Last week, we discussed how to keep up the word count during times of emotional upheaval. But what if the upheaval comes from within? This is Mental Health Awareness Week. Artistic sorts have a reputation for going through periods of depression (think Van Gogh’s ear). Whether you’re clinically depressed or simply have a case of the blues or the blahs, writing can be a challenge.
Writing Tip for Today: What are some ideas for writing through depression?
- Journal Your Heart Out. When I’m down for whatever reason, I turn to my journal. This is the place where I can pour out my heart and still feel safe. If you’re a person of faith, complain to God all you want! Sometimes, journaling even helps me identify what I’m REALLY down about. To keep it secret, store your journal on a special thumb drive or stuff a traditional journal between the mattresses. The point here is to keep separate your personal life from your writing life. At least to start with. After you process your feelings for a time, the material might get into your “real” writing. One brave blogger I know actually posts her journal on a special tab on her website. She classifies it as “raw,” so the reader knows what to expect.
- Take the Feelings, not the Dirt. Depressing events or situations can be a gift to your writing. I used my broken heart surrounding my adult child’s drug addiction to help others in an essay that was published in a couple of prominent newspapers. Years later, people still commiserate with me about that essay. If you write fiction, bring the EMOTIONS to your characters, leaving the drama and dirt behind in your journal. Readers long to connect through emotion, so your honest pain will be appreciated in a novel. Just don’t forget to offer the reader a way out of the black hole–even if things in your real life aren’t so promising at the moment.
- Avoid the TMI Trap. Separating emotion from your raw circumstances can be tricky. When you write about your spouse’s awful and long demise from cancer, for instance, you may remember all the procedures, tubes, whistles and bells. But be careful about overloading your reader with technical stuff. Too Much Information can quickly derail the connection to emotion. Soft pedal all but the most important aspects of anything medical, gory or otherwise horrific. In fiction, it’s important to make your reader get the feeling they experience something long, arduous or upsetting WITHOUT experiencing the actual time or blow-by-blow account. Even if your life is a train wreck and you must fight your way out of a funk, writing is a great way to relieve tension and identify problems. If you believe you are experiencing depression, please go get some info HERE. And for now, whip out that journal and let your feelings flow.