How to Write When You’re Depressed

No really, does anyone know?

If you came here looking for answers, you’re probably going to be disappointed. I’m not sure there are any answers. Depression is a terrible creature. It rears it’s head at the most random moments, leaving you with a terrible feeling of inertia that’s almost impossible to explain, even for a writer.

I guess it all depends on how depressed you are. Is it depression with a little d or Depression with a capital D? If it’s the latter, reading a blog entry or trying to psych yourself up probably won’t do anything. Then there’s situation depression vs chemical depression. Each requires different approaches, many requiring professional help. (Seriously, don’t suffer alone. Get help. There are so many places that can help you. No one should have to go through depression alone.)

Today I wanted to write. I really did. I’ve been busy with stuff related to a family wedding (congrats Cal and Amberlyn!) but now that it’s over with I finally have the time and brainpower to write.

But I couldn’t. It really is the weirdest thing. I know what I want to do, I know what I want to write, but somehow I just can’t make myself pick up my laptop. It’s right there but my body doesn’t listen to my brain and I just CAN’T.

Today I didn’t write. Sometimes it’s better to recognize the feelings and give yourself permission to just take care of yourself. I went on Twitter. I talked to my mom. I identified today’s depression as situational (I miss having a cat) and took a step to change that situation (I put in an application for adoption at a shelter. Don’t tell my dad!).

I even did something writing related. I picked out a notebook to make a ‘story bible’ of sorts in. I looked at articles I’d saved on Pinterest and made a list of things I want to include. I made a list of characters that need profiles or short bios (Dang this book has a lot of characters).

After all that, I felt a little better. I decided to write the blog entry I’d jotted down an idea for earlier. I’m ignoring my perfectionist side and posting this without a fancy graphic or making sure I share with every social media page I have. I’m just putting the words out there and maybe I’ll come back later and do the rest.

I don’t know how to write when you’re depressed. I don’t know how to write when you aren’t. All I know is what I do and whether or not it worked for me on any given day.

Do you suffer from depression? Or any mental illness really? How does it impact your writing life? Is there anything that helps you when you’re having a bad day? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Camp Nanowrimo 2017 Day 1

In addition to the regular Nanowrimo even in November, there is Camp Nanowrimo in April and July. I didn’t participate in April, but my fellow #TurtleWriters on Twitter convinced me to join them in July.

Camp Nanowrimo is different from the regular event in several ways. You get to set your own goal (go ahead, set it as low as you want and rejoice in meeting your goals!), you can revise, write short stories, nonfiction, ect, and you can join a cabin.

The Cabin features is possibly my favorite part. You can join a random cabin or choose one filled with friends or people with similar interests. (I’m in the #TurtleWriters cabin this year) The cabin is basically a chat section where you can cheer on your fellow cabin mates and complain about how behind you are.

If you already knew all this, I apologize. Thought I’d sum it up for my family/friends dutifully following this blog so I’m not talking to myself.

I was originally going to work on a detailed outline for my Untitled Mystery Series so I’d be well-prepared for November, but a few days ago I got a better idea.

My novel Running Away is about a widower raising a little girl. I’ve been trying to motivate myself to return to this novel and get started on revisions. I thought a good way to do that would be to write a short story, a prequel, something I can share for free and (hopefully) build interest for the upcoming novel. The prequel will explore Clarke’s first days after he loses his wife and the support his large family gives him while he struggles with the sudden single parenting of an infant.

father photo

My goal is 10,000 words, but I’m going to go where the characters take me. If I feel the story has been told before then, I’ll move on to one of my many unfinished projects or try to stockpile some blog entries for when I’m feeling uninspired.

All blog entries this month will include my current word count and a short update on my progress.

Day 1: 1,124 words.

Are you participating in Camp Nanowrimo? What are your goals and what are you working on?

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Do You Love Writing or Do You Love Having Written?

Recently I put up a poll on my Twitter account and asked my followers if they loved writing, or they loved having written. Most writers seem to follow in one category or the other, with a few who felt they fell into both camps.

I used to say I loved to write. As a child/teen, I wrote in every spare second I had. It wasn’t uncommon to see me carrying a notebook around or using those random blank pages at the end of books to scribble down as much as I could possibly fit of story ideas or scenes. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that it’s a little different for me. Yes, sometimes I still get hit by the writing bug. Something (usually a scene) will appear in my head and I have to grab the nearest notebook or device to write it down before I lose it. Those moments are magic, and usually some of my best work.

Many hobbies seem to come down to the same question: Do you love the process, or do you love the product? I’m a knitter, and while I used to love both, these days it’s all about the process. I love the routine, the challenge, keeping my hands busy. When the project is finished, I’m inclined to just toss it aside. I give away most of the things I make these days. The things I don’t give away tend to languish in a corner, waiting for the finishing touches so that someone can actually wear/use the item. 

For writing, it seems to be the opposite. I won’t say I hate writing because that would be a lie. It’s just that I love the finished product more than the process of writing it. I write the books I want to read, and there’s nothing more exciting than reading the first draft and seeing it all come together.

