Depression, Writing, and 2016

Depression, Writing, and 2016

One thing that’s been noticeable about 2016 is that I haven’t been blogging very much.

I made a brief attempt in the middle of the year to change that, but it didn’t last long, and since then a weekly post has been about all I can manage (if that). Although I’ve managed to keep my book blog more consistent, that’s only been possible because I schedule a lot of posts in advance.

posting activity
My hugely inconsistent posting pattern.

To be honest, I’ve been writing less in general; it isn’t only the blogging that’s been neglected. I completed one first draft (Bard) and started another (Happy Gay Magical Novel), as well as editing a book (Butterfly of Night), but that doesn’t seem like very much when you consider that for seven months I wasn’t at university and could theoretically have been writing as much as I wanted.

I’m going to go right ahead and blame depression for both of these things, because I think it’s affected my ability to write fiction as well as my ability to maintain my blog.

With blogging, it’s made it hard for me to have anything to say. I haven’t been doing anything, which generally means nothing’s been triggering particular revelations or thoughts, and therefore I have nothing to share with you. Since I tend to only blog when I have something to say, and since that tends to require me to actually do stuff, that’s seriously limited the topics I’ve had available to me.

It also means that when I do end up talking about my life, as inevitably happens when there’s nothing else to say, it tends to be less than cheerful. I don’t like moaning on the internet, for all I do it regularly, so I find these posts somewhat frustrating to write, just as I’m sure they’re not particularly fun to read.

With fiction, I haven’t been writing because I’ve lacked the energy to sit upright for any length of time, the motivation to commit, and the positivity to believe it’s worth the effort. On the few occasions I feel mentally clear enough to write, I have to use that time to get on with university work, since that also suffers when I’ve got the brain fog that gets in the way of fiction.

It turns out when you can only write a dissertation OR a novel and not both, the dissertation has to take priority. Who knew.

My writing hopes this year had included querying Butterfly of Night and hopefully finding an agent, a process that started with Pitch Wars in the summer and then faded from view when everything else started to get in the way, to the point where I’ve made absolutely no progress. I’d also hoped to write another draft of the first Death and Fairies book over the Christmas holiday, but since I’m a good couple of weeks in and my work remains largely untouched, that’s not going to be possible.

As for poetry… ha. Remember how a couple of years ago I was writing enough poems to put together three collections and have some left over? I could count on my digits how many poems I wrote this year, and I’m not even sure I’d need to move on to toes. A couple of them might have been good, but mostly they were just non-existent. Poetry doesn’t seem to be a thing I’m capable of at the moment.

the moments i know magic cover 5 full size
My plan to release another collection before long has taken a back seat for obvious reasons.

I’m frustrated, to say the least. I’m fed up of not being able to do the things I love because of depression and chronic pain and the fatigue that means I sleep way more than is practical. I’m fed up of realising the year has come to an end and I’ve made next to no progress towards my goal of making a career for myself as a writer, that instead of gaining experience and confidence, I’ve actually lost a lot of my nerve.

I’m sad to realise that my twenty first birthday is approaching and I’m a year further past my original goal of being at least agented, if not published, as a teen — but I haven’t got any closer to it.

I guess this, like many of my other blog posts, has focused solely on the negatives. I think in 2017 I’ll try to do that less, and I may as well make a start now. So here are a few of the writing related things I did manage to achieve this year.

  • I wrote and posted the first draft of Bard on Wattpad, even though that was a terrifying experience. This included writing it on trains and in Canada to ensure I managed to post chapters regularly, but I did it.
  • I maintained my book blog fairly consistently. It wasn’t perfect or uninterrupted, but I still wrote a lot of book reviews.
  • I completed NaNoWriMo for the eighth time running (I think?), despite not finishing the book itself, and having very little plot to speak of.
  • I did a lot of background worldbuilding for the Death and Fairies series, so even though I didn’t manage to write any new drafts and I still have more questions than answers, I’ve made a substantial amount of progress with it.
  • I only wrote a handful of poems… but I wrote a handful of poems. Some is better than none.

This hasn’t been a great year for me, especially in terms of writing and blogging which have suffered due to the unending brain fog that plagues me thanks to fatigue and pain and depression and so on. It’s been disappointing, and in many ways the difficulties have made me question whether it’s worth it, as well as whether I’m good enough to keep trying.

But 2017 will be better, because I need it to be better. It has to be better.

