Write or Wrong: Struggling with Writer’s Block During a Depressive Episode

If you’re a regular visitor to the Lair, you will probably have noticed that I haven’t written any smut in a while. The dearth of my creative writing started with a very reasonable and understandable cause; I was flat out working on audiobook projects and genuinely had too few hours in the day left in which to do anything more than grab a bite to eat and a few hours sleep. What I had not realised before, but know very well now, is that audiobook creation is a very time-consuming task. The narration itself is the easy part; an hour of audio generally takes about 1.5- 2 hours to record (depending how often one trips over tricky passages or has a coughing fit!), then there’s the listening back, editing out the flubs, going back to re-record any bits you fucked up but didn’t realise at the time, then cleaning up the sound. And once that’s done, there’s the sound engineering. Amazon’s audiobook production platform has very stringent guidelines, involving noise-floors, RMS levels and dBs, and a whole lot of other techie wizardry that I spent lots of time researching but am not really much the wiser for it. But, long story short, a simple hour of an audiobook takes a lot of work and several hours to produce.

I now have sixteen titles under my belt, with another few on the way to retail, and the work has started to slow down. I tried not to let that worry me, as I still had a couple of upcoming jobs on the horizon. And I thought that the respite would allow me time to concentrate on getting some writing done. Well, sods law, in that time I have not only come down with two separate infections, but find myself struggling with a vicious depression. I admit to spending most of my time hiding under the duvet and trying to sleep it away. But one can’t sleep all day, and those waking moments can be hellish when all you can think about is how hopeless everything has become. Sometimes I can’t do anything other than fight against the darkness. Other times, I try to fight back by doing something I used to enjoy. If I can manage to remember what those things were…

My short story “The Day Trip” was recently featured on the Good Girl Gone Bad podcast and, if you’ve heard it, you’ll know that it’s practically begging for a Part Two (and possibly more), but although I initially had many ideas about where I would take it, now I find I just can’t write it. In the occasional moments of respite from the worst of the depression, I’ve tried to capture what was in my head for these characters. However, a couple of paragraphs in, and I get stuck. I read it back, and all I can see is clumsy and uninspired prose. I debate whether to press on and polish it later, or to just give myself a break and trust that my muse will return when (if?) my mind is in a better place. I put “The Day Trip Part Two” back to bed for the time being and try to start a new story, but again I get no further than a (clumsy and laboured) paragraph in, and I falter yet again. And that starts the fear that it’s all over and I’ve lost my creative spark forever. Cue another spiral down into the dark pit of despair.

Now, hypocrite that I am, I wrote about this kind of thing in an article for The Smutlancer back in October, offering my own tips for beating the block. These things have worked in the past, and it’s alarming to me to now find that they are currently, as the fabulous “Malcolm Tucker” character in The Thick of It says, “about as much use as a marzipan dildo”. However, one of the first points I make in the article is to “Put Your Health First”, and that “getting well is the most important thing”. And so, I know I have to try and “chill”. I could force myself to sit and churn out whatever dregs my brain is currently capable of producing, but I fear that the more I do that, the more disillusioned and disheartened I’m likely to become. And so, I find myself waiting, hopefully, for a break in this bad weather that lasts long enough for the muse to poke her little nose back above the parapet. I hope to return to usual service sooner rather than later.

I want to give a massive shout out to the lovely Lola Down, who cheered me up in the early hours of this morning when things were bleak, with some very kind words and a couple of inspiring tunes on YouTube. Thank you, Lola 😘

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17 thoughts on “Write or Wrong: Struggling with Writer’s Block During a Depressive Episode

