels, but it does bring up another issue that could lead to a depressed state and which isn’t really talked about much.
This is the same number one issue that millennial and gen-z’s are having in our modern age – too much choice. When you get in the writing flow you have one line of thoughts leads towards the next, but sometimes you also have 5 different directions you could go with the next line and analysis paralysis can take over. Writing can bring out many other untapped thoughts that are suddenly on your mind. This can lead some to being too overwhelmed with their thoughts, and to others to draw too many tangents so that when an article or chapter needs to be put together there’s just so many words to edit through and so little time to do it.
I used to think with article writing that was a big issue and I took days, yes days, thinking of what I should edit. What to include and what not to. I realised after a while that a lot of it didn’t really matter anyway. I’m trying to write so someone will find some value there, and some do, but there would always inevitably be someone else who might disagree or come from a different confirmation biased point of view.
When younger that would offend me, but today I’ve matured to realise and understand why and I’m just happy when I actually produce something. The alternative is to analysis paralysis over every detail which isn’t only time and energy consuming but it ends up meaning you aren’t helping anyone if it isn’t published, and you are only leading yourself to build up more and more notes or counter-thoughts as you second-guess yourself in hope that you somehow write the one killer article. In retrospect that is always not worth it, you will always find a flaw as a writer, it’s in our nature as we always will have more thoughts flooding our way.
We should see that as a good thing though. It beats having no thoughts, and when you start writing with the notion that it can actually be a therapeutic exercise to let your imagination unload its hefty powers then generally good things come from it. As they say, it’s better out than in, especially if it’s the type of writing that is about self-help. If it’s helping you by writing it out and letting emotions out then it is probably helping someone else out there too.
Of course, there’s still other writer concerns to attend to like money (same for everyone though) and the feeling of being to secular and alone is another one but there’s also coping strategies for them too.
Firstly, if you are new to writing then don’t think writing will lead you to an instant best seller and you’ll be rich from it. Most writers don’t write to be rich anyway, but if you are down to your last pennies/cents then it would be wise to take the pressure off and have another stream of income to help you out. Don’t quit writing as it has other benefits that outweigh not doing it, but don’t expect a goldmine to arrive from it. If anything, writing is more like a path towards over avenues and income streams, at least with articles, and with books, it can just be a joy for unleashing your imagination which is worth the time anyway in my opinion.
Secondly, there’s a thin line between solitude and loneliness. It can be great to have a few days to yourself to get on with writing if you’ve been busy doing other things or distracted by others’ needs, but it can also require a lot of discipline and a certain kind of mindset to become a writer (or creative for that matter). Like any job you should never over-strain yourself. Unlike most other jobs when you get into a flow, go with it. They are you best moments.
I’ve had hours and hours of flow before but even after that I must rest, in fact I tend to sleep like a baby as it can be so exhausting as a mental exercise to focus and write like that for so long. Your body will naturally want to rest anyway, and it’s in these times that it would be very wise to get fresh air, or at least change environments or rooms, or go speak to someone about something completely unrelated, or do something to relax your mind (just try not to get too sucked into a comfort mentality and binge Netflix for hours – it might seem like potential material for a creative type but it also has a way to completely take you out of the creative flow that you were in).
After a sufficient break your mind will want to get back to the story or article you haven’t quite finished. In fact, your mind is still at work on it, just in the background like how a video renders in the background after you’ve edited it. Those times of rest are very important not only for your sanity, but to allow things to formulate into place in your mind, and you might then go back and add or edit something that didn’t quite fit beforehand.
There’s lots of talk over the 25 mins / 5 mins time based scenario to help people focus, but honestly for a writer this time-frame seldom works as 5 minutes is absolutely not enough time for your mind to mull over what it’s done effectively, and secondly 25 minutes is an approximation and not a rule for a writer, as it’s far more important to be in a flow than it is to be on a schedule when writing.
So, anyway. I hope this article helped someone out there see that writing might be an emotional challenge compared to other vocations, but for good reason, and generally the benefits of writing far outweigh the negative aspects, and they can be managed.
When we think that our writing isn’t just about making a living, or something to lead us through potential rejection barriers, and that instead it’s a potential source for expression, then we can be less likely to fall into the ‘writer’s pit’. If you find yourself going there, and I think every writer has at some point, then take a break and your mind will reset naturally.
Also, remember that writing, bar for authoring, is also really a very effective way of helping you through thoughts and emotions and if thoughts get deep and personal then that’s actually a healthy process for allowing you to work through them and release them. Writing, whether for yourself or for publishing, will bring your mind to other areas you wouldn’t find. It has a way to bring ideas out of you. That can be a great this in the long run.
So, happy writing!