I just had the most wonderful three weeks of writing! I studied with David Farland and enjoyed the most stimulating "writer's high" ever! My writing was passionate; I walked on air; I couldn't stop grinning.
Now I am back to reality: screaming parrot, barking dogs, whining children, ornery spouse, work expectations, filthy house, etc.
And...l have sunk into a deep depression that I can't seem to shake. It is all I can do to just get out of bed. I knew there would be a bit of an adjustment but this is ridiculous. I am seriously concerned and wonder how I can get my "mojo" (writing fever, passion for life) back. Have any of you dealt with this before and, if so, how did you overcome it?
It is so tough. Here's what I've done w/ limited success:
- Got a smart phone for the internet and use your computer only for writing (its amazing where you can write a hatrack post and you don't want to know what I am doing right now) - Cancelled cable tv and removed all tvs from main floor - Set alarm for 5:00 every morning to get a min of 45 minutes writing
Jesse Ventura said it best in Predator: "I ain't got time to bleed!"
You are fresh off of a great writing camp. Set the alarm on the other side of the room, get up and make a delicious pot of coffee (or other motivating treat) and get at it, whether you feel like it or not.
Depression is a natural feeling for people at times in their life. Just keep pluggin. Good luck!
Sounds like you had a wonderful time, Lissa! Your situation is completely normal, if that is any consolation.
Though my experience was a little different (after having the writers' high following some great opportunities, etc, not only did I have to return to "real" life, but then all sorts of tragedy struck with family stuff, some of which was permanent, like I had to go through a paradigm shift!), I think what will drag you out is the same. The only thing that worked for me was to jut get real about my writing, and DO it. I had actually said "I just can't write anymore, I can't fit it into my life," but of course, that just didn't work. So I had to accept the fact that I have my particular lot in life, there are things that won't change. I changed the things that COULD change, like scheduling and stuff like that, and just worked with what I had. It was a very gradual thing. Literally, like 15 minutes at a time. Slowly I moulded things into something I could work with and around. It didn't happen overnight. It took a lot of trial and error. Even now, I have to reassess things now and then. But it worked--just grab whatever 15 minutes life hands you, and write like mad! You'll notice a pattern after a while, and you can use that pattern to create your writing schedule. And I will say, a schedule does work wonders. This way, everything has its time. Cleaning, kids, parrot, husband. And writing.
Writing begets writing. It's always a very hard transition to go from a workshop back to real life, but it can be an enlightening experience that you can be the better for. Good luck!
Relax and give your mind time to rest from the frenzy.
My first story after Boot Camp was crap. I needed to let all of the information I had learned mesh in my brain a little longer. The next story was better, but I had to let myself take a break. Then I started with something small.
Also, don't put some great pressure on yourself. Don't think your next story needs to be perfect.
I've heard of similar burnout after workshops like Clarion and Odyssey. Don't worry about it.
Give yourself some space, figure a week, maybe two of only writing if the mood strikes you but not having guilt if you don't write at all. It'll come.
PS--AGREE with Wordcaster. There is NO ROOM for cable TV. Canceled mine years ago, and never looked back! If I absolutely must watch something, it's almost always available through Netflix or something.
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I am sorry that you are feeling depressed and hope that you get well soon.
I suffered from clinical depression shortly after I graduated from college. I suspect everyone's situation is different, but my depression stemmed from isolation and working a job that I hated. The solution, for me, was to move back home with my parents and enroll in a masters program. This cured the depression the Prozac didn't. I haven't suffered from clinical depression since.
As for the writing 'Mojo', I find that as long as I write, I am happy. Though my family and friends often told me they thought I was a talented writer when I was in high school, I largely neglected it from then until about a year ago (I'm 36 now). When I rediscovered my passion for writing, my life changed. Though I had (and still have) a great wife and little boy, I always felt something was missing in my life. That 'something' was the writing, and since I started writing again I have been a much happier person.
I know how it is to be depressed, sometimes we feel like we have to attack the depression head on to solve it; take medicine, see a therapist, whatever. But I think it can be equally effective to just behave as if you aren't depressed, and get on with the writing and living, and you may find the depression will go away by itself.
It also sounds like the reality you have is making you depressed. If the screaming parrot or barking dogs are bothering you, perhaps they need to find a new home. If the house is filthy, perhaps hiring a service to clean it, or teaming up with your spouse to clean it, will make you feel better. Hard work as a form of exercise increases the neurotransmitters that are related to happiness. If work expectations are unusually high, are you in a position to delegate some of it, or can you speak with your boss if you feel you are carrying more than your fair share of the burden?
Also, can you devote a couple of hours per day just for writing? Preferably the same time of day? I carve two hours out every morning just for writing, and whether I'm in the mood or not, I write. I've found it to be immensely beneficial to both my writing and my mood. That thrill you get when you turn an eloquent phrase, discover a new plot twist, or finish a scene or story is the best preventative medicine for me. Perhaps you'll find it to be the case for you.
