I write when not too worn out by my mental illness.
I write when my chronic depression isn’t so overwhelming that I struggle to function.
I write when I can, in irregular spurts, writing through and in spite of my sickness.
I’ve struggled since early youth with depression.
I remember as early as middle-school feeling at specific times especially anti-social and mournful, without any clear reason or cause. Highschool was a hostile environment for me where I felt plagued by insecurities, actively seeking out bathroom stalls and library cubbies to hide day after day. University saw me continue to try unsuccessfully to cope with self-harming as well as self-medicating with drugs and alcohol.
It was easy in my adolescence to dismiss these spells of moody ’emo’ sadness as just stereotypical teenage angst. In my twenties, however, with my depression still undiagnosed, I felt ashamed for failing to have moved past an ‘infantile’ stage of dramatic mood swings.
Not until after completing a Master’s program, surviving a series of mental breaks and acute depressive episodes, was I hospitalized and finally diagnosed. It came as a surprise that I was actually so relieved to have a name, clinical depression, to explain these problems weren’t an inherent defect of my person but symptoms of an illness.
Suddenly a light switched on for me to see that help through medication and therapy were not character weaknesses but necessary choices for my survival, demonstrations of courage in the face of social stigma.
Soon after I became a writer.
Before committing to writing as a career,
make sure you’re not simply agoraphobic or depressed.
Please enjoy the irony of how long it took for me to finally just finish writing this post.
It was the past couple of weeks that helped me do it – not borne out of some desperate New Years resolution but actually, a mix of travelling that saw me at my grandmother’s funeral and flying in planes (which I’m quite dreadful with) and being stranded in Ottawa because of a blizzard that kept me from returning home for 5 extra days.
By the time I got home here in Nunavut, I was so flipping pleased just to be finally back. The return journey was awful but that was not what I was focusing on (maybe because I had gotten just really desperate?), and now I am already appreciating how much I need to transfer this perspective to my writing and my life as a whole.
Thinking about death and waiting and delays and everything, it occurred to me how we all leave a legacy behind, and that the scariest thing about that is not leaving a flawed reputation or something but instead leaving this life without ever coming close to finishing (or beginning?) something you fully wish to accomplish – like writing a book.
Like, stay with me a moment when I introduce a slightly morbid notion that you, reader, are going to die unexpectedly on the precise date of: ONE YEAR, 3 MONTHS, 5 DAYS from TODAY. Since I’m not a life insurance salesperson, I’m not going to talk to you about getting your affairs and stuff in order, but instead I am going to encourage you to really imagine what you wish to do, say, visit, overcome, leave behind, or accomplish before that date comes to pass and your time here is history.
Think of this not as some death sentence but instead as that big moment in every story when the character’s life-as-they-know-it changes because they cannot ever go back to the ignorance that they held at the story’s very beginning. Feels better already, right?
Okay, allow that news above to really register in your subconscious before continuing…
I wanted to share this short clip from an interview with Ira Glass, presented in the lovely format of kinetic typography.
His words are especially relevant for anyone doing creative work because it reminds us all how the quality of perseverance is essential to the long-term success of honing talent.
Everyone needs the investment of time, of practice, to improve any skill set.
For writers, it is the skill of communicating clearly and simply our own inner vision.