Writing While Depressed

I need to get more writing done. Right now I have the time to do writing.

Instead, I’m going to take a nap.

Instead, I’m going to cry.

Instead, I’m twitching because I’m overstimulated.

Instead, I’m going to stare at my computer screen. Not brainstorming or thinking about writing. Just staring.

Welcome to trying to write while wrestling with depression.

I’ve been very harsh with myself through this. It’s so, so stupid. I’ve had depression for a long time. I know how to handle it. But every time it gets bad, I just get angry with myself. “There’s no reason for this. You’ve got the meds. You’ve fought this for a long time. Just go do the work.”

…and I don’t do the work.

Depression takes many forms, and it’s been getting worse for me in recent years. Of course, this world-wide pandemic doesn’t help things generally. And because depression is in my head—it is mental illness, after all—and because writing takes place in my head—it’s where the wordmakers do word things—depression affects my writing.

This is what it looks like practically:

I have set aside an hour and a half to do two half-hour writing sprints with a break in the middle. I sequester myself in my bedroom so no children attack me whilst typing. It’s also relatively free of distraction. All day I’m looking forward to this time to produce content.

But halfway through the morning, I start getting tired. Truthfully, I woke tired, but that’s not a surprise to anyone paying attention. Usually I can shake it off by mid-morning, but no, my fatigue is getting worse.

I think lunch will give me the kick in the pants I need to keep moving. I don’t over-eat, so I don’t get that food coma that can happen so easily to me. However, I feel so very weary.

Instead of writing, I decide to go upstairs and grab a catnap. Just something to wake me up.

Three hours later, it’s time for supper and I’ve accomplished nothing.

Now, my mood in all this can best be described as “sleepy.” I’ve not been down. I’ve not been angry or sad or angsty.

But now that I wake up, my writing time vanished to the abyss that is sleep. Now I’m frustrated. I’ve wasted so much time. I need to get writing!

And that’s where the anger at myself comes in.

Honestly, in some ways it’s easier when I’m sobbing. Then at least I can say, “Hey, I’m depressed, and it’s whipping my butt today, and so today I’m not going to get any writing done.” But when it’s the general exhaustion that so often comes with depression, it’s a lot harder for me to take in stride.

So… what do I need to do?

For me, I need to learn where my depression currently sits and deal with it. The overwhelming exhaustion is relatively new. I just started new meds, so this might be my new normal. I’ll be talking with my doc relatively soon to figure that out. Anytime there’s new meds you need that time.

And I need to say to myself: If you’re tired… what you need is sleep. Your brain is fighting the depression and it needs the rest. Write when you can, and don’t get angry for when you can’t.

I need to dial down my self-expectations. Maybe 2000 words a day is just too much right now. I grit my teeth while saying that, but it’s true.

Because let’s face it: If I don’t take care of myself, I ain’t gonna be able to write at all. I’ll just be a quivering mass of author goo.

And author goo isn’t good for much.

How about you? If you have depression, how do you handle that with your writing? How do you balance it?

Published by Jon

I'm a pastor in Wisconsin. Constantly writing, whether it be fiction or sermons or anything in between. Husband and father. Over all this, Christian, willing and joyful servant to good master Jesus.

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