“If you want to be a real writer, you’re going to have to write every day.”
“Real writers make themselves write, no matter how they’re feeling.”
“The real, professional writer gets up at 5 in the morning to start writing, like a real job.”
I read through these reasonably well-intended tips on page after page of “How To Be A Real Writer” and find myself more discouraged with each passing page on Google. At first, I find myself feeling guilty. Am I not, after all, a real writer?
I struggle to sleep. When I do sleep, I struggle to get out of bed for several days at a time. I suffer from executive dysfunction on the best of days and complete, utter, comatose uselessness on the worst.
I have depression.
Having a mental illness can stymie the most valiant of attempts to function like any neurotypical artist apparently does. I’ve been writing since I was a child, and love doing so, but the pressures surrounding turning it into a career (or even continuing it as regular hobby!) compound with the general executive haziness of depression to turn me into a crying, miserable mess before I’ve even opened my laptop, much less gotten the document writer up and running.
It’s easy in this situation to be angry with yourself. Even with all the work I do in spreading awareness about mental illness, I still find myself battling with sneaky thoughts such as “If you would only try harder” and “You’re just being lazy”, and the best one of all: “Are you really as ill as you think you are?”.
These thoughts can be killer; while we may think they’re encouraging us to succeed, to fight to work harder when the odds seem stacked against us, the reality is that they destroy our creativity and force us into a pit of despair while we’re already climbing through the trenches of our mental illnesses.
I wish that I could offer you a solution to this problem. In a world that demeans the mentally ill as heavily as ours does, it seems impossible to escape the messages everywhere that parade “willpower” as the ultimate defeater of all personal issues, therefore placing the responsibility to perform as a neurotypical squarely in our laps and removing any need for the rest of the world to change their attitude towards us. It takes daily, strong words of self-love, affirmation, and encouragement to remind us that it is okay that we are the way we are. We are not lazy. We are not at fault. We are just as creative and talented as any neurotypical.
The world is simply built to cater to their needs rather than ours. That does not mean you cannot succeed. You have to first stop putting yourself up to the same expectations as someone without mental illness lives with. We have different brains, and therefore, different toolboxes with which to work. How can you request the same work requisitions from two different boxes of tools?
Take care of yourself to the best of your ability while you embark on this writing adventure. It’s rough out here in the artistic world and hard for someone with mental illness, but I know you can succeed. Be patient with yourself.