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Writers and Mental Health

Notes from a Workshop by Author Grace Fox

Writing is a solitary endeavour, so we can often feel isolated and alone. Is it any wonder that statistically, many writers suffer from some degree of depression? Here are a few common things that cause feelings of depression in writers:

1. Rejection

It is going to happen! Whether it is from agents, publishers, editors, or bad reviews, every writer suffers from rejection, which can leave a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. It’s okay to feel disappointed, but don’t take it personally! Here are some strategies for dealing with rejection:

  1. Find a writer friend you can talk to about your feelings. (Someone who “gets” what it feels like to be a writer.)
  2. Identify the actual reasons for the rejection, not just your beliefs about why it was rejected. Your value as a person is not based on your work. Rejections can actually be valuable learning opportunities if we are teachable.
  3. Don’t give up!
  4. Pray for God’s wisdom in the situation. Rejections can be God’s way of steering us in a different direction or even protecting us.
2. Comparison

Comparing ourselves to others is a trap! We either feel way ahead of everyone else (pride) or way behind (which leads to misery). Each one of us is gifted uniquely, so stop comparing yourself to others. God doesn’t make mistakes! Be content with God’s assignment and call. As Psalm 23 says, there is no reason to “want” when God is our shepherd!

3. Insecurity and Self Doubt

We might think we have nothing fresh to say, but every person’s voice and perspective lend something new. Don’t deny these feelings of weakness. Admit them and then move on! It’s okay to feel like you can’t do it, but God can equip and empower you. God honours the humble. In other words, focus on God’s adequacy instead of your own inadequacy.

4. Unmet Expectations

Let these go! Instant success is a myth! For most authors, financial success is also a myth. (That’s just reality!) Writing is a labour of love, and God will provide what you need in order to accomplish the ministry He has called you to.

5. Procrastination

We are often afraid of starting because we don’t know where to start! Here are some strategies to help overcome procrastination:

  1. Do the hard thing first. (We often put this off and it never gets done, leaving everything in limbo.)
  2. Set daily or weekly goals: either a word count OR a time commitment. (Not both)
  3. Curtail your Social media time and emails until after you complete your goal.
6. Writers’ Block

Sometimes our brains get stuck from too much thinking. Here are some strategies to help overcome this common problem:

  1. Give your brain a rest! Be sensitive to your body and its needs. “Unplug”, nap, walk, listen to praise music…
  2. Do something different. Hobbies, gardening, reading a book… Fill up your creativity well.
  3. Clean up the clutter. It is surprising how physical clutter can sometimes also clutter our minds.
  4. Try “free fall” writing. This can be “stream of consciousness” writing or “morning pages” as recommended by Julia Cameron, or it can be writing from a prompt. The point is, don’t stop until your time limit or page limit is up! This may give you the mental boost you need or might provide inspiration for future projects.
7. Marketing & Rapid Industry Changes

Marketing is time-consuming, and we often feel like we can’t keep up—especially when there are so many changes. We need to keep learning so we don’t become obsolete, but we must also realize that we’re only human and can only do so much. Strategies for dealing with the “overwhelm”:

  1. Keep on learning! Attend workshops, read books, go to webinars…
  2. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all, so pick and choose what to focus on and let the rest go! It is better to do a few things well, that to do too many things poorly.
  3. Pray over your marketing. Do your best and leave the rest to God.
  4. SHIFT your thinking: Instead of “Build Your Platform” shift to “Feed My Sheep”.
8. Loneliness

Writing is a solitary activity and we often work in isolation which can lead to a sense of loneliness. Be intentional about nurturing your real-life relationships.

In general, we must look after our bodies if we are going to thrive as writers and avoid falling into any of these depression traps. We need good food, exercise, sleep, time for relaxation, and “play”. Reward yourself for a job well done. Celebrate your successes. Live in an attitude of gratitude which actually releases serotonin and dopamine. Most importantly, quiet time with Jesus is essential for our mental health. As John 15 advises, we must abide in him if we are going to grow.

These are my notes from a workshop by author Grace Fox which I attended in September 2022. All of these are wonderful points but the one thing that really resonated with me–and which I am trying to implement is: “Shift from building your platform to feeding my sheep.” Powerful and profound words! 

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