Getting past depression and back to writing

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  • Getting past depression and back to writing

    Forgive me, I didn’t know which forum to post this in. I’ve been struggling a lot recently with my writing career (or lack thereof) going nowhere and just too depressed to continue writing. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist. But, I know that I’m not the only one going through such a problem and I’m sure many of you have therapists who have given you good advice that differs from that which I’ve received. Any help? Hopefully, this topic not only helps myself but any others struggling in this area. To be clear, it’s not writer’s block, it’s more like “what’s the point?”

  • #2
    I have 3 therapists -- 2 talk, 1 crazy doc to give me drugs. On Prozac. I fought it for 20 years, but I finally got so in the dumps I needed it. Been very helpful to get me back to life.

    Anyway -- everyone was depressed before -- I'd say most writers or creative people are usually -- but the pandemic has made it worse for every single person. So you are SO NOT ALONE.

    The best reason to write for me is it makes me less depressed. I can't control the world, but I can control 110 pages of my characters. And in the real world, I feel less depressed when I write or create something.

    So maybe write for yourself too. Just sit down and write a screenplay that makes you happy. Maybe something to make yourself. Or a web series. Or a book. Or a TV show. Or a stand up act. Or maybe you can write poems. Or music. Whatever lets out some of the anxiety is helpful and I assume since you've been writing for 10 plus years, you do love it. But if you don't love it, that's okay too.

    The point of anything is in the doing. Writing should not be a way to make money but to learn something about life.

    If you haven't read Bird by Bird. I just read it. Very helpful when you are stuck in a rut. https://www.amazon.com/Bird-Some-Ins.../dp/0385480016 Gary Gulman a comedian with major anxiety and depression was the one that recommended it to me on a podcast.





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    • #3
      Originally posted by Acooljt View Post
      Forgive me, I didn’t know which forum to post this in. I’ve been struggling a lot recently with my writing career (or lack thereof) going nowhere and just too depressed to continue writing. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist. But, I know that I’m not the only one going through such a problem and I’m sure many of you have therapists who have given you good advice that differs from that which I’ve received. Any help? Hopefully, this topic not only helps myself but any others struggling in this area. To be clear, it’s not writer’s block, it’s more like “what’s the point?”
      Keep trying. It’s the only way to improve yourself, whether it’s your psyche, your writing, or both. Chin up, chest out, eyes forward. If others can do it, you can do it.
      "If you're going to have a story, have a big story, or none at all." — Joseph Campbell

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      • #4
        Thank you for the replies, guys. Bono, thank you as well for opening up about your own struggles, I know that can be difficult to do.

        Any other help from anyone else? I’m literally at the end of my rope here and whereas writing used to be cathartic to me in much the way Bono described, it no longer is. I just don’t know how to get back to that headspace. I wish I lived in LA where I’m sure many of the therapists are used to working with writers but alas, I live in Bum****, IL so my options are limited.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Acooljt View Post
          Thank you for the replies, guys. Bono, thank you as well for opening up about your own struggles, I know that can be difficult to do.

          Any other help from anyone else? I’m literally at the end of my rope here and whereas writing used to be cathartic to me in much the way Bono described, it no longer is. I just don’t know how to get back to that headspace. I wish I lived in LA where I’m sure many of the therapists are used to working with writers but alas, I live in Bum****, IL so my options are limited.
          Well, you could try a couple of things at the same time. Diverting your attention away from negative thoughts can help, right?

          Examine your daily routine and make a deliberate effort to disrupt it. At first it will be challenging because your inclination is to slip back into the routine that is easiest and most harmful.

