Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
All writers will find it difficult to write at some point because of mental health challenges. Most mental health problems lead to depression which is characterized by disinterest and lack of motivation. I want to address some ways that I have found to break through the seemingly impassable wall, and write.
Never jeopardize your health. While a tortured artist is glorified, it actually doesn’t allow you to enjoy what you create, or allow you to create your best. Your health is what allows you to function physically and mentally. Writing is difficult when you can’t use your hands or your brain. So, take care of them. The rest of your body is used to gain experiences and creative material, so don’t neglect yourself.
Physically Healthy to Write
Very few people can think clearly when they are starving or sleep deprived, let alone think creatively. Since exercise gets blood flowing and activates your brain, food, sleep and exercise are the most important things to take care of your physical health to allow you to write. Keep these things in mind as an overall approach, as well as day to day.
I suggest getting a snack or a meal before writing. That way a growling stomach doesn’t interrupt the creative flow just when you got in the zone. With exercise, if I have not done anything active in a day, my brain will not ignite to full capacity. Even just a walk around the block, private dance party to your jam, or cleaning up a room, will be enough activity and movement to get your brain activated.
As far as sleep goes, many creators find they are most creative right before bed when they’re tired. This is when I find minimal interruptions and enough quiet time that my brain hauls in the creativity. However, sleep deprivation will always overrule that magical time. So get enough sleep to keep your brain and body functioning and your eyes open.
Mentally Healthy to Write
The often neglected side of health, is your mental health. In reality, physical health does a lot to help your mental health. Sleeping, eating right, and exercise gives your brain what it needs to function. But your brain is a bit more complicated, and needs some extra attention. There is also a lot more to mental health than awareness of mental illnesses.
Gratitude, positive thinking, planning, organizing, and relaxation are all aspects of taking care of your mental health. Positive affirmation sessions or self-pep talks may help get you pumped up to write. While you might also try starting with making a list of everything else that is plaguing your mind so that you can put it aside and devote your attention to the moment.
Your mental health care may involve taking medication prescribed by a medical professional, and/or talking to a counselor. If you think this may be helpful, look here for tips at finding a therapist that is right for you. Even if you don’t think you struggle with a mental illness, you may greatly benefit from talking to a therapist of some kind. For example, I’ve learned that I tend to avoid writing because some part of me is scared about what the next step will be. That discovery and talking through it was accomplished because of my monthly psychologist appointments.
When you are taking care of your mind, you will not only be able to be more creative, but you will automatically have creative material available. Health takes work, whether it is mental or physical. Because of the work that you put into taking care of yourself, you have experiences and successes that will enhance your writing.
Battle the Depression
Everyone faces moments of disinterest or no motivation. Sometimes these are because of serious depression. Either way, it always eventually comes down to making distinct decisions to defy the depression. No matter what, the last say is yours. You may need to make the choice to get help with your illness. Or it may simply be making the choice to get out of bed. But you will never write if you don’t make the decision to start writing.
Having diligence and self control are the hardest characteristics for anyone to develop. So, clearly it will be difficult to break out of any depressive mood. However, as a child I learned that all hard things are easier when you making it a game. Even cleaning my room was fun when my sister and I played “the floor is lava” as we slowly put away our stepping stones. So, try giving yourself an opposite day, you can even complete it with a backwards and inside-out t-shirt if you want.
Any task can seem overwhelming when in a depressed mood. My method of coping is to simplify things as much as I can. Try adapting the Breakdown Writing Method to your needs and circumstance. Break everything down into the very next step, and then just tell yourself you only need to spend five minutes. Making the decision to spend five minutes writing is a whole lot easier than deciding to write a novel. But making a small decision is a healthy way of getting started and into the process of writing.
Tricks to Storming the Castle
Some days I am mentally and physically capable, but I just don’t have the motivation to write. Trying to force myself to write sometimes feels like banging my head against the wall, which I don’t think is a healthy method. I don’t want to increase my frustration or diminish my desire to write by adding pressure and stress to my inability to connect with a muse. Writing is a good thing and should be enjoyable and should improve your health. So, I’ve found a few tricks that may help getting past “the wall” and conquering the “castle” or task of healthy writing.
A great go-to that reduces stress is by reading a good book. Remind yourself of why you love books and stories. Find enthralling aspects of plot or characterization. Analyze why you love a book so much, what does the author do to keep you looking for more? If, for some reason, you don’t have a book available, try people watching. A game I enjoy playing is trying to create the story of people that walk by. Where are they going? Why are they dressed the way they are? What is their job, home, family, daily life life? These options get you excited about stories!
Cleaning for Mental Health
Frequently, I find myself in a room or apartment that is in desperate need of cleaning. Usually my surroundings effects my focus and my comfort, and hence ability to write. When I take the time to put away the accumulation of laundry, or stacks of books and papers, I feel like the air is clearer. Without clutter or distracting tasks, I feel like I can breathe freely and allow myself to get lost in a story. This will also contribute to movement that allows your brain to get extra blood flow and energy to work more efficiently.
Setting in motion a series of activities that prepares your mind to work in a certain way is a routine. This life hack applies to many different things, and will certainly apply to writing. Your routine may involve a room or area, an outfit, a ritual, or any number of things. But the concept of creating a habit triggers thought processes in your brain that will prepare it to be creative or focused, or active in whatever activity you have trained and prepped for.
Since I often try utilizing whatever five minutes I can, whenever and wherever, I don’t have much of a routine. But I do have a form of writing exercises that I use. My most simplified one is found in Breakdown Writing by finding the very next thing. Other exercising include writing all of my thoughts, regardless of the topic, story related or not. I have a number of documents on my computer that are just my written stresses of the time. Writing down my dreams or goals are other versions of the similar method. And finally, you can always use writing prompts. If nothing else, it will give you great practice!
Other Methods of Healthy Writing
I was recently told about dopamine hacks, which is literally using your brain to do things. By activating a chemical in your brain, you release emotions of excitement and motivation. An example of this is using a vision board. By looking at images and phrases that inspire you, you flip on the motivation and the desire to work towards your inspiration. I do this for writing by drawing out the plot and by planning. You might have a pintrest board for your story. Making a goal deadline with a reward is another way to utilize dopamine hacks.
What are some of the methods you have heard of or done to beat the depression or lack of motivation to write? How have you managed to create despite the craziness of life? Good luck, and let me know how you have found healthy ways to get yourself writing!