Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Writer's Experience With Depression

I decided to finally make this blog more focused on my writing again. The title after all is Ramblings of a Starving Creative Writer, so I figured I should probably post things in accordance to that.

Anyway, I wanted to write a little bit about my experience that I've had (and continue to have) with going through a depression as an aspiring author with several book projects being juggled all at once.

I mentioned on my facebook how I crashed into a mini depression as soon as I moved from the States to Canada. Long story short, my husband's Canadian and we needed to move back to Canada in order for us to be together and for him to get his Master's degree cheaply.

I went from working a full-time job at a global magazine, constantly reading and voraciously writing chapter after chapter in my adult mystery, adult ghost story and young adult fantasy novels. I was probably flying at my highest when it came to goals and accomplishing them.

Fast forward to August of 2016. About five months ago. Me and my husband make the move to Canada and I'm unable to work until I get permanent residency (which, let me tell you takes FOREVER). We lived with his parents for a month then moved in to our new place which we've been in since September. I thought that maybe my lack of motivation in writing was due to all the stress of a new environment, not having access to my own computer (since I did a lot of my writing on my work computer) as well as just the fact that it took us a while to unpack everything and get settled into our new place.

Well, October comes and goes. Then November. Then December. And my mood and way of life aren't changing. We moved to a small town an hour away from a big city. My husband has a car he needs to use for work, which leaves me without any means of transporting myself anywhere outside of this town of about 3,000 people.

Needless to say, I've had several meltdowns since about November. I had such a fire ignited within me to write and to read, and I have done a fair amount of reading but not like I did when I was in the States. I thought FOR SURE having the free time I have right now I'd have at least 2 books written by now and revising them and looking for an agent.

But no. Mostly it's just empty pages. It's a flashdrive I haven't picked up in months. It's chapters that are unwritten. It's a brain that used to be flooding with ideas that now can barely tell her fingers to type a sentence. In addition to the painful and crippling disappointment comes the shame and absolute and utter self-loathing.

I've spent the past few weeks trying to figure out what's wrong with me. I've searched YouTube videos and kindle books to try to find authors who struggle with depression and how they don't let it affect their writing.

What I found was comforting but I wanted more. With the new year, I decided that I desperately needed to change something. I wasted 4 months of what could have been solid writing, solid improvement, solid progression.

So I'm writing this blog post in the hopes that I can help other fellow writers who struggle with what I struggle with as well. Or really, any artist. Any musician, any designer, any poet, any photographer etc. who have struggled with depression.

I really do feel like we writers (or we artists/creative folk) are both blessed and cursed at the same time. We are blessed because we feel deeply and passionately about our craft--about telling stories. But we're cursed because of our deep seeded emotions, they can turn on us like a tidal wave, and it's excruciatingly difficult to overcome it.

I'm not fully back to my normal self yet. Far from it, in fact, though I've hidden it from almost all of my family members and friends until now.

But I will list a few things that have helped me just attempt to get back in the saddle again as far as my writing goes.

1. Force yourself to just do it, no matter how little you end up accomplishing.
By celebrating these simple achievements, and by simply writing you'll at least not feel like a total failure. I wrote 204 words yesterday of an outline for my young adult fantasy novel. 204 words. For a bloody outline. But I did it. I wrote 204 words, which is 204 words more than I've written in over 3 months. And I felt slightly better about myself after the fact. And you will too if you just wrench yourself from your couch or your bed or wherever it is you spend the majority of your time instead of writing and just WRITE. Force yourself to until you get into the habit of it. Someone told me it takes 28 days of doing something to make it into a habit. I'm on day 2. How bout you?

2. Don't beat yourself up about everything.
This is something I'm the Jedi master of. Seriously. It's a BAD JEDI MIND TRICK that gets me EVERY TIME. But there is a way to move past it. Part of it I mentioned in #1 which is celebrating small victories. If you can only get out 200 words, treat yourself. If it's 20 or 2, give yourself a pat on the bat, or allow yourself one episode of Netflix/Amazon prime, or buy yourself a smoothie or ANYTHING that gives yourself positive reinforcement. You know how they train dogs to do tricks by offering them food at the end? Well, it kinda works with us humans as well. If you give yourself a reward after you try and exert yourself, you will feel better about yourself and your life. Trust me, I'm trying to do that right now. Be kind to yourself. If you want to end up in the black hole where you're at right now, then listen to that douchey jerky voice telling you that you suck or you've failed. Tell that voice to shove it and promptly turn on the Force Theme by John Williams. Star Wars music has a way of empowering just about anyone, I've found.

