Mental Health Reasons You Aren’t Writing
In Alaska, September is the month where the snow returns. The rain comes harder than ever, summer leaves us behind, and the winds howl all night long. While in Fiji, winter is leaving and the warm spring is blossoming, here in the northern hemisphere, the mountains are turning colors with the fall and seasonal depression may be just around the corner.
I’ve worked with many authors from those drafting their first manuscript to bestsellers and let me tell you, winter is rarely the productive season. Despite the season giving us every excuse to stay glued to our desks, many writers get in a funk, but that’s not exclusive to this time of year. So let’s talk about writing funks, what types there are, and why self-care is essential to finishing your story.
The Self-Depreciating Author
This writer tells themself that nothing they write is good. No one’s going to like their scene, this plotline doesn’t make sense, why are they writing this particular story anyhow? There’s a shiny new idea around the corner, let’s write that one instead.
To them, I say yes, some stories aren’t worth finishing. But if a writer gives up on their work before they finish, they’ll never develop the unbiased sense of when to shelf a story. To shelf a story out of any emotion other than love is the incorrect path.
Many of us have experienced imposter syndrome in life. It may come when you have to give a big speech but you feel so small on the totem pole or when it’s time to submit your work but you just can’t because how could anyone want to read your work? You’re not a published author. Why would anyone stop to listen to you?
To those feeling that way, I suggest you don’t fake it until you make it, but fake it until you are it. If you don’t have the confidence yet to submit your pieces to beta-readers or agents or publishers, fake some I-want-to-speak-to-your-manager confidence and remind yourself that you will be okay if things don’t turn out perfectly. Everyone has to start somewhere and everyone improves. Published authors don’t happen without trying. And if you’re worried about if your work is good enough to submit, channel some confidence— real or fake— and reach out to high-level beta-readers. They’ll give you advice.
Some writers require large daily or weekly accomplishments to tell themselves they’re valid. Every month they might tell themselves they have to write 50,000 words or write 1600 words a day, with absolutely no breaks allowed, for example. And overtime, the required workload adds up and the ideas run out. The writer grows to hate writing.
To them I say: be realistic. Write in a way that brings you joy, not pain. If your schedule needs reworking, that’s perfectly alright. Always check how your time commitments affect your life and whether it’s the best balance for you.
Waiting for Inspiration
Alternately, I see many writers who never write not because they don’t have the time but because they’re waiting to feel like writing. No project gets done if one waits for inspiration. No one’s around to parent you and tell you to write. You have to hold yourself accountable.
The Smothered Artist
This writing blues syndrome appears most in winter. It’s the feeling of being stuck inside, the world is so grey, everything’s dreary. It’s a heavy feeling, a locked-in sensation that can also appear when you’ve been in one spot too long. Even when it’s uncomfortable, this feeling can be freed— or at least pushed back— by changing one’s environment. Perhaps you go on a drive to somewhere where the sun’s out and write on a picnic. Maybe you go to that little café that just opened in town that looks like it has the plushest chairs. Either way, however difficult it may feel, get up and move.
No writing funk can be solved by reading a stranger’s words on the internet, and deeper funks are rarely as easy to solve as having one good day or exercising a tiny bit. However, your writing depends on your mental health, so listen to your body. Be kind to yourself as the rain and the cold rolls in. If you ever feel like an imposter, burnt out, or just plain awful, realize that feeling isn’t permanent and isn’t a reflection of who you are. You are a fabulous writer already, and when you’re kind to yourself, you can grow into the best writer you can be.
Happy editing y’all. I’m rooting for you.
– Madeline Pine, Concept Editor, Civil Engineer, RedPenpal
I love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Your words inspire me and give me new blog ideas. If you’d like to follow Saskia and I on Twitter, our handles are Madeline_Pine and Wmalovesong1. To stay up to date with this blog, sign up for our Newsletter. Finally if you’re ready for professional editing, check out Saskia’s editing service Vanir Editing.