SECOND GUEST BLOG BY UBER TALENTED NY TIMES BESTSELLING AUTHOR DAVID FARLAND The Artistic Mind: Staying Creative through Depression By David (Wolverton) Farland
But treating depression isn’t what this article is about. It’s about writing through depression. Here’s a bit of advice on how to do that:
As a teen suffering from bipolar disorder, I never received medical treatment. The wisdom of the time was that you just had to tough it out. Things have changed, and I know several writers who live with it now, thanks to the proper medications.
Having bipolar disorder is an emotional roller coaster. I recall one day walking down a street. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I felt so alive that I almost imagined that I could take flight. A few days later I was walking down the same street. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and I felt so terrible that I thought, “I wish I had my shotgun. I’d make those damned noisy birds shut up for good!” That’s when I realized that there was something wrong with me.
By then I was already writing, so what did I do? I’d be a liar if I said that I ever got anything done in my down times. The truth is, I wrote during my up times, and my writing was spotty at best. It wasn’t until my bipolar disorder was ebbing away that I began to write earnestly. Yet my advice here stands: take good advantage of your up times.
When I first began to suffer from seasonal affective disorder a few years later, I learned that I had to make the most of the good times. So for a couple of years—1992 and 1993—a disproportionate amount of my writing got done in the summer.
But what if you don’t have “up times” with your kind of depression?
Write anyway. Tough it out. If you are trying to write while you’re suffering major depression, make sure to set reasonable goals for yourself, and then celebrate your wins. Don’t tell yourself, “I’m going to write 100 pages today!” I’ve never written that much on even my best day. Instead, while suffering major depression, I might say, “I’m going to write a scene.”
I’d find that after I’d written a scene, I usually felt pretty good for having done it. In fact, I felt so good that I’d write another, and another. That’s how I’d celebrate—by writing more.
Interestingly enough, some psychiatrists believe that among artists, depression may be rooted to a feeling that they aren’t able to communicate. When you do get some good work done, then, the work itself may feel like a cure. I find that for me, working regularly, writing full-time, seems to be a kind of therapy. I don’t just like my job, my body craves it, the way that it craves exercise.
So know that if you just keep writing, you really can help yourself just by pushing through it. I used to run long distances, and I find that it’s much like running. Sometimes when running, you feel as if you’ve “hit the wall,” reached a point when you’re drained and exhausted. Usually I’d hit it at four miles. But when you push through it, you soon find that you reach a place where your energy seems boundless and you get that “runner’s high.” Guess what, writers can get a “writer’s high,” too.
So if you’re a writer suffering from depression, try taking advantage of the up times. Then try writing through the down times. The combination may actually be healing.
One more thing: if you have a writer or non writer friend who suffers from depression, don’t ignore their problem. Give them a hug once in a while, even if it’s only a figurative hug. We’re all in this together. Don’t leave anyone behind.