On Mental Illness and Writing

Are you a writer who struggles at times to sit down and generate content, simply because of the emotional tug and mental strain it puts on your brain? Do you wonder if it is worth it at times—to sit for hours on end, crafting a story, revising its content, only to send it off to an editor who may or may not ask you to do it all over again, or a publisher who might reject it?

First, let’s say: it’s not easy to be a writer. It takes stamina, determination, hard work, long hours both on and off a word processor. It also takes an incredibly thick skin to be receptive to feedback, both good and bad.

Now, let’s consider the above, while you are mentally ill, and suffering from any manner of illness—from clinical depression, to rapid-cycling Bipolar Disorder, to obsessive compulsion, and more—and ask the same question again:

Are you a writer who struggles at times to sit down and generate content, simply because of the emotional tug and mental strain it puts on your brain?

As someone who suffers from a variety of mental illnesses, I can attest to how hard it is to sit down and generate content. At times, it feels nearly impossible to do, and it’s not from a lack of drive. Rather, it is from a lack of stamina—which we all know is important for many things in life.

When we think of stamina, we often think of runners—people who jog the sides of streets while you’re comuting to and from work, or athletes who run triathlons for whatever reason they find fit. Most of the time, we see stamina as a physical characteristic, and not the mental one we should all know that it is.

I think few people who are not writers do not understand how difficult it is to sit down and actually write something. Pouring our hearts into something, while trying to use every facet of talent and intelligence we have, is not exactly the easiest thing. Most writers tend to draft, or brainstorm their work, at least in part. Then we write whatever it is we’re writing. Then we revise it (sometimes multiple times.) Then we send it off to editors, who will then ask us to make corrections. Then we revise again. The number of steps it takes can vary depending on who you’re talking to, but in the end, it’s all the same:

Writing isn’t easy.

Add the strain of a mental illness in and you face a variety of issues. Crippling self doubt. Relentless paranoia. Mental strain. Emotional fatigue. Oftentimes, your favorite writer will wonder if this is even worth it, in the end. Most of us don’t reach the heights of fame and fortune like some of our contemporaries. For some, that’s okay. For others, it often feels like we’re climbing a ladder, only to have it be knocked down by the universe a second later.

Depending on who you ask, writing is either the best thing in the world, or like pulling teeth. Sometimes, it’s a little bit of both.

Most of us would agree that it’s worth it in the end, though. Why do it otherwise?

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