That Muse is a tricky minx.
I have not made it a secret that I suffer from depression. I lived with major depression for years through high school and college. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter.
One of my biggest struggles with depression, besides combating suicidal thoughts, is just feeling exhausted and empty all the time. This is particularly frustrating because I still manage to get these inspired bursts of creative energy and I will write a novel synopsis, a poem stanza, and then I just poop out. I rarely have the energy to follow these thoughts through to completion.
Since having a baby and starting work full-time, I have had to learn to just get things done, regardless of how I feel. Maybe this isn’t conducive to creative genius. Regarding wheels to the ground, buckling down work, I have found some ways to get my butt into gear.
Disclaimer: If you are struggling with depression, please don’t hesitate to seek help. Talk to your doctor, there are options for treatment. This post should not supplant any attempts to treat your depression, and one aspect of therapy may be taking some time to step back from things that are causing you excessive stress. You can’t always power through an illness and depression is as much an illness as any other chronic disease.
Triggering the Muse: A List
- Sit at a desk. Having a designated workspace can do wonders for productivity. Having an area that is blocked off from the television or other distractions can help you focus on the screen or page in front of you. Facing a window might indeed be the only allowable distraction, and that is mainly because outside light can be useful for your mental health.
- Disconnect from the internet. Stay with me here, short of needing to conduct research, the internet is ace for distracting people from their work. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (follow me on all of them!), YouTube, Netflix, Reddit, or whatever deep web site you fill your days with will only suck time away from the project you obviously desperately want to finish. Disconnecting the internet takes away that easy distraction and that few seconds it takes to plug everything back in, reconnect, establish that connection, etc. might be enough hassle for you to shrug it off and get back to your project.
- What if you are staring at your computer or notebook and you have no idea about what to write? I have gotten the writing urge many, many times in my life only to sit down and not have any concrete idea to start with. Just start writing. You will be inspired by your random musings as you begin crafting sentences and imagining characters and scenes. Putting pen to paper is often the hardest part of the process so don’t lose your momentum. Ideally, you should be writing SOMETHING every day (I admit this is advice I also desperately need to follow, even though I know better).
- Read books on writing. Besides being extremely useful for improving the mechanics of your writing, they also provide many valuable prompts for practicing these mechanics. I have squirreled away at least two novel ideas from Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell.
- Follow your favorite writers on social media and subscribe to their websites if they blog. The best kick in the butt sometimes is exposure to those who have found success doing exactly what you want to do. And they often post really sound advice for writing, storytelling, and publishing.
- Find somebody who supports your dreams. Whether this is a significant other, a best friend, an online group, a club, etc. find somebody who can lift you up when you aren’t feeling yourself. They should be willing to read your work and offer constructive criticism. My husband is my biggest supporter, and I tear up now just thinking of all the times he supported me when I wanted to give up on my dream. I am still working towards that dream, don’t get me wrong, and I may never really succeed in this industry, but I will always be grateful for his support.
- Look through old photo archives on websites like Library of Congress and New York Public Library. These photos may serve as inspiration for a stalling story or a character that you haven’t fully fleshed out yet.
- Create a Pinterest board for your story. This method is useful if you already have a general idea of what you want to write. For example, I am currently working on the first draft of a YA novel about witches in 1400s Europe. I can search for witch lore from that era and find things like the tools they may have used for casting spells, clothing, buildings, etc. The nature of Pinterest allows me to save these really random links and images to a single board that I can refer back to, both to reference and to be inspired.
- Participate in a writing competition like Writer’s Digest Your Story which runs every other month and is free to enter. They also host several competitions which you have to pay to join. NaNoWriMo runs two novel writing competitions each year, in which participants try to write 50,000 words in a month. The goal of the contest is to inspire daily writing in the belief that it is better to churn out the first draft of anything rather than slog for years on the first draft of a perfect novel, which still probably won’t be perfect. It is indeed an exercise in persistence and creativity. There is no entry fee, and the only reward is a finished first draft and a sense of accomplishment. But hey, isn’t that enough of a reward as an aspiring writer? Plus they have a built-in community of like-minded people, and this very well may be where you find your tribe. I will be participating in Camp NaNoWriMo this year, which is the April competition and is a little looser in structure, so participants are not restricted to the novel format (not that they are during the November competition). I hope to finish the aforementioned first draft about the witches during this month, so I can finally move on to the even more dreaded second draft.
My hope is that you can take something away from my advice, I employ many of these methods when I approach my writing, especially since I began blogging multiple times a week.
I Want to Hear From You!
Let me know in the comments if you were able to bust the writer’s block, what project you are working on right now. Or just shout-out if you are struggling with depression, but you’re still here, still working, and still trying to live your best life!