I wish you the best in overcoming your depression. You can do it, take it from someone who has.
I suffer regular bouts of depression, during which nothing is less appealing to me than writing. It's very hard for me to work up the desire to open up that word document and start typing.
Oddly enough, I've found that writing actually helps me feel better, even though I don't want to do it at the time. There's that entire study where they found that people actively working toward a goal are happier than those who aren't. Not a big surprise, really.
My advice would be to just push yourself. Even if nothing in the world seems less exciting than writing, open up that word document and get a few words down. Just like anything else in life, your writing will keep going strong if you keep up the momentum, but the moment you slow down you might end up skidding to a halt and having trouble starting up again.
I can't say I get depressed without some massive outside influence---influence from work, usually, but most of the little things I brush out of my brain as soon as I walk out the door. (Just the other day I had it rubbed in my face that my experience and opinions mean nothing to some in management---but that happened after the not-writing, so it's not a cause.)
But I do go through somewhat blank periods where I do no writing---I'm in one now---and, usually, they last weeks rather than months. I've got a couple good ideas and some nitpickety revisions on hand, but I just haven't gotten to the start of 'em.
Still...I once got a compliment on a rejection slip, a very long time ago now, that so paralyzed me that I didn't write for about three months after. Sometimes finishing something big, like a novel, keeps me out of commission for a few months.
(Rejectons don't faze me...they annoy me, but they don't faze me anymore. (I just got one yesterday.))
Sorry to hear about your crash after Dave's workshop. A couple of things to ponder.
1. Remember what Dave said about trying to write when you're depressed? After a tragedy in his life, he stopped working on the RUNELORDS book until he felt better b/c he didn't want his depression to seep into the book. So maybe the solution isn't trying to write your way out of it. Maybe put the writing on hold for a few weeks until you feel better.
2. At the workshop, you described yourself as a beginner. I remember when I was first starting down the writing road, I had a lot of similar experiences that you described. Looking back, it simply a matter of realized just how much I had to learn. It seemed overwhelming...and I felt there was no way to master it. What happened? I quit for a few months, sometimes longer, often telling myself I'd never write again. So maybe that's part of it.
Now, if you're depressed because you had to come down from an awesome high (the shift was difficult for me, too), then put writing on the back burner until you have the emotional strength to order your life the way you want.
If it's the second -- if you're depressed because you suddenly feel overwhelmed by where you're at and how far you have to go -- then here's what I'd do ... and what I wish I had done all those times I quit.
Take one -- AND JUST ONE -- point where you think you need work. Maybe it's try/fail cycles. Maybe it's cutting out your to-be verbs. Maybe it's character voice. Whatever. Now, write a short story, and focus ONLY on that one technique. Don't worry about anything else. So, for one short story, focus only on cutting out to-be verbs, or using all five scenes in every scene, or character voice. When you finish, make a note of what you learned, and decide if you want to continue working on that skill for the next story. Eventually, you'll "master" that skill; it'll come naturally to you. Then change your focus onto another technique or skill. When you finish a story, proofread it, don't worry about rewriting for now, and send it out. Then get to work on the next story.
This process does a lot of things.
First, because you're writing short fiction, you get the thrill of finishing things. That in itself should make you feel better.
Second, because you're now focused on developing one skill per story, every story is a success because you developed that one skill.
Third, if you can write ten stories in three months, focusing just on five skills (two stories per skill), you'll be amazed at how far you've come.
Fourth, by not focusing on rewriting, you can focus on the next story and getting better. Also, one only learns how to rewrite by writing lots and lots of stories. As your skills increase, you'll be able to see how to improve earlier stories. But that don't happen if you've got no skills!
Fifth, by sending your work out to magazines, and keeping your stories on the market, you are acting as a professional writer. After 20 rejections, you'll stop caring about them. You'll realize its a lot more fun to write, finish, and submit than it is to worry about getting published.
But it all begins with FOCUSED writing ... and that depends on whether your depression is caused by suddenly becoming overwhelmed by everything you've learned.
But if you're depressed simply because you left the wonderful little world of St. George's Ramada Inn, then I'd encourage you to put writing one the back burner for a few weeks until you begin to feel better.
My thanks to all~ I appreciate the opportunity of reaching out to virtual strangers, knowing I can trust their responses. You have all provided insight and motivation. In the final analysis, I think I wasn't ready for the (as you so beautifully coined it, Jeff) "crash" from the creative summit I was on. It totally blindsided me and I am still struggling to regain a rhythm. (Even as I write this brief response, the kids are downstairs fighting loudly!)
I will soldier on. BTW Jeff, I love your short story/element at a time suggestion. Great idea.
Just wanted to say that even though I didn't say anything here... I've never had that big a problem with depression, at times I have gotten a little depressed, usually related to my writing not improving or medium depressed concerning a real life situation but nothing like you described. Anyway, despite all that I'm glad your doing better. Sometimes we do have to learn how to handle new situations and that involves emotions. Next time it may not hit you so hard since you have experienced it already.