It’s not something I try to hide, but it’s also not something I talk about constantly, but it’s relevant to my current inspiration levels, so here goes. I have bipolar disorder. Most of the time, I tend to the high-strung end of the spectrum (which comes in handy for marathon writing bursts), but this time of year often swings me to the dark side. Family obligations, stress, longer nights and shorter days, post-holiday disappointment, loss of my usual routine, cold and dismal weather, and a thousand other things tend to pile up like ashes squishing my little flame of joy into a sputtering ember. Yes, fireplace metaphor. Shut up, it’s like my one happy thing about miserable weather.
Some days I don’t even feel like turning on the computer. Even my twitter and tumblr lives (aka FUNSIES!) have been flat lately. I just don’t have the energy.
The last thing I want to do is give myself a big inspirational kick in the pants. I can’t pull myself up by my bootstraps when I refuse to change out of my fuzzy slippers.
I haven’t been writing much lately. It’s both a cause and an effect of depression. It’s one of those lovely Catch-22 tricks the universe has played on my thinky-box.
This is when I have to remind myself, no matter how idiotic it sounds in the moment, it doesn’t last forever. *Reflexively grinds teeth, then takes deep cleansing breaths.* There are things I can do to help pull myself back into balance, to drag myself back to the keyboard and put words in rational order, to fan the sad little briquette of my soul back up into the RAGING INFERNO OF CREATION. *Obligatory fist-pump and dinosaur scream, followed by feelings of dorky humiliation.* OKAY. MOVING ON.
I’ve been dealing with this for years now. At least in my case (and everyone is obviously different), I’ve learned a few things that might help, if you’re also lost in the ashes.
While I can’t just “snap myself out of it,” or “cheer up,” I have learned that I can be a lot like Pavlov’s Dog. *Insert tongue joke here.* You know, do a thing enough times and eventually you get pretty consistent results. Ring a bell, I drool. Change up my routine in certain strategic ways, and BOOM what do you know? I’m writing again! I just can’t help it anymore.
Some of these may seem completely counter-intuitive, but hear me out, and then take what works for you.
Dress up. Or at least dress up compared to pajamas and my ratty bathrobe (which is totally what I’m wearing right now, so as usual, please make this advice part of your high-sodium diet, thanks). I don’t mean drag out your prom dress or rent a tux, when I look like a slugabed, I behave like a slugabed. Go figure. Sometimes I can trick my brain into paying more attention by paying more attention to my body.
On that note: Exercise. I get up and move. I make excuses to avoid working out. I haven’t done a full workout since around New Year’s. When I realized it earlier today, I had one of those stare-into-the-face-of-god moments. Like, YES. This is part of my problem! Slack-jawed drooling may have occurred during my moment of revelation. It may not have occurred. *It occurred.*
Sleep regularly. This is a big one for me. This time of year I generally go on reading binges. I figure if I’m not actively writing, I’ll read more. All writers should read lots. This is a good thing. This is what I convince myself of when I glance at the clock at it’s 4 am and I’m still reading. Reading is good, but sleep is also good.
Take care of business. Sometimes the Grand Pile O’ Crap That Keeps Us Living Indoors (aka, bills, paperwork, etc.) overflows my work space, and I spend more time fretting over the clutter. I catch glimpses of my notes mingled in with the junk of everyday life. It’s much easier to sit down first thing in the morning and succeed at a writing goal if the first thing I see is all my happy little notes smiling up at me unencumbered by the water bill, the passport I forgot to renew, the postcard from my dentist telling me it’s time for my biannual torture session, the last three grocery lists, five random books, and everything else that ends up tossed on the pile. I actually write more when the rest of the stuff, important or not, has been taken care of first.
Stare at the draft. Some days I don’t get any words written. I stare at the blinking cursor and imagine it’s trying to hypnotize me into becoming a lounge singer, or a chicken, or a potato. Or maybe a writer. Seems like a logical next step. But to get to that point, I have to close everything else on the computer and only work on that cursor. No research tabs to distract me. No twitter. Even if just for an hour. If nothing else, I get a good meditation out of it.
I guess this is getting sort of rambly now. I’ll shut up and let you get back to writing. Stupid thing is, I’m actually feeling more like writing again right now. Sometimes the easiest first step is to sit down and write up something like this. This is nothing like writing a novel, but it’s a hell of a lot closer than those grocery lists were.
Happy travels, and may you stay one step ahead of the dragon. 🙂