It’s dark. It’s cold, too. Somehow, that makes everything worse in a way writers have described through for centuries, and we – the latest authorial crop – are just the same. Regardless of whether you deal with depression or other mental illnesses during the sunniest part of the year, you may grapple with it in winter. Lots of people do, and writers – being the introspective gaggle we are – fall easy prey to the tricks our subconsciouses play during shorter days. With that in mind, here’s how you, as a writer, can work with, around, or through seasonal depression.
Keep the Good Stuff Close
Writing what you know is less of a rule and more of a fact of life. You’ll echo stories you know, and people you know appear under various masks as characters involved with your own, personal flaws and fears. Even in a fantasy world where everything is backwards, you’re taking all the things you know along with you. Those things affect your creativity.
When you lack one of the things you know and need (sunlight, social interaction, weather warm enough for long walks), you may need to compensate. Pull in other things you know. Like the cozy aspects of winter? Write in bed under a blanket. Foodie? Get busy making soup!
Focusing on positive activities, sensations, and flavors can help buoy your flagging mood and inspiration. It’s also one of the very best excuses to drink copious amounts of tea. Or coffee. Or hot chocolate. No one’s judging here.
Embrace What’s Available
Although winter is the traditional story-telling season of most northern cultures, it may not be a great time to force your magnum opus. Even if you keep a strict writing schedule and crank out chapters regularly, if you’re feeling down – and writing anxiety makes it worse – listen to your gut.
Take a break. Work on something else, something with lower pressure. Craft a piece for pure escapism. Write a heartfelt (or filthy) fanfiction.
Some writers process the dark things by writing them, but others find themselves mired in the stickiest parts of the depression. If writing through your dark places intensifies your negative feelings, step back and wait for better weather. No story is worth your mental health. Ever.
Talk to a Doctor
Seasonal depression is dangerous, not just uncomfortable or frustrating. If you haven’t already talked to a doctor about your symptoms, now is a great time. Depression impacts not only your abilities and joy as a writer, but your ability to function as a person. Don’t dismiss it as something you have to suffer through in name of your art. Plenty of well-balanced people have made phenomenal art. Even artists associated with depression often did their best work while undergoing medical treatment for their mental health (e.g. Van Gogh).
Do you deal with seasonal depression? What tips and tricks do you find helpful? Share thoughts and advice with other writers below, and take good care of yourself during the long dark.