          Here are some suggestions for coping with the negative effects of depression. Everything you do to ease depression may have a positive effect on your writing. It's you as a whole that needs repair-- your writing will follow.
          • incorporate some kind of physical exercise into your day every day. A walk, bike ride, workout, treadmill, wilderness hike, explore a botanical garden, sit at the beach, a park. Sunlight may help dark moods and endorphins are released when you workout.
          • If it's mundane like a treadmill, cue up youtube videos from writers and filmmakers about the craft of writing to inspire you.
          • Create a support group of people with similar interests who you can do things like this with-- positive human contact is a great asset.
          • When you find yourself experiencing negative thoughts look to things that you enjoy. Make a list of these to use as coping mechanisms so in the moment you have a list of things immediately at hand to try.
          • Play a word game for ten or fifteen minutes to get your brain thinking about words
          • Avoid social media.
          • Avoid isolation-- force yourself to engage other like minded people.
          • Get an Alexa device and have her play music in the background when you're at home. I use Classical Focus, Classical Jazz and sometimes POP music from high school.
          • Eat heathy. Get enough sleep. Watch alcohol intake.
          • Designate specific times to writing and in that time, other than listening to soft music or wind or ocean waves, do not move from your seat for the entire time. Every time. Even if you don't write a single word.
          • Create a list of writing prompts, so during your dedicated writing session you feel blocked you have choices: make a list of movie titles you like, then brainstorm a logline, create logline on the fly, write on page of an opening,.
          • read a new script each week whether it's a Black List spec or finished film
          • Watch a new movie every week
          • iow, fill your day and your time with as much positivity that distracts you from negative thoughts.
          • Know that you are not alone. And even though adding these things to your life may be extremely difficult, each one can help in small ways that add up. This can give you a sense of control over your life instead of your depression controlling you.
          Heartfelt good wishes for a new year filled with amazing experiences.

          I am not a doctor.
          Last edited by finalact4; 12-31-2021, 10:13 AM.
          "Reserving rights to comment and make changes."
          Hollywood producer

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Acooljt View Post
            Forgive me, I didn’t know which forum to post this in. I’ve been struggling a lot recently with my writing career (or lack thereof) going nowhere and just too depressed to continue writing. It’s something I’m working on with my therapist. But, I know that I’m not the only one going through such a problem and I’m sure many of you have therapists who have given you good advice that differs from that which I’ve received. Any help? Hopefully, this topic not only helps myself but any others struggling in this area. To be clear, it’s not writer’s block, it’s more like “what’s the point?”
            Hi. First and foremost… glad to meet you.
            Dunno if you are referring to a depression much deeper than merely stifling your creative writing juices.

            If —as I sincerely hope it is—a matter of feeling too down to kick-start your writing—there is plenty of terrific advice already given by DD cool n caring peeps. Just wanted to let ya know one more voice in the universe has yer back!!



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            • #7
              Originally posted by Jazzed View Post
              Hi. First and foremost… glad to meet you.
              Dunno if you are referring to a depression much deeper than merely stifling your creative writing juices.

              If —as I sincerely hope it is—a matter of feeling too down to kick-start your writing—there is plenty of terrific advice already given by DD cool n caring peeps. Just wanted to let ya know one more voice in the universe has yer back!!


              Thank you and also to finalact4 for the help and well wishes. It’s a much deeper and insidious depression than just not being able to write, I’ve even done electroconvulsive (shock) therapy but to not avail. I’ve struggled with my depression for almost 25 years but been able to function and write for the most part throughout that time. It’s just in the past few years where things have gotten so bad that I can’t even do the things I previously enjoyed. My therapist recommended reading some of my unfinished work to see if that stirs anything in me and honestly, it has. I really want to get back to work on a screenplay I started a few years ago but I haven’t actually typed a word yet since then. I guess wanting to and actually doing something are two different things.

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              • #8
                The tough thing about screenwriting is that it can be soul crushing even for people who are doing well in it. There's a lot more disappointment than failure. I'd ask - is there any other outlet/career that would give you joy that might be more attainable?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by JeffLowell View Post
                  The tough thing about screenwriting is that it can be soul crushing even for people who are doing well in it. There's a lot more disappointment than failure. I'd ask - is there any other outlet/career that would give you joy that might be more attainable?
                  Honestly, no. I’ve done the office drone thing for years and it’s not for me and I’ve spent a large portion of my life doing manual labor as well. Writing is truly the thing I want to do as a career more than anything and it’s one of the few things that makes me truly happy. I wouldn’t ever wanna give up on writing because even though my scripts may never get made, I still enjoy them for my own sake. I love my work, even if I’m the only person who does. I really got excited about my unfinished script after I went back and read it upon my therapist’s suggestion. It gave me the warm fuzzies. And hopefully it gets made one day. I don’t really see quitting as an option, I think that would make me feel much worse. I’ve never really quit on anything in my life. Your question is fair though, I’ve often asked myself that same question.

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                  • #10
                    You never have to give up on writing. Again, Bird by Bird -- the book touches on that. There are a lot of great writers in the world who may never hit their goals (me included) but they enjoy what they write. It brings them joy. So the same with you.

                    But you can be a TEACHER but WRITE on the weekends and you are still a writer. Or be a FIREFIGHTER and a writer on the side.

