Writing Well – The Little I Know

If you write then you want to write well.   We all want to be the best we can be at whatever we practice.berryjam.ru

If you are someone who has a tendency towards anxiety and depression then you also want to be well.  We all want to feel as well as we possibly can.

If you happen to write and also have a tendency towards anxiety and depression then you want to write well and be well both at the same time.



When I first became unwell with post viral fatigue writing became a bit of a life line.  I had never entertained the idea of writing before.  Why would I write?  I was crap at English when I was at school, writing wasn’t even on my radar.

But here I was stuck in bed day after day after day.  No plays to direct, no workshops to go to.  If you are a creative person then the fastest way to trash your mental health is to stop creating.  Needless to say I became very low very quickly.  Writing was an accident waiting to happen.

And of course it turned into a happy accident and if my life were a film, which is sadly is not, then the film would have ended when I started to get published.  That would be a logical narrative surely, I get published, I find my voice and my health and my place in the world and get to live happily every after.

But life is rarely like a film and of course what happened next was everything unravelled yet again.  First my physical health then my mental health.  And at this point I was neither writing well or feeling well.

And here is my guess:

I am not the only person in the world who is in this position.

Other people out there must have similar struggles, must also be fighting to balance writing well with being well.

So I am interested in this question:

How do I create without breaking?

And this is the little I have worked out so far:



This may seem obvious but when you are struggling with anxiety or depression actually routine can be a hard thing to pin down. If it’s hard for you to get out of bed then how hard must it be to make a fixed time to create?  If you are going through a difficult patch, for whatever reason, holding onto some kind of routine can be the only way you will ever write anything.  When it is hard to make yourself do things, knowing you have a commitment to write for an hour might just make the writing possible.  Of course this is not always the case.  Sometimes self care has to come first in which case number 2 is in order.



A routine can be great until it’s not.  When it becomes a fast track for beating yourself up then it is no longer helpful.  If you are failing to meet your own demands it can be easy to use this as fuel to make yourself feel even more horrendous than you already do.  Sometimes what you need is just to let yourself off the hook.  Sometimes more sleep really is the answer!



I spent my first year getting up at 5:30 am to try and catch time to write before my kids got up. When it worked well it was lovely.  The house was quiet and the day was clean. I got my work done before the house and the kids started their endless demands on me.  There is a lot of writing advice out there that sings the praises of the early morning write.  If you want to write make time for it they say, and the best way to do that is to get up before the birds.  This is great advice as long as it serves you and for some people there can be several reasons why it might not, such as:

YOU HAVE KIDS – often my daughter would wake up when I was in the middle of writing. Cue very stressful mornings where she was tired and grumpy because she’d woken up too early (she is often in bed with me byt this time and if she wakes and I am not there then she just gets up, regardless of the time) and I was narky because she’d interrupted my writing time.  The whole thing became unpleasant pretty quickly.  And that’s assuming your kids sleep through the night, if you are still being woken up several times a night then sleep is precious commodity.

YOU HAVE SOME PHYSICAL HEALTH ISSUES – turns out if you have a chronic health thing going on, like post viral fatigue, you kind of need your sleep.  I spent a lot of time that year feeling pretty horrendous, the truth was I needed the sleep more than I needed to write.

YOU HAVE SOME MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES – this is another one where I failed to pay attention to what my body and spirit was telling me.  If I am tired I am on a fast track for feeling more anxious and more low.  I am just one of those people who does not deal well with sleep deprivation.  I might get my writing done but the rest of the day would fall apart pretty quickly because I just couldn’t cope with the demands of my day without a lot of rest.



This is easier said than done.  I have a lot of friends doing well, it’s lovely.  Sometimes it feels like everyone I know has found the work they are meant to be doing in the world except for me.  But I’ve gained nothing from comparing my life to where other people are, yes they might be carving out careers, successes and all sorts of lovely things while I am still bumbling about in the dark but fighting your reality wastes a lot of energy.  Work, instead, with just allowing what is to be.



I used to feel quite distressed if I didn’t create something that I felt was worthwhile.  I needed to make stuff I could submit or it was all utterly pointless.  But of course you need to write a lot of shite in order to get to the good stuff.  Some days shite is all you are going to get.  It’s all part of the process and it’s OK.  Not every moment needs to be a break through.  Making a goal of trying to be brilliant is going to lead to burn out pretty quickly, learn to love the lardy writing as much as the trim and toned.  Let it all be allowed and treat it all with a warm welcome.  Focus on just making rather than trying to make magic.  The magic is not your problem, it can take care of itself.



This is a work in progress for me, I imagine it is a work in progress for most people.  If you are struggling with anxiety and/or depression then the chances are that your relationship with yourself is not always hunky dory.  But it is very hard to create from a place where you don’t like yourself much, not impossible, but hard.  I’ve lost track of the days I couldn’t stand to write simply because in that moment I couldn’t stand myself.  If you can find a way to allow yourself to just be then the writing stands a far better chance of making its way on to the page.



No matter what is going on put your health first.  If that means pulling out of a project so be it. No one likes to step back or step down or not be part of things.  I know I am terrible for signing myself up for far too many projects because being busy sometimes feels easier than just being with myself but it usually doesn’t end well.  So I’ve made some hard choices, I’ve stopped doing somethings, stopped being part of some projects.  That can feel nippy, you can feel left out, behind, a bit more lost than you did before.  But both creativity and wellness needs space.  If your body, mind or spirit is telling you that you are doing too much then your job is to listen hard.  The alternative is pushing yourself even further into whatever pit it is you are trying to avoid with all your  busy, busy work.  So cut class, drop out, be quiet and still.  Whatever it is you are trying to fill with all the noise is going to need a chance to speak, don’t make it shout louder than it needs to.


So – just some thoughts, if they are useful then great, if they are not then great too, it’s always helpful to know what doesn’t work.  And there is always more to learn.  Most important of all, I believe anyway, is that you find a way to keep creating in those dark spots, it might just be the light you are looking for.






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