Monday, July 30, 2018

A Depressed Writer: Taking Small Steps

When I first decided to write about being a depressed writer on this platform, all the way back in March, I didn't expect that it be more than four months before I wrote another installation in the series.

Yet here we are, the end of July, and I'm just now checking back in. That delay, in part, is of course due to the "creativity coma" that I talked about two weeks ago.

And now that I'm finally feeling better, creatively, in the sense that I want to write again, that I have ideas for writing again, I'm slamming into another wall: my depression.

The symptoms of my mental illness are something that I encounter, in some mutation, on pretty much a daily basis. Whether it's lethargy pushing me to hit the snooze for three hours; anxiety keeping me awake even though my eyes are so tired they burn; or a general sense of malaise, like the end of the world is nigh and my doom is imminent; on any given day, I am fighting off my depression and anxiety.

It's constant. And it's exhausting.

I feel like being, or at least pretending to be, "well" takes up so much of my energy. And the time! Between personal hygiene, and rest, and eating, and being social, and reading, and relaxing, and also spending 45 hours a week at work (plus commute!), what time is left to be creative?

And yet creativity, writing, is such an integral part of my mental wellbeing. It's how I express myself, yes; it's how I communicate with people, yes; it's how I hope to change the world, of course.

But in so many ways, writing is how I learn. About myself, and about others.

So often, when I sit down to write an article or a blog post, it's because I'm trying to explore an idea, an issue, a scenario.

It's the same with novels. They start as an image, or a certain feeling I want to explore.

An image: A girl standing in the midst of a crowd of people singing her praises, making eye contact with the one person who's always had the ability to make her doubt herself.

A feeling: A girl in her mid-20s, trying to achieve her dreams and have it all, wondering why her life doesn't look like the TV shows, wondering where her "Friends" are.

I write because it's how I process, and I write because it's how I survive.

Depression clouds that. It makes me forget that I even want to write, much less be able to do so well.

And so being a depressed writer is a combination of taking breaks and allowing yourself to rest, and then, eventually, just forcing yourself to do it. Because in the end, you know it's what's best. It's what you need to do. To survive. To come out, in any way, ahead.

And sometimes, "just doing it" means taking it slow. It means sitting down to write, scrounging out 500 or 1,000 words, and celebrating that fact with a slice of cake or, if you're me, an episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

Taking it slow means relieving the pressure, the wildly fake pressure, that there is a timeline by which you need to "make it." And it means rethinking what "making it" looks like at all. It means diving into the fact that I'm 25, three years out of college, have completed four novels and don't have an agent yet. And here I thought I'd be signing my book deal before graduation...

The only way to survive as a depressed writer, I've found, is to acknowledge reality, including my limitations, and eventually embrace overcoming them. 

And sometimes, it means thinking ahead: I began writing this post on Thursday morning, knowing I wanted to publish it on Monday morning. I wrote it in chunks over the weekend. And here it is, ready for you, as scheduled. Because I knew if I waited until the last minute, something would come up — something always does.

You get better with time, at being a depressed writer. The more you get to know yourself and your depression, the more you can deal with it. But if you're overwhelmed — when you're overwhelmed — it's important to go back to the basics: small steps. One thing at a time.

You'll get through it. I believe in you. I believe in me. We've got this.


Unknown said...

This is great, Karis. Thanks so much for sharing.

J Lenni Dorner said...

“Because I knew if I waited until the last minute, something would come up — something always does.”

Crap, that's the most true statement of all time.

Karis Rogerson said...

Thank YOU, Jaime! <3

Karis Rogerson said...

Ha, right? It's taken me far too long to figure it out though, honestly, haha!