And in an attempt to make it so, I’ll be trying to focus a little bit more on what I’ve achieved (however small), rather than on the things I failed to do. I hope you’ll stick with me as I attempt to get back into the habit of writing regular posts.

10 thoughts on “Depression, Writing, and 2016

  1. Dude, do you hear how much you’re asking of yourself? Write more than one novel, edit another, get it agented, also write poetry, also maintain blog and ALSO get a degree from one of the most competitive and academically challenging universities in the world. It’s no wonder you don’t have time for everything – you’re trying to DO everything.

    I’m not surprised you feel defeated if your measure of success was doing more in a year than most people do in five.

    If I were you, I’d take a step back and get your gears in order. Your degree is going to eat your life during term time, that’s just a fact of life. Use writing to keep you sane, but don’t try and make it as big a priority as your actual degree. Holidays, you can change things up, put your writing hat back on and let that be your main thing. The blog can fit in behind the rest. And most important of all, take care of yourself. It’s easy to lose a sense of self worth and motivation in the melee, especially with the depression beast creeping about. Focus. Narrow it down. Don’t demand the world of yourself.

    You have plenty of time. Just take it one thing at a time.

    1. Well, to be fair, most of these goals were on the basis of NOT trying to get a degree at the same time because I’d taken time out — I wanted to get it done while I was at home because I know how little time I have at uni. Plus I’m also working on the basis of what I’ve been capable of doing in previous years. I dunno. I felt I had more reasonable expectations than I have done in the past, especially given that I had very few other commitments for a few months. Bleh.

      1. Understandable – I will admit I forgot quite how long you intermitted for.

        Dialling back and reassessing still sounds like a good plan to me. Especially if you’re still judging yourself by previous years. Judge by the now. The now is always different to what was, and what will be. It’s the only concrete we have, might as well chop it up and use it as a yard stick.

  2. WELL BARD WAS BRILLIANT. So I am still that rabid little annoying fan flailing annoyingly over it in the background. :’) I have such fond memories of freaking out over Lynn’s welfare because I don’t trust you. aHEM. And I do totally get that disappointment of not being close to goals of being-published-or-agented-as-a-teen. I was like devastated when I turned 20 because it was like my #1 LIFE GOAL to be published as a teen. But looking back I’m actually glad I wasn’t. Everything I write is getting me to be a better writer, so. I’m just keepin’ on, keepin’ on.
    Anyway, I hope things pick up for you soon, but also don’t be mad at yourself for not achieving as much as you wanted this year!! You DID still achieve good things and not every year is a flourishing one.
    (Oh wait I just remembered I read Butterfly too and panicked over Isabel a lot this year as well. NICE. I can always count on a Miriam novel to destroy me. :’)

    1. Just sticking nose in to say that I too panicked myself to death over Lynn (even if we shipped different things, Cait and I are both aligned in that regard). Also mostly what Cait said in general.

      I feel like both of us are going to be the ones who sit back and laugh at the pain of your future readers. While crying ourselves. Because we knew this was coming AND WE STILL READ IT.

    2. I know what you mean about always getting better and being glad that previous attempts to get published or whatever didn’t succeed, but I also think that’s part of my problem. I’m so aware of my current imperfections that I can’t let myself stop editing and I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied with my writing to the extent where I’d be able to let go of it, you know? Alas.

      I’d forgotten that you read Butterfly of Night. Or rather, I’d forgotten that you read this draft and not a previous one — I’m finding it really hard to keep straight in my head which ones people have read, especially as there were some substantial differences after some of the redrafts, haha.

      Yeah, no one trusts me with Lynn, apparently. Well, that was kind of justified, except for the fact that Charley seemed convinced I’d kill Tally despite that never having been even slightly a possibility…

      1. I REMEMBER NATHANIEL. YOU DID THAT JUST TO SPITE ME. I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN. I HAVE NOT FORGIVEN.

        Also, no book is ever perfect. Eventually you’re just gonna have to get to a point where you can say “fuckit, it’s a start” and throw it at someone else (agent/editor/whatever), who will then throw it back to you and you can start fixing it allllll over again.

        1. For some reason, this comment got disappeared into the Trash section on WordPress and I only just found it. Huh. Anyway, to be fair to me about the Nathaniel incident, it was a very specific act of revenge (and totally warranted, given that you broke my heart twice in the space of, like, a fortnight). I don’t USUALLY fridge people’s favourite characters for no reason whatsoever.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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