                    But I would suggest, really exploring writing a novel or a different medium. A lot of us have done that. We aren't leaving screenplays behind, but sometimes got to try something new. For instance if you have never written a TV pilot before, I'd encourage you.

                    You could even write a letter to yourself from the future explaining why you should NOT quit writing. Or you can go the other way and BREAK UP WITH WRITING.

                    Just so you know, most writers who are in your shoes (talent but haven't made it) have considered the what else can I do to fulfill this creative urge inside me? For me I can't play guitar or sing, so I'm stuck with my fat fingers and this keyboard. I haven't given up yet and I don't plan on doing it. But I do think if someone can find happiness being a painter or a dancer, maybe they should explore those avenues as well.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Acooljt View Post

                      Thank you and also to finalact4 for the help and well wishes. It’s a much deeper and insidious depression than just not being able to write, I’ve even done electroconvulsive (shock) therapy but to not avail. I’ve struggled with my depression for almost 25 years but been able to function and write for the most part throughout that time. It’s just in the past few years where things have gotten so bad that I can’t even do the things I previously enjoyed. My therapist recommended reading some of my unfinished work to see if that stirs anything in me and honestly, it has. I really want to get back to work on a screenplay I started a few years ago but I haven’t actually typed a word yet since then. I guess wanting to and actually doing something are two different things.
                      Hi. I had a very close family friend undergo ECT for depression. It took a few courses -15-20 treatments total, perhaps a few more—but they worked remarkably well. Pasadena facility. It took a year and a half of meds and therapy. Then Boom! Back to the same person before depression struck. Amazing. 30 years later—a few very small windows of memory loss, but still very intelligent, and led/leading a fulfilling life. No issues at all.

                      A couple of dark dips along the way, but not of the magnitude that required meds or intervention, or even therapy. So I know there is truly a light at the end of the tunnel for some who many doctors ran out of answers for. Our chemistry changes constantly. Which creates opportunity for big changes. I sincerely hope such changes manifest for you. You have demonstrated tremendous courage. I’m betting on you!

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                      • #12
                        Consider meditation. It helps quiet monkey mind and the loop of negative thoughts that constantly runs.

                        The book, A Path With Heart, is helpful in providing basic meditation exercises in the Zen tradition.

                        Sometimes depression is unprocessed anger turned inward. Meditation helps brings some of this to the surface in a way that you can acknowledge it and release it.

                        Hope this helps.
                        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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                        • #13
                          Thank you again to all of you for the kind words and encouragement. It means a lot, especially since you don’t even really know me. You owe me nothing but you have been so incredibly welcoming and sweet.

                          Also, Bono, it’s funny you bring up writing a TV pilot because I’ve thought of doing exactly that, which I’ve never done before. I’m hoping to finish my current screenplay before embarking on that adventure but who knows what the future holds. And I just purchased Bird By Bird. I’ll get to it next after I finish Richard Pryor’s autobiography.

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                          • #14
                            I'm going to be the unsupportive one - you say you get joy from writing, but you've also "been struggling a lot recently with my writing career (or lack thereof) going nowhere." I've never read your work, but if lack of success depresses you, that's not likely to change. That's just statistics - again, no comment on your talent, but it's a brutal field. And switching to TV isn't going to up your chances - you really do need to be in LA.

                            If having a stack of finished screenplays brought you joy even if they never sold, I'd say knock yourself out. But that doesn't feel like the case. Your happiness seems tied to escaping your job and making a living writing, and that's a tough place to be.

                            If writing brings you joy, I'd try anything else - novels, short stories, whatever. They publish a lot more books than they make movies. And there's no bias to you not being in LA. And therapy is great, but I think it'd be worth talking to a career counselor. Maybe there's something writing adjacent that you'd love, and is a more realistic career path.

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                            • #15
                              I'm reminded of a recent ad campaign by BetterHelp that focuses on how everyone always has advice about how to overcome depression, mostly unqualified. "You're not alone," "just fight through it," "better days are ahead," "there are starving children in Africa worse off than you"....

                              It's great that you are seeing a professional to help you through this. Best of luck getting back on track. It really is a soul-crushing endeavor at times. I've taken years off from writing at times for the reasons you describe, but I eventually always find my way back to doing it. I didn't write anything all of 2021, but in the past couple days I find myself ten pages into a fresh screenplay. Go figure.

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