I am depressed…
I am not alone…
Writing is very often a solitary journey into the inner depths of one’s soul. A lot of what writers do is re-experiencing moments from our lives and/or our environments. We recreate and reimagine events in prose form, all in the effort to educate, entertain or uplift—sometimes all three.
Hours of our time is spent with a notepad, tablet or computer using words to interpret the miasma of thoughts and ideas swirling within our minds and souls, with very little—if any—regard to the effect that might have on our well-being.
A saner person might ask, “Why do you subject yourself to such torture?” The answer, isn’t always understandable to those who aren’t writers, but is as clear as clean air to most writers.
We do it because; we can’t stop…
Acclaimed fantasy writer, R.A. Salvatore is quoted as saying: “…if you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, then you’re a writer.”
As writers, we are drawn to this form of self-expression because it is within us to create and explore—both our own minds and the world around us. However, sometimes our called profession can cause us to spiral into a dark, lonely and sometimes dangerous place.
If it weren’t bad enough that writers face the sometimes daunting—but often rewarding—task of creating prose from the myriad reaches of our psyches, and attempt to make a living from our craft, we also are at war with our very own minds. We struggle to produce earnest prose, but are hardly ever satisfied with ourselves or our work. The phrase, “You are your worst critic,” is cliché yet, very succinct in its accuracy in describing why writers carry the burden of self-doubt, which is the leading contributor to depression amongst us, in my opinion. It is our own ambivalence which often proves to be our very undoing.
According to Portland based author and psychotherapist, Philip Kenney, “At its best, self-criticism seems to drive individuals to revise and polish work. At its worst, it can torment and paralyze one’s efforts and completely distort the self-portrait beyond recognition.”
Writers and other creatives are sensitive people, perhaps more sensitive than many other individuals in other fields. Most of us are very critical of ourselves and our work, which is what drives us to improve in our craft, but can also be the debilitating bane of our existence.
It is our sensitivity which gives us the insight into our minds and the world around us and allows us to create the worlds and characters in our work. It gives us the ability to explore our fears and emotions in a way few others can experience.
However, there is a price…
That same sensitivity makes us very vulnerable. As we delve into the unconscious and subconscious of our minds, we are forced to confront those dark places hidden away from the rest of the world. Places which are very often too painful to talk about verbally, we use our writing to communicate about.
That’s pretty scary stuff, indeed.
Writers are prone to being overstimulated and suffer from emotional overflow. This often leads to anxiety—which in my experience—can cause an assortment of problems in the writer’s ability to function on the day to day and interact with others—most importantly their family.
We also tend to internalize our feelings and thoughts. Expression in writing is not synonymous with verbal communication, and we are frequently faced with anxious, emotional overload, which can cause us to have morose and solitary periods, as well as traumatic breakdowns.
In my next blog post, A Writer’s Depression: Part Two, I will explore the ways in which writers can deal with their feelings of anxiety and how to possibly determine the difference between the nagging self-critic and perhaps a deeper problem.