  1. This breaks my heart. After all the inspiration you have given me, I can’t stand to think of you as less than happy. But depression is a fickle thing which we have little control over. And I understand the fears and feelings you are wrestling with. I do think that your personal health is the most important in all this. It is hard for anyone when their mind and body conspire against them. And, as difficult as writing is right now, your muse will return. I agree that forcing things now only adds to the problem when the work you produce is less than what you hoped for. It may be best to take a break, without fear it will last forever. Get your body healthy, your mind at rest, and everything will work out. I wish I could do more than leave a few words, but know I am here for you if you need me! ❀😘❀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, Jupiter, for being so honest. There are lots of folks struggling and when you write about it on here, I’m sure it helps all of us out in bloggersville! Also, thank you for the endless hours and meticulous work that went into producing the six hours and 18 minutes of audio for Match, Cinder & Spark!!!! You’re amazing – a trooper! No wonder you’re flat out tired. You’ve worked hard for a long time. Rest and relaxation will help that brain muscle just like rest and relaxation is important after a marathon! xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo – Lo

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  3. I’m sorry you feel this way. It will come back, even though it doesn’t feel that way right now.

    When the time is right, that one story will crawl inside your mind and you will be unable to ignore it. There’s no saying when it will happen, but I promise it will. That’s how things work for us writers. 😘

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh lovely lady, you have to take care of your health first and foremost. Take all the time you need and we will still be here in bloggerville. The story will come back whenever you are ready. Don’t force it. ❀️

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  5. It sucks to find oneself unable to do what used to give you the most pleasure, self-satisfaction and the feeling of self-actualization. Sorry to hear that you find yourself in that position, though it’s not completely unexpected given your health struggles and you pushing yourself so hard all last year, and are still working hard this year producing audiobooks. Sometimes the best one can do is to let oneself play. There is a famous passage from a Nobel prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who found himself unable to do physics at some point: “Physics disgusts me a little bit now, but I used to enjoy doing physics. Why did I enjoy it? I used to play with it. I used to do whatever I felt like doing – it didn’t have to do with whether it was important for the development of nuclear physics, but whether it was interesting and amusing for me to play with.” That eventually led him to work out a breakthrough in physics that got him a Nobel prize. I wonder if there is something that you still enjoy doing that feels like play, but is still creative? One-liners, tongue twisters, alliterations, whatever your mind focuses on when you let yourself chill. Often the exist from dreary darkness is something completely unexpected and easy to pass over. Rooting for you to find it, or to stumble upon it.

    And here is the link to that Feynman story: https://thinkjarcollective.com/articles/richard-feynman-spinning-plates-and-serious-play/ if you are interested. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, MM. That sounds like a really interesting idea, I’m looking forward to reading the article. I’m sure there must be something I still enjoy, I just have that anhedonia- is that the work – absence of joy. I know it’s hiding somewhere, and this idea of play sounds like a good way to try to bring it out. Thank you xx

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  6. I’ve a fair amount of empathy with your plight right now, I’ve been teetering on that edge for weeks.

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned as I’ve had to come terms with this quite new side of me it is that trite aphorisms and clueless advice are intensely irritating. We know how it works for us personally but won’t get anywhere until we’re ready to process whatever it is that changes inside us to bring about the upswing.

    You’re probably aware that I’m ambivalent to writings with smut/erotica but you encompass so much more than that. I’ve found myself giggling at and engaged with some of your poetry and other writing because it’s clever and engaging, showing several more dimensions to you that are fascinating.

    I know you’ll be productive again and I look forward to that. In the meantime, know that I’m looking out and hoping for that upswing. I’m always available if you need a listening ear or just to shoot the breeze.

    🌹🌹

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Melody, firstly for your kind words about my writing, and also for the observation that “we won’t get anywhere until we’re ready to process whatever it is that changes….” This is so true, and I hadn’t really allowed myself to understand that this is the case. And that is a very useful thing to remember.

      I’m sorry that you are struggling, too, and feeling on the edge. I send you my very best xx

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  7. I am so sorry to hear you are going through such a hard time, but most definitely your health always comes on the first place. I hope things will improve for you. Be gentle to yourself.

    Rebel xox

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So sorry you are being forced into visiting the black dog, lovely lady. I wish I could give you a smile, or a giggle to at least fill a tiny bit of the emptiness you’re feeling. (((((HUGS))))) for you darlin’. I hope ‘black dog’ leaves soon and you find yourself well once more xxx

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