Writing Steadily

It is a funny thing about depression. There seems to be a common idea floating around that being depressed makes you sad, that you are a little blue ball of unhappiness, rolled up in a corner and isolated from the world. There seems to be an equally common idea that if you are depressed, art just flows from you, tapping that wellspring of depression. Think of all the stereotypes of angsty poets and angry drinking writers pounding away at their typewriters in lonely attics. Problem is: It’s just not true. For me at least.

For the last year, my writing has come very slowly. I’ve let myself be prey to the idea of waiting until I am ready. Now I realise that with my depression, which I count as a physiological issue concerning my brain chemistry, and my lifetime habits of only working on things that seem to come easily, I can no longer afford to do that. I will never be ready. Writing and art were both things that used to come easily, and therefore I did them all the time without regard to whether or not I felt moved to. But when my depression strikes, it actually REMOVES my ability to want to do the things I once loved.

Imagine knowing CLINICALLY  that you want to do something, but trying to actually do it, even being there, is like pulling teeth. You sit down to write or paint, and you feel paralysis creeping over you, from the outside in. First you settle in to the place where you make things, and you sit and stare in desperation at the empty page or the blank canvas. You’ve had ideas ALL WEEK, things you’ve desperately wanted to paint or scenes you wanted to craft, but now that you have sat down to work on them, those ideas go skittering off into your mind. Instead of moths seeking the light, your ideas are more like roaches, hiding themselves from discovery.

Or maybe there are too many ideas. Too many things to chase down and you chase each one, only to have the trail fizzle out on you.

I got bored, you tell yourself, therefore my story isn’t interesting. If It’s not interesting to me, how will it be interesting to other people?

My art skills are rusty, rusting further. They wobble, I wobble, I put down the brush in frustration. I’ve lost the place where I felt everything just flow.

And that is why I haven’t written or painted much in the last year. I partly feel a failure. We are coming up on the anniversary of my layoffs from the job in San Francisco. I tried to use those layoffs as a launchpad for inspiration, and I think I largely succeeded. I used my first few months to write, paint, and explore my beloved city before I moved back to Seattle. And then somewhere, I lost my way. I think I chose to pack too much time into projects that were passion projects for friends, but actually coming between me and what I wanted to do. Between my new job and the side projects I was too burned out after a while to consider working on my own stuff. I suffered from a failure to prioritize the works that would make me happiest.

Lessons learned:
1) I’m going to have to show up every day. Muses be damned.

2) I have to learn how to do things that are hard for me.

3) I’m going to have to fail more. Perfection is the enemy of good.

4) I’m going to have to say no to side projects other than my own writing and art.

Anyway, that’s partly why I’m resurrecting my never-used HereticFish blog. 🙂 I need a place to write things that aren’t Twitter or Facebook, that actually cause me to stretch a little, but can be a place to fail. I need a place to prime the pump for Snakes and Ladders.

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