Wednesday, January 8, 2020

When the well is too deep to fill

As writers, we talk a lot about refilling the well, and I bet some folks are going to give lots of excellent suggestions here on SFF Seven for doing just that. (Hint: Some already have. Go back and read their posts, which are excellent. Go on. I'll wait. ... Done? Good.) Other creatives also share this need to cycle, to lean into the work for a time and then take a step back, breathe, and refocus. Zone out. Soak in.

But... what if when you look down at that deep, empty well, you see that it has no bottom? And no matter what you toss into it, it has never and will never fill up enough for you to even notice. That might be the moment when the panic sets in, because right then, looking over the lip of the well, you can feel pressure behind you, a monster named deadline and goals and sales and dreams and expectations, and nothing would bring that monster more joy than to push you in.

This is what writing was like before I realized I was depressed.

I'd do all those things that were supposed to clear my mind, and boy would they clear my mind. I'd go full zombie, walking around like I wasn't even conscious, wasn't even living, so zoned out I no longer cared about anything and mostly just wanted to sleep.

For a depressed person, reading and watching TV and taking long walks are too much. Too much effort, too much self-indulgence. My well had no bottom, and it just kept eating whatever I tossed into it.

Medication and therapy have helped me get a handle on my bleak brain, but I'm still coming to terms with that metaphorical well. I find I don't enjoy reading as much as I used to, so even sitting in a bubble bath with a book isn't exactly relaxing. Reading fiction becomes work--deconstructing the story, trying to suss out why readers adored this book as much as they did, feeling hopeless that I could ever do what that author did. Walks and music help a little. Reading nonfiction sometimes sparks an idea or a desire to turn fact into speculative froth.

But you know what works more than anything, what makes me want to write all the words ever worded?

Writing the first one.

Like, literally sitting down and writing one word, and then another. One baby step at a time. The first one is the hardest, and then they start spilling in faster and faster, filling up a page, a story, a void.

A well.


  1. I always try to remember to caveat my posts about writer's block and creativity with a note that depression, physical, and mental illness make all suggestions moot. I'm glad you're finding help with the depression. Words are good!

  2. *hugs* I'm glad that you've made baby steps! I've been there too and when it's at its worst, reading doesn't interest me either, which makes me feel worse. I wish the helping worked faster. But, all we can do is keep taking things step by step.