As writers, we pride ourselves on our creativity, but researchers have found that creativity can be linked to depression. Many famous writers such as Mark Twain, Stephen King and Virginia Woolf suffered from depression. But one factor needs emphasizing: researchers also found that while writers are at a greater risk for depression, their relatives are not. Therefore, writers may be able to avoid depression by following the tips below:
1. Avoid isolation. Most writers are introverts by nature, and once we begin to write, it’s easy for us to turn down invitations for spending time with others. We need to guard against this. We have to forsake the company of our characters and our ideas and get out for a while, maybe just to browse through the mall or chat with a friend.
2. Work with the clock, not against it. Deadlines are the bane of most writers. In order to maintain a good reputation with clients and/or editors, you need to be able to meet your deadlines. Work out a system you can live with. Keep projects, newspaper clippings, calendars etc. in labeled folders (on or off screen) so you can find them when you need them. Schedule activities in blocks of time so you don’t become overwhelmed trying to meet those deadlines.
3. Manage your time wisely. Airlines overbook all the time, and then they bump passengers. As writers we don’t have that luxury. We need to have enough work to pay the bills, but at the same time we don’t want to take on more than we can handle, because this can lead to stress which leads to depression.
4. Take regular breaks. Whether you are a full time or part time writer, you should schedule regular time away from your computer. This is not exactly the same as #1. In this case, you are taking a break from your writing so when you return to it, you can see it from a different perspective. You will also be much more relaxed and reenergized to tackle your writing.
5. Avoid alcohol. You might think this is a given, but many famous writers such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald drank heavily and were plagued by depressive episodes. Alcohol is a depressant. It tricks the brain into making it feel it’s having a good time, but when the effect wears off, depression sets in. After a while, you develop a tolerance for the substance and have to use more and more.
6. Observe proper nutrition. Feed your body the right stuff and it will reward you. As writers, we can drift from one end of the spectrum to the other. Either we get so engrossed in our work that we forget to eat, and only live on coffee, or we nibble constantly while working so we become overweight and unhealthy. Plan ahead so that you always have a supply of nutritious foods in the refrigerator. If you are prone to overeat, schedule and stick to your snack time rigidly.
7. Exercise regularly. This goes hand in hand with proper nutrition. Regular exercise not only tones your body, it tones your mind and fuels creativity. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins that make you feel good and fight off depression.
8. Have a creative outlet. I’m a writer, I already have a creative outlet, you say. That’s true, but you should have something else besides your writing to help you relax when you are feeling tense over a project. Music, painting, gardening or simply walking has been found helpful.
9. Develop a positive attitude. As writers we deal with criticism and rejection on a regular basis. If we take them the wrong way, we can become very depressed. We begin to doubt our ability and we may even give up writing altogether.
10. Reach out to others. This can be linked to #1. Instead of isolating when you get discouraged or depressed, reach out to people who will help to lift your spirits. Belonging to a writer’s group has been a wonderful blessing to me over the years, as I believe it is to many writers. We don’t only critique each other’s work, but we also share in each other’s joys, fears and disappointments. If you don’t belong to a writer’s group, I encourage you to find one as quickly as possible.
The writer’s life is full of ups and downs. As writers, we have to take the good with the bad, learn from each, and not allow ourselves to become depressed when things don’t go the way we would want them.
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