Depression and Writing: Don’t End Your Story

People often ask me why I write. I give them plenty of answers like, it’s what I was born to do (cheesy, I know), it’s as vital to me as the air I breathe (also cheesy), I love to create new worlds, I have stories to tell, etc. etc. Writing is also my outlet when I’m stressed or depressed. When I slip into the text and the world falls away, I feel a warmth in my chest that dissipates every awful thing I’m feeling. I’m lost in the story, and everything feels right with the world. In a way, my writing saves me from my negative emotions.

But what about those times when it can’t? What about the times when writer’s block is so strong is drives me into a downward spiral of depression?

I’ve written about anxiety, depression, and writing before, but what happened a week ago is very different.

On February 2nd, my depression almost won. I won’t go into great detail, but I checked myself into a psychiatric ward with the guidance and support of a friend so that I could take care of my mental health.

So I wouldn’t end my story.

You see, I love writing, but I do the same thing many writers do. I attach my self worth to my craft. If I can’t write, I feel like something’s wrong with me and I stress myself out more than necessary. It’s habit. It’s worse when I have a block on a big project I want to complete such as Purple Door District 2. For months I’ve struggled and felt disconnected with my craft. That’s bad enough, but when writing is supposed to be an emotional outlet, and I lose that, I sometimes feel like I lose my purpose too.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of things compounded over the months to make me so depressed, but not being able to write was a huge part of it. Writers tend to forget about their mental health when they’re so busy creating. We get swept up in what we should be getting done or how we’re not doing enough that we forget the warning signs our brain sends us when we’ve pushed ourselves too far.

-Lack of interest in the things we love

-Unable to deal with daily stresses

-Losing sleep over worry

-Beating ourselves down for not writing because we see ourselves as failures

Sound familiar? I was feeling all of this, and yet I didn’t realize just how depressed I was until it was almost too late. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m not shy when it comes to talking about my mental health. Several writers on twitter have been told that they shouldn’t discuss their emotions or mental health because it’s “unprofessional” or “no one wants to hear their drama.”

Bullshit.

Talking about how you feel makes you more real. It makes you more human and relatable. If Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog posts are your outlets and the only places you feel safe talking about your emotions, then do it. The United States has such a stigma about mental health, like it’s a hush hush topic that no one should talk about.

Again, I call bullshit. If we talked about it, then maybe more people would know when to reach out for help. Maybe more creative minds would realize they’re not alone in their struggles and there are people who care what happens to them.

You are not your craft. Your worth is not measured by your word or page count, or your amazon reviews, or the number of books under your belt.

One of the things that struck me the hardest about going into the psychiatric ward was when the therapist said, “You’re a writer? Oh yeah, I’ve probably seen most of the writers in the city here.” What does that tell you about us creative folk? We push and push and beat ourselves down when we should be lifting ourselves and others up for our/their accomplishments.

So in case no one has said this to you today, you matter. You are amazing. You are loved. And you have a purpose. No matter how lonely you feel, there’s a community out there that understands what you’re going through. If you’re too nervous to call someone for help, then try #writingcommunity on Twitter, or any number of writing hashtags on instagram. Believe me, you’ll find that there are more people like you than you even realize.

And during those really bad moments, when you feel like the world is coming down and you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, please consider calling the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

Your story isn’t over yet, and the world wants to hear it. You’re not alone.

Character POVs: What Should You Choose?

When you start writing a book, one of the first questions you have to ask yourself is what point of view are you going to focus on? There are several different paths you can take and explanations about why you might want to choose one over the other.

  • 1st Person POV: These are the “I” stories, books that are generally only in a single person’s POV. The narrator is the main character. You see this quite often in YA books like Hunger GamesDivergent, and The Lightning Thief. In some cases, a 1st person POV might have multiple character views. One of the Mercy Thompson books, while primarily told from Mercy’s view, switches to her mate, Adam’s view partway through the book. This is effective so long as you indicate that you’re switching the POV. Generally though, you want to just stick with one character. KA Applegate wrote a series called Animorphs in which each book had a single POV, but it switched characters from book to book. In one book you read about Rachel. The next focused on Tobias. Still, each individual book was through the eyes of one person.

 

  • 2nd Person POV: These are the “you” stories, ones that make the reader the main character, essentially. This is an excellent POV to use when you’re writing a choose-your-own-adventure book or blog posting. I’ve also seen this work well in poetry. Some examples of 2nd POV books include The Night CircusBright Lights, Big City, and All the Truth That’s In Me. Arguably, second person point of view is one of the hardest POVs to write. If you don’t do it the correct way, readers can become confused or lost in your writing. In some cases, they might feel offended, feeling that the writer is saying something wrong or rude about them. You have to remember that this is just another form of writing.

 

  • 3rd Person POV: There are a couple versions of 3rd person point of view that we’ll go into. In general, these are the “he/she” stories, so it’s the author telling a story through other characters. Third person POV is likely the easiest way to tell stories from multiple POVs. Some good examples, in general, include The GiverEnder’s Game, and The Game of Thrones series.
    • 3rd Person Omniscient: In these stories, the narrator knows all the thoughts and feelings of each character and doesn’t focus on just one. Everyone, more or less, gets page time and there aren’t many secrets that the reader doesn’t know. Some examples include Redwall by Brian Jacques.
    • 3rd Person Limited: Limited means that the narrator only relays the thoughts and feelings of particular characters. In essence, the narrator zooms in on a character and gives a closer look into that person’s thoughts and habits. No longer does the read know what everyone is thinking. Some good examples include Harry Potter and Alpha Omega.  

The next questions to ask are, why choose these different POVs? What works best for my book? Should I just have one POV or many?

That really depends on what you’re writing. If you have an epic fantasy with different races and locations where battles occur, you may consider writing 3rd person so you can explore more of your realm. Think of Lord of the Rings. Initially, we follow everyone on the journey, but eventually, the characters split off with Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli headed in one direction, the hobbits going in another, and Gandalf going a third.  You get to see what’s happening to everyone through the story without having to hear it from another character.

If your book is focused on a single character and you want to make sure the readers can get into her head, then you may consider first person instead. Hunger Games and Divergent both let you see the world through the eyes and minds of the primary character. Could it have been told through multiple POVs? Possibly, but it may not have been as effective.

Sometimes you may write a book with multiple characters in mind, only to realize later that it’s better to have one focus. Or, in the case of a dear writer friend of mine, in order to enhance her romance book, she had to include a brand new POV. She admitted it made the book that much stronger.

Experiment. Play around and write a couple chapters and see what works better for you. You may not realize your book is missing a POV until you finish it or a beta reader suggests that they wanted more information from another character. If that’s the case, don’t be afraid to rewrite part of the story. I had too many POVs in one of my books and I dropped out everyone but the main character and that made the book more focused and much stronger.

Good luck, and happy writing.