3. Change up your routine/scenery
This is something I'm trying to do now. Because of my husband's schedule, there are random times during the day where he's at home and distracting me. Though I love him and love spending time with him, I just can't write when he's in the house. I need complete and utter solitude in order to do that. I tried writing at home when he's not there, and it sort of worked, but having to use his work laptop can sometimes be problematic. Especially when he has to use it. So I go to the library. It's only a few blocks away from my house, and even in the cold, pathetic wasteland of a winter we're having right now, it's not so bad to walk to. I'm only technically allowed an hour on the library computers, but I'm kind of friends with the library staff so they let me work a little longer than that if it's not busy. Changing things up a bit will greatly help stimulate your creative juices. Though I'm not a fan of the sloppy, bulky keyboard, I'm at least able to be in an environment that I'm not too relaxed in, or tempted to turn on the T.V. or distracted by a spouse.

4. Make sure your sleep schedule isn't whacked
Going to bed at midnight and getting up at 10 or 11 in the morning is fun for a day or two, but then it really starts to make you feel like a zombie. Especially if you're struggling with depression. I'm still working on this but going to bed by 10 and getting up around 8 or 9 will definitely help you a) have more hours in the day where you can get a lot more done and b) help your mind to be more sharp and focused. When I'm not on a sleeping schedule like I was when I was working full-time, I don't get hardly anything done. So make sure you're going to bed at a decent hour and eating healthy at least 3 times a day. The simple things are what helps your mental health, trust me.

So far that's all I've tried doing to help me in my depression to continue working towards finishing one of my books. If you have any suggestions or additions that you'd like to see on this blog post, please comment below. I'm still struggling with this so I absolutely welcome others' experiences, whether they're yours or someone you know.


  1. AWESOME post, Megan. You are so relateable and this post is so helpful and inspiring. I know your spirit and I know you are going to be just fine. I am praying for you here in Savannah. I hope the fog rises soon!

  2. The walk to the library is actually helping as well. Even when it's cold sun light (indirect as it may be) increases happy hormones, and the exercise gives you endorphins!

    Also, healthy eating can help with depression too. Theoretically... I don't see how reducing sugar, salty snacks, and (shudder) giving up soda could ever make me happy, but science apparently disagrees with me there.

    Keep it up! You got this!

  3. Eu amei seu post. É importante reconhecer quando não esta bem e traçar planos para melhorar. Você é uma pessoa sonhadora e incrivelmente maravilhosa.
    Continue com suas metas e não deixe de sorrir, nunca! Seu sorriso melhora o mundo e vai melhorar sua depressão. <3

  4. Thoughtful words! I believe this is relevant not just to an author and writing but just living. I always thought one feels sad when depressed but I have realized (personally) that your mind and body feel "stuck," unmotivated, and hopeless. Being able to identify and speak on it is great and key to overcoming. Best Wishes in all your obstacles; eventually you'll be looking back on them saying, "Mission accomplished!" :)

  5. I echo the comments above.... your thoughts aren't just for artists, they are for anyone that needs help with depression. When I was going thru a similar situation, the thing that helped me the most was my wife. Make sure that you include your husband in your thoughts, desires, actions, wants, excitements, lows, highs - he needs to understand where you are and how he can help. Next.... what can you use from this experience? Can you find the words for your emotions and use them for one of your characters? I've heard that a lot of writers use their own life experiences and people they know. They do that because they understand the exact emotions, feelings and thoughts that are real and that will come across perfectly in a book. You are amazing, you are having a challenge - join the club. Any challenge in life is to understand what to learn and how to move along and overcome. Thanks for reaching out to all of us... we stand along with you!!