Using Writing to Fight Depression

Writer's Block II

Why write at all? For those who do it from blogs to bestsellers it almost always starts as a compulsion. Perhaps the draw is the language, the intricacies of syntax and how words can say many things at once.

For others, it’s the subject. Some of the best pieces of writing from any era start with a single question.

Many great works of literature (and art in every genre) have come from artists with well-publicized depression, often framed as an integral part of their art.

Thus, there is a troubling stereotype that somehow great art and depression are tied together. The implication is that if you have depression that should naturally lead to a productive artistic “blue period” or something like that.

The symptoms of depression that affect people in their day jobs also affect artists in the exact same way. It is neither exempt from the crippling nature of depression symptoms nor is it a sure-fire path to treatment. While writing and depression are not mutually exclusive, neither are they dependent on the other.

Still this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to capture on paper (or screen, most likely) some of your thoughts and feelings. No one but you ever need read it, but simply the act of organizing your thoughts into sentences and paragraphs can help bring clarity to any number of issues.

As far as writing advice goes, shelves of books have been written on the subject. All you really need to know to get is started are two simple rules. The first is: Be honest. The second is: Read as much as you can.

The only thing that actually teaches writing is writing itself. Famous writers like J.D. Salinger and Hunter S. Thompson typed out the works of their favorite authors to get a sense of what it felt like to write such perfect sentences.

While you may or may not try this, reading the work of other writers you admire is essential to learning how their subjects are discussed on the page.

You can change names, locations, even set the whole thing in a fictional world with completely imagined characters but you must be honest. Part of what makes those writers who’ve managed to produce amazing works while living with depression special is that they held nothing back in their writing.

The stereotype is perhaps simply a misreading of the “Be honest” rule, not seeing that what they wrote is not “thanks to depression” but rather in spite of it.

Letting your feelings fuel your writing is exactly the point behind it, what it ultimately says or if it’s art or if anyone other than you even lays eyes on it is all beside the point. Writing is hard work sometimes, so if you don’t write much that’s okay. If however you find that you’ve opened a dark door somewhere, let everything out and it just might become beautiful.

Photo by Drew Coffman via Flickr Creative Commons


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