“Set a schedule; set reasonable goals!”
“Give yourself deadlines.”
“Protect your mental energy.”
“Cut down on pleasure reading, TV, social media, and just write!”
“Is writing a priority in your life? Make it one.”
So you can’t find time to write, and you read a dozen blog posts or even books that give some variant of the advice above. And so you push yourself harder and harder, set more deadlines, and then abrade yourself when you miss your artificial deadlines again. Then you read more blog posts and set new goals.
Here’s the thing: it is true. Set goals, protect your mental energy, make writing a priority. That’s what you need to do to find time to write.
But there is one exception. One major exception to that advice. One writer does not need to hear that advice.
The writers struggling with depression or anxiety or a bipolar disorder or OCD or PTSD or any other mental health illness does not need to hear that advice. And considering the remarkable number of writers who struggle with mental illness, it is shameful that no one takes the time to tell them, “It is okay to not write.”
Really, there is a reason for the depressed writer stereotype, so let’s address it. If you currently struggle with some type of mental health problem, this advice is for you.
I know you just want to write, write your novel, write your blog, reach people with your writing—I know, trust me, I know. I know the quiet, sad disappointment when you think about that untouched Word document. I know that heavy exhaustion when you wait for the timer click down for the next episode on Netflix as you think on that blog post that you didn’t write. I know that weighty longing when you think about all those emails from all those wonderful writer friends that you so desperately want to reply to. Yeah, I know you want to “find time to write.” Hey, I even know that you technically have plenty of time to write.
But here’s the thing: you need to give yourself permission not to write.
Right now, the last thing you need is more pressure. Yeah, yeah, you know. I know! But you need to take time and rest, focus on yourself, and—for heaven’s sake—give yourself time to think and feel once in a while! So repeat after me:
It is okay if I don’t write.
I don’t need to write right now.
I will write later—not now—and that is okay.
Look, maybe writing helps you. Aren’t I write a blog post right now? Yes. Yes, I sure am. But I did not plan to write this post. In fact, I told myself a couple weeks ago that I would not plan to write any more blog posts until I felt better. Am I going to start back on my posting schedule next week? Nope, and I’m not even going to tell myself or my followers that I am going to try. Because I am not going to try. I am going to rest.
So go ahead and write if it helps. But here are your rules for writing:
- Don’t set times to write
- Don’t tell yourself that you need to write
- Don’t work on your big projects: Don’t work on your novel, don’t write blog posts for your blog (I’m a hypocrite—I know, but I am working on it, okay?)
- Don’t set a deadline for this rest away from writing
- Write about what is on your mind
- Write what you love
- Write about what you are dealing with right now
- AND DON’T WRITE IF YOU DON’T REALLY, REALLY FEEL LIKE YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST WRITE
Seriously, you don’t need to write. Listen to me loud and clear:
Dear depressed writers, you don’t need to find time to write.