I don’t know if you can help me. You probably can’t, but I’m going to ask you anyway in hope you can.
Here’s the situation. I’m falling behind in my writing and I’m getting really frustrated with it, and myself. I go on Facebook and I see all my writing friends getting book contracts and having book launches, sometimes two and three times a year, and I can barely finish a story.
I don’t know why I can’t get anything written. I have the ideas. I have the drive to get published. I know how to write a good story. I’m not as fast a typist as some of my friends, but that isn’t what makes the difference. Or is it?
No. I know that isn’t it. It might be, if I could actually get myself to write. I sit down most days like all writing advice tells us to. “Sit down and write every day.” I try. I really do. But I can’t get the words out. OK, so maybe I don’t sit down every day, but I think about writing every day. It’s just that getting the words on the screen is really hard for me.
I don’t mean that it’s hard because I’m lazy. It’s because I have depression.
There. I said it.
Getting out of bed every day is difficult for me. Simply being able to eat a decent meal each day and function at work is difficult for me most days. I’m on antidepressants which help me a lot to get through the day. Getting through the day isn’t enough if I want to also write.
So what am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to write and compete with normal people who can write every day and churn out the words?
Depressed Not Lazy
Dear Not Lazy,
I am glad to hear that you are getting help to manage your depression. That’s more important than anything.
You absolutely are not lazy. Being a fast or slow typist isn’t what is making the difference. The depression is.
Depression is a chronic illness. Like any chronic illness there are days when everything is fine, and there are days when, as you said, simply getting out of bed can be impossible.
After several dark days, when a good day comes along, there is a tendency to want to do everything, to over achieve. The result of getting everything done that had been previously neglected is an emotional crash, bringing on pure lethargy at best, and more dark days at worst.
The first thing I say to anyone with depression is to take care of yourself. On those days when performing basic every day functions is the best you can do. On those days when everything is dark and hopeless, reach out for help, talk to friends and family, those who love you. They do love you. Forget about the writing. You don’t need to have that added stress of “I should be writing. I’m a terrible person, I’m not a real writer because I’m not writing.”
I do have one caveat to the above. If you find that writing in a journal, or writing something fun just for you helps, then write.
On those days when you feel great and want to over-extend yourself: You’ll be tempted to put in extra writing time to make up for the time you weren’t writing. Don’t. Well, do, a little. Just don’t push yourself so hard that you’re exhausted and unable to write the next day. I’d rather see you put in two days of 500 words than one day of 1000 words, which is a complete strain.
Here’s why: Writing for briefer periods of time, or smaller word counts, will preserve your energy, which is so very precious. If you’re not so exhausted, you’re are likely to have longer stretches of good days, which means in the grander scheme of things, you will get more words written.
It is true that your depression is what is slowing you down. You may never be as prolific as your friends, but you can be as successful.
Be gentle with yourself. Surround yourself with positive support. Consider me one of your supports now too.
Creatively yours, Sherry
“Dear Sherry” is an opportunity to ask for advice on writer’s/creativity block, time management, the process of writing, and more. Sherry Peters is a Certified Life Coach who works with writers at all stages of their writing career looking to increase their productivity through pushing past the self-doubt holding them back. Her fiction has won the Writer’s Digest Self-Published e-book award, and been nominated for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top prize for Speculative fiction.
If you could ask a writing coach anything, here is your chance! Send her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.