The writing itself is hard. I have to force myself to sit down and put the words onto the page. I’m tempted every day to just give up. What keeps driving me is the future, knowing that when I finish there will be a book for me to read. A book that I wrote, that I enjoy because I wrote what I wanted to read.

All of you out there who love the writing process itself, I envy you. Because the vast majority of the time I’m just powering through, writing as fast as I can to get to the finished project.

There are other parts of the whole that I love. I love the planning stages. I’m not quite a plotter, not quite a pantser either. I write down a general idea of where things are going, which is mostly a list (sometimes physical, sometimes just in my head) of scenes/events that are going to happen at some point. I try to figure out my characters as much as I can. I adore research. I’ll happily pour myself into hours of figuring out details I may or may not ever need.

My brain is full of facts about places. I can tell you what it’s like in Baja, Mexico and Venice Beach California. I can tell you places you should see there and what the culture is like. I can converse about being a hearing child of deaf parents or the dirty details about what it’s really like to suffer a Traumatic Brain Injury. I love the little details.

I don’t even mind revising. I like to identify the major plot problems and then just set the novel aside. I think about these problems as I go along with my life, and one day I’m at the grocery store and it just hits me. The solution is there just waiting for me to write it in.

But when it comes down to sitting at my laptop and writing the actual novel, it’s my least favorite part. It’s what I push myself through to get to the better parts.

It doesn’t mean I hate writing because I don’t. It just means that I have to work harder than some to get into the flow and get the words out. It means I’m likely to complain and whine that I don’t wanna write today. Some of that is probably tied to my depression I know, but the rest is just who I am.

So how about you? Do you fall firmly into one camp or the other? Or are you somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss this further with you.

 

Pinterest Graphic

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What I’m Not Writing

If it keeps raining like this, we’re gonna need an ark.

My plan for today had originally included swimming and getting some sun, but the expected rainstorm surprised us and came early, quashing my plans. Now I’m stuck inside, listening to the downpour, and more recently, the thunder.

I’ve come to realize I’m at this place in my writing where I’m really not sure what I’m doing. I sort of have active projects, but nothing that I’m regularly working on. Instead, I’ve just been spending a lot of time on Twitter and occasionally writing a few thousand words here and there.

I have lots of choices. I’m in the planning/plotting stage of what I’m hoping will be a cozy mystery series about a former NYPD cop with PTSD and Agoraphobia. The first draft of that is going to be written in November for Nanowrimo, but I’d like to get as much as I can figured out before then. Unfortunately, the only times I’ve written mystery I’ve done it completely blind, with no idea “whodunnit” or where things are going to go, so I may not be as prepared as I’d like.

I also have a story called Running Away, which has been in the works on and off for almost fifteen years, believe it or not. It was once a couple short chapters of a fanfiction, which turned into regular fiction and became my first Nanowrimo win. The year after, I wrote the first of several planned sequels. A few years after that, I wrote yet another of those planned sequels for Nanowrimo. And then in 2014, I decided to do a complete rewrite, which spanned the 2014/15 Nano years.

That incarnation of the novel has been collecting dust for awhile. It’s over 100k words and nowhere near finished, but I did write the epilogue, so I know where I’m going. I’ll admit, I got stalled after I let my mom read it and she said my hero was “sexless”. She was right, but I was frustrated and let myself take a break. I think the time away has been good for me. Letting the story percolate in the back of my mind has solved a few problems and I’m probably ready to start the second draft. Which is a good thing because there are four planned sequels (or stories in the same family).

And then there’s the fanfiction.

The story I’ve been working on is what I affectionately refer to as my “Hulk chopping wood” story. I worked on it for Nano Camp a year ago and have a lot of plans for it, but didn’t really want to post until I had more finished. I did finally post the prologue and first chapter of it about a month ago. It was nerve wracking because the relationship I’m exploring isn’t a popular one (there are a lot of people that hate it) so I knew I wasn’t going to get a ton of feedback on it. It was just a story I wanted to tell, or more accurately, the story I wish someone else had written so I didn’t have to.

I had the next chapter all written and was planning on revising and posting it the next week. But then Mr. Muggles (my cat) died. That very day I’d been planning to finish, so I ended up shoving it aside and taking the time to grieve. I finally was feeling up to it and had most of the chapter edited when a mishap with Scrivener (totally my fault) had me scrambling for a backup and praying I hadn’t lost everything. I managed to get a working backup, but unfortunately, those nice edits were gone. I have a decent amount written after that but was having trouble getting from the beginning to one of the major turning points. I think I’ve solved the problem as of this week, so hopefully, I can fill in those missing chapters and start posting again.

I have an NCIS story called “The Middle Ground” that hasn’t been updated in a few years. It might be my most popular story I’ve had to date, 249 reviews last I checked, almost 70k words and 15 chapters posted. I got around 40k written last November as my Nano project, but haven’t been able to update it because I still haven’t figured out the clue someone finds that closes the case. I literally have everything written except for that. I’ve been promising for years I haven’t given up on this story and I haven’t.

