Everyone I know deals with anxiety, depression, or some mental health challenge to their headspace and emotions.
I’m one of those people. I’ve spent my life climbing a never-ending, ever-growing mountain of mental health issues.
In the last few years however, with a lot of hard work, I’ve gotten off my anti-depressants and I’ve had fewer episodes. It feels like I’ve summited the peak and now I’m going down the other side like a seasoned climber – more experienced, aware of my steps, careful with unstable ground.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that writers, and most creative professionals, have difficulties with depression like it’s part of our character sheet.
But does creativity automatically equal to depression in writers and artists?
Some mental health professionals point out that writers simulate the pain and suffering in their work, leading to increased chances of poor mental well-being. It’s also solitary activity that can isolate people if they don’t have an active lifestyle, go outside often, or have a positive social life. There’ve been numerous studies making connections between the tragically depressed and their brilliant writing.
We’re a bittersweet combination.
What’s helped me is a lot of nature and meditation.
Things like changing my sleep cycle, diet, and more exercise than I thought a human could handle gave me a positive, regular schedule to follow, which helps build a foundation to work with.
Meditation and time in the mountains helped my mind relax. I saw things from a more objective place. The practice of conscious meditation gets you to stop focusing on everything around you and inside your head by bringing your awareness to one single point. The easiest for me is breath because I can concentrate on my lungs expanding and contracting, or the air flowing through my nose.
It’s hard to let your brain wander with that much focus. The crazy part is, the more you do it, increasing your mindfulness each time, the more your body and mind will relax.
Meditating before writing helps me clear all judgments of what I’m putting down. I feel more precise with my words, like the act of typing is its own practice of mindfulness. It gets me writing sooner because I don’t hesitate or delete every half-of-a sentence my fingers try to spit out.
Mindful meditation puts you in the role of the observer by having you watch your thoughts go by without attaching anything personal to it. This state of mind lets you zoom out and look at your writing with a broader perspective.
Love the work you do.
- Acknowledge that you have an idea you’re so excited to write about that you want to share it with the world.
- Respect your choice and cast of characters, and how much work you’ve put into them, even if they require major tweaks down the road. Characters grow, just like you do.
- Love the setting of your world, especially if you spent months or years creating it.
Take a moment to recognize all the hard work you’ve done. I do it any time I feel a little intimidated, overwhelmed, or just plain negative about myself as a writer. I have a hard time manifesting a positive attitude out of nowhere but having evidence of my progress shuts my negativity down real fast.
When all else fails, I go outside and enjoy the outdoors. Or I’ll shamelessly spend 30 minutes playing with my dog or trying to get my cat to acknowledge me. I’m kidding, she adores me.
The point is, find something that will reset your brain and give it a good, uplifting foundation to kick off from.
Watch funny videos. Read or listen to your favorite author’s tips on writing. Tell a friend about what you’re doing to get yourself excited to add on to it.
One powerful piece of advice I was given about both my depression and my struggle with quieting my overactive mind was:
“Your thoughts aren’t as important as you think they are.”
Not in a negative, “ignore your mental health” context. But in a Buddhist kind of way to not take yourself so seriously, to forgive yourself for how critical you are, and to give yourself the permission to feel happy once in a while. When I trash talk myself, I take those thoughts to the garbage, or I try to recycle them into something positive.
It’s a thought, not a god’s voice giving you a universal, omnipotent truth about who you are.
Your thoughts and feelings may turn your writing against you, but it doesn’t have to be that way. A daily meditation practice can help you turn it back around to where your writing empowers your mental state. And like when you practice any other skill, frequency and consistency will make you a master.