How to Survive as a Broke Ass Writer: Surviving Writer’s Depression
Photo By: Christian Hopkins
There are a number of bright sides to being a writer, but I’ll have to admit that there are probably more dark issues that writers face in their day to day lives and creative processes than we (writers) like to admit. A popular stigma is alcoholism (I personally have a coffee addiction but tomato-tom-ah-to) and we’re looked upon as the most unrealistic and unmotivated artists in creative arts. That’s why writers are rarely called artists when musicians, painters and sculptures can use the terms interchangeably. Nonetheless, most of the unsavory generalized traits of writers can be managed with maturity and rather quickly; except for depression. If you ask any writer, I can put money on the fact that many of them will admit that they struggle with depression.
A few nights ago, I was in bed and slept for 14 hours. My kidney stones were blaring and I was experiencing the harsh realization that I was sleeping alone in bed again after a stint of sharing it with a partner- I was exhausted and became depressed. On top of all that, I had a few deadlines due the next morning. I thought to myself, “Well, I feel like shit. This is probably a good time to write about what to do when you’re depressed as hell and have to make your living as a writer.”
When the depression comes on from illness:
If you’re one of those writers who is actually obsessed with being a writer and works on a number of projects, pieces or chapters at once, you probably don’t notice when sickness begins to slowly cast its shadow upon your body. Your immune system has little ways of telling you something is wrong before full blown symptoms occur. If you feel you get a slight headache, tight muscles or a foggy head, you might want to jump on taking some ibuprofen, Vitamin Water with B-6 and B-12 in it and get some extra rest. If you don’t try to heal those small symptoms, you’ll end up laid up in bed unable to move without having the slightest idea why.
Not knowing the cause of an illness or how to treat it can bring on depression. Being helpless and incapacitated can be frustrating for anyone. Take care of your body!
If you are depressed and you have been diagnosed with depression by a psychiatrist:
This is a bit of a tough subject because I am not a mental health professional, but I think it is safe to say many writers have gotten to a point, particularly early on in their careers where there needed to be some evaluation in regards to mental health issues. I mean, if you have family members telling you you’re crazy for wanting to take on a career that makes very little money and can’t solidify a healthy future for yourself for years and years, it’s easy to begin to believe them.
When people look down on you for “constantly scribbling in your notebook” or “being obsessed with your laptop” it can take a toll on your perception of yourself. Belittling environments and comments can get to you and make you wonder if you are a crackpot. It’s really sad.
If you see a psychiatrist after going through the motions with a therapist, and you’re told you suffer from depression, take the steps you need to take to get better. Medication is fine, because depression can be brought on by a chemical imbalance, but taking extra steps to making choices that make you feel COMFORTABLE in life will kill a lot of turmoil. Knowing it is going to be a long road and not idealizing this job, rejection and the effort it takes to succeed can ward off an emotional nose dive.
If you’re depressed due to a break up:
This is probably the most common and relatable situation that brings on a bout of depression. My advice? Write about it! Take your pain and your past and share it with the world… or just in a journal. I personally get inspired to write my columns by some real life situations I go through. I am pretty raw from a separation from a guy and I think pitching a story idea and having it be excepted by my editor really helped me feel my ideas and feelings were valid. It also meant I could go ahead and help others through their problems.
This is not a relationship column so I’m just going to say that all the feelings of rejection, loss and pain really tapers off over time. You’ll be standing when the initial sting subsides…but as a writer, what are you going to do? Lose your job because some jerk left you?? You’re better than that.
If you’re depressed and completely bedridden:
Hopefully, you have a laptop because you should just write in bed. I mean, problem solved.
If you’re depressed and feel like you need to whine to everyone about it:
If you have a career where the press actually cares about you, you should probably keep your dirty laundry to yourself. If you’re happy just being a member or the press or an underground poet or author, remember that you’re an adult and your family and friends have full lives as well.
If you refuse to write about it and blab about your problems all over town in an unstructured way, you may lose credibility by showing your weaknesses to people. I’m not paranoid- writers are thought leaders and creative people. If you’re expressing yourself in a manner that is a bit immature, people may stop reading your work. I know you’re human, but you’re also a grown up.
If you’re depressed and you’ve never been depressed, ever:
Then you’re not depressed…so, just wait it out. Cry it out.