Writers don’t talk often about how the constant rejection of their work affects their mental health. Maybe we should.
Google (or Bing if you’re forced to by Explorer) “Feeling depressed over your writing”. The results are mixed: how to write when you depressed, the link between creatives and depression that might be BS, and how to write about depression. Not quiet what I was asking you, oh great god of the internet Google.
One article did stand out: Why Writers Feel Depressed and How to Deal by Patty Somlo. The negative thoughts, Somlo said, would judge her writing badly and leave her crushed. She wisely states that depression can ruin your work:
“In my case, both depression and anxiety are a substitute for real emotions, including anger, fear, sadness and shame. Good writing happens when we can connect words to real feelings and that becomes more difficult when the author is depressed or anxious.”
Somlo overcame the depression with self-acceptance, therapy and mindfulness. Myself I use four specific tools I acquired from my recovery courses in SMART , a really cool non-AA system. I strongly recommend for people who have substance abuse and/or mental health issues.
- You have to challenge the unhelpful idea by questioning it. Too often writers accept what their emotions is telling them as truth because we rely on it for our creativity. In this case, negative thoughts and feelings about you and your work should be challenged! Speak directly to the thought coming up: “Hey – so is there any proof to support this unhelpful idea? Are you helping or trying to hurt me? Is this actually going to make me a better writer, or just a miserable pain in the ass?” (No one likes a whinny writer.)
- Imagine that I’m trying to convince another person why it doesn’t make sense to think that way or that it’s cruel. Would I actually ever say such mean things to another human? If I have or would, then you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself. You got bigger issues than my short blog can help with. 😦
- Acknowledge at the core of being miserable is a lack of self-acceptance and compassion. Every day for a year, I said to myself, “You are a beautiful being, worthy of love and inner peace.” Is there a ‘but’ in there? No. Your writing is not a reflection of your worth on this planet. Really. If that seems hard, it’s because we’ve been trained as writers to be as judgmental as hell about our work. That’s fine as critiques and constructive criticism helps us get better! The problem lies in when our worth as a human is based on the action of praise/acceptance from outside sources.
- Go now and write. Write for joy, for fun, for life. Get the crap out of your brain and onto a page. Spill vomit if you have to. Re-connect to why you wanted to be a writer in the first place: the sheer pleasure and happiness and even peace that comes from unedited, unfiltered communication in the written word. I need to express my heart and mind to find peace, and if it’s not ‘publishable’ or ‘excellent’, I could give a rat’s hairy butt. There’s the stuff I write for me, which is madness and I love it.
I hope this helps even one person out there who feels rejected, lonely and miserable over their work. If you have any tools or ideas on what you do to stave off depression, please post a reply! Good luck and keep on keeping on.