How to Quickly Treat Depression for Writers

OK, writers. ‘Fess up. Ever feel like quitting?

I know I do sometimes. Call it a crisis of faith. Call it “the resistance” as Steven Pressfield does. Whatever it’s called, no matter how I try to proactively treat the circumstances, there are times when I just don’t believe anymore. And man, is it ever easy then to get depressed.

I’m not talking about the clinical depression that rightly requires lengthy counseling or specialized medical help. Nor am I in any way discounting the severity of those struggles. I’m guessing these periodic depression episodes for writers and other creative folk could lead there if left unchecked. It sure can feel like it.

At those times of intense doubt, I find I tend to just stop — or at least struggle mightily to keep doing what I’m doing.

Maybe I felt snubbed by someone, my 47-step path to writing success isn’t going the way Chapter 37 of Michael Hyatt’s awesome book Platform said it should, or I’m simply paralyzed by the demons of doubt.

I find I start slipping when I begin to wonder “if my work went away, would anyone notice?” Or when I think about all I want to create — all I want to make — the list can simply be overwhelming. I’ve already shared some Biblical help for feeling overwhelmed here. But combine that massive pile with my obsessive concern that no one is really listening, and I can feel the creative juices leaving — right down the corroded drain of depression.

Have you heard that flushing sound before? Ya, that’s them. Gone. And I’m left foraging in the garden of creativity for worms. If there’s any left over by the time I get there. Which I doubt….

See what I mean? I suspect I’m not the only writer who’s ever felt this way before. I don’t claim to have all the answers — all the problems maybe. But I humbly offer a few steps that I’ve found helpful to quickly treat depression as a writer if I feel it coming on.

Six Simple Steps

  1. Get outside. Psalm 19 reminds us that the heavens declare the glory of God. Doesn’t do much good if we don’t take the time to listen.  A walk in the park or even a stroll through the back yard can be all we need to regain perspective on how big God is and how small our problems really are.
  2. Get around some kids. If you don’t have any of your own, you should definitely ask before taking someone else’s. That is called kidnapping and is, in fact, frowned upon in most civilized societies. But there’s something about the fresh perspective of a child to reset our own priorities. I head outside to toss a ball around or play for a little bit. And remember when I dreamed all day long.
  3. Get in the Word. “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.” (Ps. 19:7) As Christ-followers, we all know this to be true, yet we resist the one thing we need most when we feel the slide into depression. When we begin to slide, it’s because we’ve slipped away from the truth. Get back quickly with an injection of the Word to beat loneliness. That’s how Jesus did it.
  4. Get connected. Find some fellowship with someone who will listen and speak the truth to you. Many people don’t easily share positive feedback because they think it isn’t needed. Negative feedback, on the other hand, always feels easier and even somehow required to share. Find positive but truthful people to build you up. And then return the favor. In fact, this Godly Writers community is a good place to start.
  5. Get your bearings.  It’s counterintuitive, but the most productive use of your time may be to stop moving and reacquire your true north. Pull out your mission statement, dust off your reasons for writing, and remember your why – before the how smothers you.
  6. Get praying. “Pour out your heart to God.” (Ps. 62:8) We have a Savior who knows what it’s like to be tempted with depression in the same way we’re feeling. He gets it. And He takes up our plight as an advocate with our Father who just happens to delight in giving us all good things.  He didn’t even spare His only Son for us. So don’t be afraid to go there. Often. And don’t forget, He’s a writer, too.

Question: What am I missing? What ways have you found helpful to quickly treat depression as writer when you feel it suffocating your dreams?

* Image credit: Daniel R (Creation Swap)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bobbie-Cole/100003675480465 Bobbie Cole

    It’s true, Bill. Often the best remedy for not being able to get on isn’t sitting at your desk but taking a day off, I find.

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      A whole day off! What a concept!! But you’re right. When we start thinking that it all depends on us, we’re in trouble. Taking time to step away can help give some needed perspective.

      Thanks!

  • http://www.beyondthesinnersprayer.wordpress.com/ Barb

    I love all your ideas, Bill, plus I love the way you write – if I wrote as well as you do I wouldn’t struggle so much with doubt! 

    I thought your get outside and get around some kids ideas were interesting. I know I can get so wrapped up in writing that I don’t go outside but I always feel better when I take a break and go for a walk or out to do some yard work. 

    I’ve also been thinking about scheduling some volunteer activities in the afternoon so I have to get out of the house each day. I only have one kid left at home (out of four) but she’s 16 and works 15-20 hours a week. 

    Since I homeschooled all my kids, it’s really unusual for me to have all this free time alone in the house – I guess I need to start putting some distractions into my life now that all my kid distractions are leaving the nest!

    • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

      Wow! What a creative thought to intentionally install “distractions” into our lives to fuel our creativity. Looks like you might be selling your creative talents short. We really do need ‘tactile” relationships to connect with others to keep us sane don’t we?

      Thanks!

      • http://www.beyondthesinnersprayer.wordpress.com/ Barb

        Yes, I think we do – and also so we don’t rely on blogging for our relationships!

        • http://www.BillintheBlank.com/ Bill Blankschaen

          Good point!

  • Rosann

    Oh yes, I’ve been there.  I agree with your suggestions.  For me, walking away from technology and immersing myself back into my personal life is really the best solution, that includes time with God.  Of course, my most recent slump was after the death of my father in law and I really thought I’d be taking a good month off of writing, but as it turned out the Spirit stirred my soul and launched me on a 31 Days to…series that has completely resolved my depression and lack of focus.  I think above all else, God will lead us to our healing and revival if we tune in to Him regularly.  

  • http://rebootingworship.com/ Jamie Kocur

    Oh, what a great post. I’ve found just stepping away from my work for a bit helps immensely. Sometimes doing something else creative can help, like photography. 

  • Kevin Thornhill

    I totally agree. Taking a walk on our coastal shores refreshes my mind and its good to do this without having to feel “guilty” for taking a break or day off