8 Signs Your Mental Health May Be Affecting Your Writing
There are so many stereotypes about writers. Some believe the best writing comes when a writer is at his or her lowest point, is heavily intoxicated, or is taking a ride on Puff the Magic Dragon. These stereotypes make some writers feel as if seeking professional help will, in fact, detract from their creativity.
On the other extreme, there are some writers who feel as if their inability to focus or be productive isn’t serious enough to check out, and they may be right. However, when do you know your mental health is negatively affecting your writing? Let’s talk about some signs you shouldn’t ignore.
You struggle to focus.
Any mother will tell you that multitasking is a skill she’s learned over the years. But when it comes to writing, we all know that focus is best. So, what happens when it’s time to write and you just can’t get your head in the zone?
Maybe you spend more time zoning out than you do adding words to that practically blank page. Maybe you don’t know how to tame the twenty ideas that always seem to fill your mind when it’s time to write.
Take some time to reflect in your journal about what’s going on in your life. Do some freewriting and allow your mind to move from one topic to the next as you write. Once you’ve exhausted your thoughts, go back and read what you wrote. Take note of any common themes or out-of-the-ordinary moments.
If you notice it’s been more difficult than normal to focus while writing, you should consider reaching out to a professional counselor.
Your productivity is suffering.
Normally, you’d already have your content calendar done and even a few posts outlined for next month. These days, you’re happy if you remember today’s date. It’s as if you haven’t been able to keep up with anything. Your normal systems you have in place aren’t working and it’s hurting you big time as a writer and in your personal life, too. You’re doing a lot but still, nothing seems to be getting done. The solution? You may need to take a minute and push pause on life.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking I’m crazy because moms and wives for sure don’t get breaks. Listen to me. I know society thinks we are superwomen, and if we’re honest, we like to be thought of as superheroes; however, even superheroes need to take care of themselves. If you’re not as productive as you normally are, you may need a break more than you know. Take a “sick day” and go lay by the pool. Pull out your journal and pour it all on the page. Do whatever you need to do to clear your head so you can go back to being productive in both your writing and personal endeavors.
Your imperfections are a hindrance.
You’ve got deadlines to meet so you can publish your book on time; however, your imperfections are getting in the way. Everything you write seems like crap and you wonder if anyone will find your book helpful. You’re wondering if you were even meant to be an author.
Everyone has measured themselves up against someone else. On a surface level, comparing can be okay if you’re spot checking for ways you can grow. For example, in writing courses, instructors typically give sample sentences to clearly make their point. These examples highlight where we can improve. However, trouble comes when we begin to see everything we do as “trash”. In these moments, you may need to take a step back and re-evaluate your writing goals.
Focus on the good strides you’ve made instead of the hiccups. Philippians 4:8 reminds us to think about those things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (HCSB). So, dump the negative thoughts and remember that God gave you a gift to cultivate for His glory.
You can’t write anymore.
If you’re a mom and you’re in a space where you don’t have the time to write (hello, colicky babies who don’t sleep), that’s one thing. No shame, girl. Get your rest on. However, if you’ve reached a level where you simply can’t bring yourself to write anymore, you owe it to yourself to find out why. Maybe journaling will help you realize the root of your problem. If not, I suggest therapy. I know this is a taboo subject for many but talking it out with a trained professional can be just what the doctor ordered.
Contrary to popular belief, counselors don’t tell you what to do. (I know because I’m one!) Counselors are simply there to listen to and help you arrive at the best answer for your situation. If you’re looking for a counselor, check out who is covered under your insurance already or do a Google search. There is an underlying reason why you can’t bring yourself to write anymore. It’s time to find out what it is.
Your cup is always half full.
As a wife and mom, I know how rough it is to be on the clock 24/7. You’re the sock finder, the cook, the nurse, and so much more. If you aren’t careful, your cup will never have a chance to get full. Maybe you can’t go away for a girls trip weekend like Lisa Cooper (Jada Pinkett Smith) from the movie, Girls Trip. Maybe you can only sneak away (let’s be honest, hide) in your bathroom or closet for 10 minutes at a time. Girl, take what time you can! Sit in silence. Pray. Meditate. Listen to soothing beach sounds on YouTube. Your family and readers need you at full capacity. Even God took the Sabbath to do absolutely nothing. Take that as a sign we weren’t meant to live on half-full cups.
Your energy is consistently lower than normal.
Yes, motherhood and marriage require a lot of time and energy; however, if your energy levels are lower than normal, you may need to make an appointment with your doctor. Lower energy levels could be a sign of a medical issue and you need to make sure you’re in the clear. I’m not a doctor but I’d also recommend checking out your eating and sleeping habits, too. Lack of sleep and eating certain foods can definitely attribute to lack of energy, thereby making it difficult for you to tap into your creativity. If you’re having trouble getting to sleep or you want to sleep all day, it’s definitely time to call in the doc.
You are anti-social.
Before I met my husband, I was a bit of a social butterfly. However, I started to embrace and adopt some of his introvert tendencies after a while. Being an introvert is fine. However, if you’re always locking yourself away from the outside world, that’s no bueno, my friend.
I know there are stereotypes that peg us writers as anti-social. However, what’s the underlying reason for your anti-socialness? How is this affecting your writing? Although I’m a counselor by day, I am not a therapist, which is someone who can diagnose you with disorders such as depression.
If you’ve always been the extrovert and lately, you’d rather stay in your pristine office, you may need to check into that. If you’ve always been an introvert but it’s been a lot tougher lately to be around groups of people at all, you, too, may need to chat with a professional. Ignoring signs can negatively affect both your health and writing.
You considered harming yourself or someone else.
We’ve all seen the memes that warn people to be careful before they end up six feet under in our novels. However, when your writing starts out as a dark scene and turns into you entertaining the idea of carrying out that scene in real life, it’s time to call in the doc. There’s nothing wrong with a good, creative, murder mystery, but we writers are not in the business of living out those stories.
If you find yourself in a position where you want to harm yourself or others, seek out help immediately. The National Suicide Hotline number is 1-800-273-8255. You can call this number 24/7 for free and talk with someone who is trained to help those in distress. If you’re deaf or hard of hearing, there are trained people who can help you at this number, too.
I also want you to know there’s no need to feel ashamed, my friend, for seeking professional help. Your safety and the safety of others is far more important than saving face or our pride.