Practical Tips For Writing With Depression


With depression, it’s hard enough trying to find the motivation to get out of bed in the morning before the next day begins. Summoning the energy it takes to write can be even harder, especially since depression (and sometimes medications used to treat depression) can stifle creativity. Here are some practical tips to help writers suffering from depressive disorders: 

1. Write one sentence a day – on your phone. The sentences don’t have to form a story or even be related. Just set a daily reminder to open your Notes app and type a single sentence. Make it an opening line, a one-line synopsis, a description of the weather, anything! Let it be as vague, boring and inconsequential as “She opened her eyes and pulled off the covers.” The end. Congrats! You have just achieved your goal for the day!

2. Change your work space. Instead of writing slouched in bed, sit at the kitchen table, or vice versa. If you can’t leave your room, sit on the opposite end of your bed or even the floor. You don’t have to clean or decorate your space to make it cute. Your brain has become accustomed to its surroundings and even a small change – like facing the opposite direction – can help break away from this.

3. Thinking about writing counts as writing. This rule doesn’t usually apply but we’ve made an exception just for you! Your depression is affecting your creativity but, ironically, having a creative outlet can help. If you can’t physically write, set aside a few minutes a day to think about writing. Great if you’re bad at meditation.

4. Experiment with different methods of storytelling. Try a voice recording instead of your usual handwriting or typing. This way, you don’t even have to leave your bed. Set small goals like “I will create a one minute voice memo of a character description”.

5. Share your success! And your failures! Post on Tumblr, tell your friends, tell your pet… It doesn’t matter how small your success, celebrate it by telling another human (or otherwise) who will understand what it means to you and congratulate you for it. Treat it like a big deal even if it’s just a single sentence. Similarly, tell people about anything you perceive to be a “failure” no matter how small or silly. Get it out of your system and maybe find some support, so you can move on.

6. Instead of abandoning your goals, alter them! Don’t give up if you failed to meet your goal once or even ten times. You need to retrain your brain to understand that these attempts at bettering yourself are lifestyle changes. If something isn’t working, don’t abandon ship. Make your goals easier, for example: instead of writing daily, plan to write once a week, even if it’s just one sentence.

7. Abandon deadlines and the like – sort of. Some structure is good – even required – in recovery. But if trying to stick to a routine, meet a deadline, keep up your word count, wake up or write at a certain time or similar rules are restricting you from writing (for example, if you feel so bad about constantly missing them that you sink further into depression and write even less) then be sure to give yourself days without them every now and then. Make a note of whether this is helpful (you’re more productive – yay!) or harmful (you backpedal – oops). The trick is to keep experimenting with different methods until you find something that works for you!

8. Accept your circumstances. Instead of seeing yourself as an ex-writer or a failed writer, reaffirm that this is simply a time in your life where your mental health (and possibly other circumstances) have made it difficult for you to flourish creatively. Don’t fret over how long it’s been since you picked up a pen or opened your Word document. Accept that this is a temporary break or a roadblock that will be over one day. Until then, your task is to focus on healing.

Good luck!

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