Friday, July 11, 2008

Fighting Depression with Creativity

Apologies for not delving into Bruce Holland Rogers' book, Word Work: Surviving and Thriving as a Writer, (which I highly recommend) yesterday. But I will now! Rogers offers a few ideas to help you with feelings of depression and melancholy, or just writing burn-out.

Take your writing muse on a vacation. As Rogers states, "Doing the same thing in the same place in the same way all the time gets monotonous even if you love what you're doing. And monotony is draining."

And depressing. I know that there have been times when I can't stand the thought of sitting down at my computer to write after I've already sat at a computer all day at the day job. But if I do something simple like getting out my laptop and going to the front porch, it helps.

Here are ten "vacations" that Rogers suggests:

1. Monastic retreat (writing colony)
2. Busman's holiday (get paid to write in a different location)
3. Staff retreat (get together with other writers)
4. Hermitage (go by yourself!)
5. Break in expectations
6. Road trip
7. Artist date
8. Sabbatical
9. Coffee break
10. Nap

All of us can do at least one or two of these with absolutely zero expense!

Let's dig deeper into a few of them. Right now, I'm really craving a writing retreat with some other writers. Ever since I quit my local RWA chapter and dropped my RWA membership more than a year ago, I haven't really been able to network with other local writers. But going on a writing retreat with a few of my writing friends is just what I need right now. Writing is such a solitary endeavor that socializing with other writers (and the world) is a must. I usually get my social fix from the day job - but I don't get my writing fix!

Another one that I think is an excellent idea is an artist date. Julia Cameron espoused this idea in her book, The Artist's Way. As Rogers states, "The conventional artist date is just what it sounds like: a date. You dress up and go to the art museum, the museum of natural history, a poetry reading, a movie. You go for a walk in the arboretum. You get out your telescope and hunt comets."

A few weeks ago, I went and visited the Museum of Nebraska History in Lincoln. It has an amazing World War II exhibit - and I'd never been there. I've lived here for six years! I instantly regretted not coming sooner. As I wandered around and looked at all the wonderful things on display, I became more inspired than ever to work on my non-fiction book on the German POW camp at Fort Robinson (I wrote my master's thesis on this and always wanted to turn it into a book) and of course, it also fueled my fiction-writing muse since I write World War II-era fiction.

This is what an artist date is. It's a chance to, as Rogers states so perfectly, "feed your heart."

Will doing any of these things cure your depression? Probably not. But it will most certainly help. Our brains are such a wondrous machine that you never know what might trigger those "feel good" juices to start flowing again.


  1. Its funny how that connection to other writers really helps. I find when I go to one of my chapter meetings, I feel revitalized and ready to take on my writing again.

    My chapter is having a writing retreat in August. We're only going for the day but I think it will be fun and refreshing.

  2. I love any of these writing vacation ideas! Thanks for the inspiration Lis!

  3. I read this book a year or so ago and I agree with you. It's very good. Having just come back from a five day retreat, I have to say that this is something I believe all writers, especially women should try to do if there's any possible way. It immerses you in the writing culture with other writers and maybe even more importantly, it says something about the identity you've chosen for yourself. The WOW-Women on Writing site has some pieces on retreats this week too.


I love to hear from you!

New Digs

I've got a new home on the web - stop by if you get a chance!