megwrites: Dualla from BSG. Dualla > EVERYONE ELSE.  (dualla)
[personal profile] megwrites
So, I want to have a conversation about being a writer who's dealing with depression/anxiety. Or maybe other mental illnesses or psychiatric conditions - but mostly I want to talk about how writers deal with it.

Right now I'm trying to start new things, but I'm having an extremely hard time. It's hard for me to pay attention, first off. I have the approximate focused attention span of an over caffeinated howler monkey. Even with all the usual tricks (turning off internet connection, blocks on "time wasting" sites, getting rid of distractions on my desk), I have a hard time maintaining focus.

I don't know if this is depression or a symptom of something I've suspected I might have had for a long time (some form of attention disorder). It may explain why books are so damnably hard for me to read, even when I really want to read them. Right now I'm fighting my way through a book by an author that I like, a lot. It isn't that I'm not interested. It's that I can't make myself stay attentive to the words on the page for more than a few pages at a time.

Even as I'm writing this entry, my brain is telling me to get up and do a bunch different things (read that book! vacuum the living room! oh, a drawing we could be doing! call that appointment thing we're supposed to do! clean the desk! look up recipes! check email! make a list of things we need from the grocery! download that new album you wanted!) and I'm fighting it just to keep my thoughts together. Fighting hard.

Worse than the attention span problems are the "wow, this piece of writing is worthless, I am worthless as a writer" feelings which fill me with such utter despair that I can't find a reason to fight against the avalanche of inattentiveness to keep going. I think to myself, "This is so uninteresting, no one will ever want to read this" or "everyone else has done this idea and done it better". I become convinced that my story is so unimportant, bland, plotless, and unworthy that there's no use in continuing on with it.

And I realize some of these feelings are normal for a writer. Before my depression went to Defcon 1 and took a wrecking ball to my life, I had them. But back then I had these coping skills that seem to have vanished. Or I left 'em somewhere or they got lost in the move to North Carolina or ID-effin'-K, dude.

But to the point where I cannot even face writing, where I get in such a state of despair that it becomes a spiral of sadness, anxiety, and self-hate that it escalates into worse things...that's not normal. That's not okay for me to be doing. I don't want that.

I can't tell my editorial voice, which has legitimate reasons to say, "This scene is a bit boring, let's do something better here, what if they fought!" or "umm, I think every book in the genre has done this, why don't we change it up?" from my depression!voice. I know that those thoughts are helpful. Those are things that are my instincts letting me know where I can better tell the story I want to tell.

So for those out there who deal with these things, how do you deal? What are your coping strategies, how do you keep your writing and creative life on track even when your brain chemistry wants to derail ALL THE THINGS?
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