Robert French

When Karen invited me to do this guest post, I was really pleased because I had a great subject in mind but as I was writing away, I got an overwhelming desire to embark upon an entirely different subject, one that is a little more personal and a lot more painful.

If one reads the biographies of writers through the ages, a common theme is that many writers, especially those who may deal with darker subjects, are victims of depression. According to writers are #5 in the list of twenty-one professions most likely to suffer from depression

I am afflicted by depression from time to time. I have no idea whether it is ‘clinical’ depression—I’ve never discussed it with a doctor, partly because I would refuse to be medicated for it—or whether I’m just feeling very down. However, when depressed, I cease to be very functional and find that when I should be writing, I am staring off into space and when I should be tweeting or blogging, I am hiding in some computer game, which behavior of course deepens the depression. These episodes can last from a few days to several weeks.

I have friends who are writers, actors, artists or who work in other creative fields and many of them fight similar issues. So if you are a writer reading this, you may relate to what I am saying.

I have found no magic formula for dealing with depression but have come up with three things that can help.

Number 1: Stop blaming yourself. Depression is a neurochemical process that you do not have complete control over. (Of course, you may be able to help it with exercise, eating right or medication but if you are like me, you don’t want to do any of those things when you are depressed.) But you can try giving yourself a break from the internal blame game. Stop calling yourself names. Give yourself permission to accept that it is a neurochemical thing and that it will pass. After all, you are in the very good company of other writers who deal with (or dealt with) depression: Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, William Faulkner, Kurt Vonnegut, Virginia Wolff, Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy, Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Amy Tan, Henry James and hundreds of others (see here). These people are not losers, idiots, worthless or any of the names that you might be applying to yourself. So remember: you aren’t either.

Number 2: Use it. Write it. Go and write a chapter of your novel that is dark or scary. Don’t worry if it doesn’t fit the rest of the book, later you will be able to edit it or delete it. You may even find some real gold that takes your book in an interesting direction. Or try writing another book that you only work on when you are depressed; use it as a repository for your feelings and don’t even consider whether or not you want to publish it. I am planning a political thriller trilogy that I intend to start work on in 2014. While depressed, I wrote a chapter of it, in which a character is planning his suicide in detail. I may never use it in the trilogy but it is dark and compelling.

Number 3: Read. To escape from my depressions, I tend to gravitate towards computer card games—I am an avid bridge player—and reading. The last time I was depressed (very recently), I made an effort to cut down on the games and try catching up on my blog reading. At about 4 AM one morning—I couldn’t sleep—I found a guest post by British author Rachel Abbott on the It’s a Crime blog. The post is about her story getting started as an indie author. One of the things she did was write herself a brief marketing plan. As I read the post, something triggered in me and I opened a word document. By the time the family was awake, I had written most of my own business plan. I had stumbled upon a way forward. Within a day or two I was out of the depression, with a very useful business plan in my hands. A big thank you to Rachel by the way. Reading authors’, readers’ and reviewers’ blog posts may lead you to a little gem that can propel you out of the depression spiral.

I think a predisposition to depression can help one’s writing. I feel that I understand Cal Rogan, the protagonist of Junkie, and his feelings as a addict, because they mirror some of my own feelings during my down cycles.

So if, from time to time, you suffer from depression, give these things a try. They may lead you out of the rabbit hole.

Check out Robert's website: