I’ve been pretty down lately. I think it’s partially the extra allergy meds I have to take to survive spring in Nashville, and I think part of it is the publication of my first novel. I have post-pubtum depression. Mostly when I feel like this, I just let it run its course, but I’ve got to get back on the horse now and get shit done. I’m doing a novella for a reality jumping anthology, I’ve got The Gods’ Appeal to finish and I need to start editing the first SDF novel so I can get it to beta readers. Ain’t nobody got time for writer’s depression. So I pulled up an article I wrote last year on beating the writer’s depression.
When I’m depressed, my writing is usually the first thing to get hit. I read my stuff and my mind starts churning out insults like I’m a late night talk show host bashing Bush. It sucks, I don’t have a clear enough theme, it’s been done, I’ll never be good enough, I made a typo and now must sacrifice one of my fingers to the gods of grammar… It goes on and on and basically adds up to one thought.
I’ll never make it as an author.
Yep. I go straight from ‘this story sucks,’ (for whatever reason) to ‘everything I’ve every written sucks and I’ll never make it; why even try?’ And then it starts to spiral and you go over everything bad about whatever piece you’re reading and the spiral gets bigger and bigger as it feeds on itself.
I call it the Fibonacci Shame Spiral because in my head it looks like the golden spiral that follows the Fibonacci Sequence.
And I’m not the only one. We’re writers, we’re sensitive little shits. I’m pretty sure it’s a requirement.
So what do you do?
1. To break the shame spiral cycle in your brain, try tapping your hands on the table for a minute. Just focus on the beat. Then, while keeping your head still, look as far to one side as you can, then the other, and go back and forth for a minute. The hands tapping and the eyes moving helps activate both sides of your brain.
This shuts up what we call the inner critic, the left side, and helps activate the right side, the creative part.
Strangely enough, these are also techniques to help people with PTSD… but I’m sure that’s just a coincidence.
2. Read through something of yours you haven’t seen for awhile. It’s probably much worse writing since it’s (I’m assuming) an earlier piece where you were working out the kinks, but despite that, you love it. It’s a good story and, oh yeah, you love these characters, and it even flows pretty well for an early work. See, you don’t suck, you’re just sick of the piece you’ve been staring at the past few months.
3. Pick a writing prompt and write a page on that. Anything. A flash piece, part of a scene, an all dialogue argument. Edit a little, but don’t go overboard, and share it. With your writing group, online, on your blog, whatever. Rinse and repeat until you know you’ve got what it takes again.
Those are the things you can do today to snap you out of it. For a more long term solution:
1. Join a writing group. Find people online or in the real world you can vent to when you feel this way and who can assure you everyone goes through this. Basically so they can say, ‘welcome to the club, we all think we suck, now get back to work.’
2. Take a writing class at the local community college or some sort of online one. You’ll have a scheduled time to write and assignments, get to see other people’s work, and have them see yours. This also may be where you find your writing group. The point is to get yourself writing and to be accountable to other people so you have to write.
You notice these two are two sides of the same advice. Basically, get a community. Writers are solitary creatures and sometimes we forget we’re not alone.
3. Remember you’re a writer for a reason. You have something to say, you have stories pouring out of your brain, you walk in realities other people can’t imagine until you show them through your doorway. You write because you have to, because it’s in your blood. There’s no such thing as quitting, there is no Plan B. You’re a writer, you write. Period. So you may as well keep trying to make some money off of it
Happy Writing and Good Mental Health