The last story I haven’t been writing is another NCIS story. It’s the sequel to another story called Driftwood. I have a complete first draft, and I posted the first two chapters. I got pretty good feedback, but life got in the way and it got pushed to the back burner. All it needs is re-writes and would easily take the least amount of time of any project to complete. I should probably focus on it more.

Well, that’s it, the full list of things I haven’t been writing lately. I’m hoping that by laying it all out here I can make sense of it all, and figure out some kind of priority/rotation/schedule, which I’ll post here when finished.

Thanks so much for reading, and if you have any suggestions or opinions on what I should be working on or just something to say, I’d love to hear from you.

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How Nanowrimo Changed My (Writing) Life

I was nineteen the first time I participated in National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo). I wrote about 2 thousand words and quit. It had been a whim and I was by no means surprised that I hadn’t finished.

I’d never finished a story in my life.

Not really, anyway. I’d been writing for around a decade, and I could count the number of things I’d finished on one hand. And I wouldn’t have needed all the fingers. I’d certainly never written anything close to 50 thousand words.

The next year I purchased Chris Baty’s book No Plot, No Problem. I read it from cover to cover. I decided I was going to try again.

It was 2005 and I was in the process of moving to New York State to live with my sister. My laptop had broken in October, so I was waiting for my new one to come in the mail. I spent the first two weeks of the month with a pink notebook, scribbling until my fingers were screaming and writing the word count at the top of each page (I literally counted each word separately).

When I finally got my laptop, I was behind. I wish I remembered how far behind, I just know it was a lot. I had to type in two weeks of words as well. It seemed impossible.

A couple hours before the deadline, I validated my novel.

That last week was a blur. I remember sitting cross legged on my bed, with trashy court television shows playing in the background, typing as fast as I could. Somehow, I had made it.

The feeling was indescribable. I had never written that much in a year, let alone a single month. I couldn’t believe I’d done it. I ordered a winners t-shirt to commemorate the occasion. (That t-shirt finally became so transparent it had to be thrown out a couple years ago. I wore the heck out of it.)

Over the next 11 Novembers, I participated in Nanowrimo ten times. I won nine out of those ten times. I completed eight novels (2014/15 was the same novel). In 2016 I had to give up at 40 thousand because my mom had knee replacement surgery.

Nanowrimo changed my life. My writing life at least. I learned how to turn off my internal editor and just write. I learned how to let go and let my characters do my own thing. I learned how to finish.

I left that first novel alone until January 1st, when I printed it out and eagerly read it. It was terrible, as predicted, but something amazing happened.

There were scenes I had no memory of writing. Best of all, I wasn’t as terrible as I’d expected. I’d learned so much about my characters. I suddenly saw the holes in my plot. Best of all, there were some gems in that first draft that I never would have seen if I hadn’t finished writing it.

In 2014 (and 2015) I decided to revisit that first Nanowrimo novel. In two Novembers I achieved a new personal best: 100 thousand words on a single novel.

I couldn’t have done it without Nanowrimo.

 

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Introducing LydiaEWinters.com

Welcome to An Anxious Author. I am said anxious author, Lydia Elizabeth Winters. I thought I’d take a few minutes with this first post to give you a little background information and a mission statement of sorts for this blog.

Biography:

I was born and raised in Southern New Hampshire. I currently reside in a small town on the Vermont border (I can see Vermont from my window!). I have an upstairs apartment in a house I share with my parents and the memories of my tempermental kitty, Mr. Muggles.

Mr. Muggles
October 2007-May 2017. You will be missed.

I have been writing for as long as I can remember. An avid reader from a young age with a big imagination, it was a natural transition. As a teenager I began writing fanfiction, something I’ve continued to this day. I ran a website for many years where I posted all my writings and where I made a lot of good friends I still keep in touch with.

LitTrip 2015. Wish I could have been there!

I’ve never been bored a day in my life. My current hobbies include knitting, spinning (as in yarn, not on a bike), memorizing the Nations of the World song from Animaniacs, reading, and of course, writing.

One laptop for writing, one for procrastination.

I’m a thirty-something proud aunt of five and great-aunt of three who is trying not to feel ancient when I remember those things. My mom is my best friend in the world and we are freakishly close.

Youngest Nephew is getting married in July. See? Ancient.

My apartment is full of geeky memorabilia, including my large Funko Pop collection. My bookshelves are overloaded.

old pic of the collection

Goals:

1. I admit, starting this blog is at least partially in the hope that a little accountability will help me keep in a good writing routine. After all, if I don’t write anything, I won’t have anything to post!

2. Making some new friends. You can never have enough writing friends. People who understands having a search history that could probably get yourself on a terror watch list.

3. Share what it’s like to live with chronic mental illness and how that impacts my daily life, including how it impacts my writing.

4. Generally be an outlet for myself to talk about life and whatever else is on my mind.

If you made it this far, I’d like to say thank you in advance for giving my little blog a chance. Please forgive me while I figure out what the heck I’m doing.

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