Ever since I was a child I’ve been a writer. It’s not something I ever thought I’d do full time, because I was always told that was unrealistic. But I did think I would always be writing in addition to whatever career I had.
Then mental illness happened.
(For me, that’s PTSD, anxiety, and MDD+psychosis.) And I stopped believing that I could write on a consistent basis at all.
For years I kept writing but only in bursts. I had a million projects that were all left unfinished. I started half a dozen NaNoWriMos only to be halted in my efforts.
I began to develop anxiety whenever I sat down to write. I would get paranoid and was unable to write if anyone else was in the room, whether they could see what I was doing or not. I was scared that they would either make fun of my work, or worse: get angry at me for it. (This was the PTSD talking, I now realize.)
It wasn’t all bleak and terrible. In my darkest hours, writing helped me stay afloat. My best friend would engage with me in collaborative exercises. We wrote about aliens and robots and demons together. It was a great time. But it didn’t last.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I actually fully participated in a NaNoWriMo. I didn’t get to 50k, but I did write half of that. (I also wound up becoming a Starbucks gold member that month.) And that was good enough for me. It proved I could write, if only for a month.
But it was to only be a month. The sprinting did not belie true stamina, and I fell out of practice again very soon.
Because when you have mental illness, sometimes the Great Advice is wrong.
Sometimes writing every day is a restriction that just makes you feel worse. It’s not realistic for all of us, and that doesn’t make us any less of writers. A writer is someone who writes. Not someone who writes every day, just someone who writes.
This applies to other forms of creation as well. You don’t have to paint every day to be a painter. You don’t have to play every day to be a musician. You don’t have to dance every day to be a dancer.
It’s important to practice your craft, absolutely. But don’t feel like you have to push yourself beyond your limits. And if you have mental illness or physical illness, don’t feel like you have to hold yourself to the standards of people who don’t.
(There are some mentally and/or physically ill folks out there who are thinking, “Wait a second, but I can achieve those standards! I’m offended that you think I can’t!” And to them I say, it’s great that you can. I’m not suggesting that none of us can. I’m just speaking to those of us that can’t. I know I can’t. And I know I’m not the only one.)
Do you want to share your creative story?Let us know in the comments! Or, share with us on Twitter (mention me @thealexidavis or use the hashtag #adblogtalk).