The alternative title for this blog is: Now You See Me On the Flip Side.
Another alternative title for this post: Wording When You Can’t
Sometimes, brain chemistry changes. I mean, I guess, technically, it’s changing all the time. But some of us are wired differently. We charge from highs to lows. People often say to me, “How do you write so many projects? How do you read so much? How do you write so many words?” For the lack of a better answer, my answer is that I can’t not write so much, write so fast, read so much. When my brain is firing on cylinders its stolen from god only knows where because brains are just not built with this many cylinders, I have to write. It’s the safest and most productive thing to do with my Too Much brain. I’ve found, through trial and error, a lot of different things to do with my Too Much brain. And this is by far the best thing.
But the flipside of having a Too Much brain?
Is that when you don’t have a Too Much brain, you have a Not Enough brain.
I woke this morning and it felt like a switch had been flipped in my head. I cried when I read an email. I didn’t want to get out of bed. I didn’t want to read. I didn’t want to write.
So for everyone who ever tells me they’re jealous of how fast my brain works when it’s On with capital letters, this is the flip side.
Welcome to the slippery dark of depression. It lingers. My fingers feel slower. I can’t remember my commute though I know I did it. I stared vacantly at a wall today and lost actual minutes. I didn’t space out. I disappeared. I have to consciously write out what I’m going to eat and set rewards for myself (tonight’s reward was that if I didn’t eat dinner, I couldn’t go see Matthew Quick speak) because I’ve never reached intuitive eating so when depression takes my appetite with it, I’ll accidentally go days without Real Food (dear self, cake pops are delicious but not a meal).
I don’t want to write. But I know, if I don’t write, I won’t write. I’ll stop writing. And I don’t think that makes me less of a writer. I get that “writers write” thing. But some of us can’t. Literally, actually, can’t at points in our days.
When my brain’s wild and On and Too Much, like it’s been since mid October, I have an infinite number of spoons. I have all the spoons! I make more spoons! I have a magical spoon duplicator! Write 50,000 words in six days? Done! Next manuscript please! Read three books in a day? Done! Send me the next, please! All the spoons! I think in exclamation points! Everything’s really bright! I can do everything! So much bright! My brain is basically that doge meme! Very awesome! Much brightness! So brainy!
But now. I have ten spoons. It took me a spoon to get out of bed. A spoon for me to go to work. Six spoons to do my dayjob today. A spoon to eat dinner. A spoon to attend the Matthew Quick thing at the Free Library. I’m out of spoons. This is taxing me, just to write this blog post.
So how do you write when you cannot word anymore? I jokingly write that way all the time, but I’m serious tonight.
How do you write when you are depressed? When it’s not situational depression. When it’s not grief. When it’s just that your serotonin levels are full of shit. When it’s that your brain chemistry isn’t balanced and won’t ever be balanced without medication. When it’s that you are wired differently.
When you aren’t wired that differently from many artists and writers. We’re a profession/group of people predisposed to depression and bipolar disorder. To chemical imbalances in our heads. To things that just don’t work all the time.
This is how I write when I’m depressed.
I work every day. No matter how few words it is. I work every day. This blog post counts for me today. Tomorrow I might write a just for fun story. Tomorrow I might write fanfiction. Whatever it is, I write. For me, this is exercise. This is the mental exercise. It helps me breathe. It gives me a space to crawl, hands and knees, away from my own mind for a bit. Fiction for me reminds me that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not the oncoming train. It’s the next day. If it can do that for me as a reader, then it can do that for me as a writer.
This contradicts what I said above (some of us can’t write every day. that doesn’t make us less of a writer.) I’m lucky. It’s been a long time since my depressive swings have been paralyzing. I usually make it to work. I usually can manage basic life tasks. I know historically winters, and Februaries in particular, are terrible for me. So in some ways, I can plan for this.
I didn’t plan for waking up with everything in shades of gray. For feeling like I’m dragging myself through water instead of leaping around in a zero-g environment that it feels like in my Too Much brain. But this is the brain I woke up with and I have no idea how long it’ll stay. Tomorrow, I could be back on the up swing. Or this could go on for months.
Being patient and kind to myself and still working through this is something that feels and sounds impossible, but I don’t believe it is. So here we go. Onward and upward. One step at a time. Gentleness. Honesty.
(I am in a constant state of self doubt as to whether these posts are detrimental to landing an agent. But then, I decide, if I’m working through it, if I’m still producing it, and they’re going to find out one way or another…)