Turns out that even when writing makes me miserable, it makes me happy
Early in the life of this blog I promised that I would never write blog posts about how I’m sorry I’ve been posting erratically but I intend now to post more often. So I will make no promises. That having been said, I have been posting somewhat erratically in the last month, because I’ve been a little depressed, and, frankly, I no longer saw the point. But now I once again have thoughts I want to put on the internet, so here I am.
While being somewhat depressed, I also stopped writing. I can’t count the number of times people have told me to take a break from writing and then come back to it refreshed. It’s probably good advice. After all, I did take a break from writing, and I have come back to it refreshed.
That having been said, the break was miserable and was probably the low point of a low mood. I was pretty miserable for most of February and March, but I guess I hadn’t quite understood the degree to which my circumstances–daily writing; frequent walks; limited social interaction; a controlled environment; plenty of solitude–were regulating my mood. Once I gave up on walking and writing (because I couldn’t see the point) and started playing video games all day (because it was the only non-self-destructive way to kill time), I became really miserable.
Was giving up writing the cause of the even lower mood? Or an effect of it? Hard to say!
Anyway, when I started writing again, my depressed feelings did not go away, but they did abate somewhat. What’s interesting is that I had a major breakthrough in my writing while I was feeling depressed, and I knew I was having it, and I still didn’t feel particularly better! It’s really pretty odd. I’d always assumed it was impossible to write good stuff when you’re depressed, because you need feelings in order to write, but that’s not the case! It is possible, if you’re telling the right story, to make yourself feel feelings at least for the duration of the writing session. Crazy stuff.
Am feeling much better now. Writing is going not-poorly too. Everything will probably fall apart tomorrow, but at least for today I’m sitting pretty!
On a sidenote, my novel is only at twenty thousand words, but I’ve filled up one and a half journals (approx 60k words) and I have an additional 12k words of deleted scenes. Finally I’m writing like a real writer! (i.e. throwing away far more than I use). Part of what I’m doing is exploring the parts of my story that aren’t on the page. For instance, I’ve been writing scenes and journal entries from the perspective of the other characters in the book (it’s first-person, told from only one viewpoint), and it’s really shocking to see that there is a deeper life in this book. The other characters have their own shit going on. They’ve got their own reactions to stuff. And they’ve got stuff going on outside of and in addition to and in reaction to the main plot of the book.
Today when I was writing, I actually thought, “This is fun. I enjoy this,” and it was the first time I’ve been able to say that about writing in a long time.
I still don’t know that the book is very good–I worry that it’s low-stakes, for one thing–but I’m a third of the way through it, and I don’t yet feel the urge to quit. The book IS taking me much longer to write than it normally does. I worked all day today, from 10 to 4 (with a one hour break for lunch) and only got down two thousand words (and the book actually got shorter, because I cut a three thousand word chapter). I’d intended to finish by the end of my residency (May 10th), but I think I’m gonna be working on it at least for the rest of the month.
I hope I get somewhere with it though. This is a tough business. It’s really a killer to work on something and not know if it’s good or if it’ll ever be published, but that’s basically what writing is all about.