One of Those Days: Writing and the Blues

Blues Man LeadbellyEver had one of those days? Sure you have. You cut yourself shaving. It’s T-minus a nanosecond ‘til the schoolbus comes and junior refuses to put his shoes on. Your spouse appears to have all too accurately recognized your thousand glaring faults and is having a predictably aggravated reaction. It’s raining and when you go to pet it goodbye, the dog barfs on your shoes. Or maybe all those things didn’t happen, but it still feels like they did. Your soul is lying in a heap at the bottom of your solar plexus, which feels like it’s being squeezed by a cold, invisible hand.

In short, you’re depressed.

I think, based on no scientific evidence whatsoever, that writers are a favorite target of this particular demon. I don’t know if it’s the writing that makes you depressed, what with the solitude and effort, or the depression that makes you write, as a release and a means of finding clarity in a stew of emotion. What I do know is that the writing is still there to do, even if you’re blue as the Atlantic on a clear day.

When I feel this way, I sometimes start the day’s prose-making with a free write, just laying words down on the page as fast as they tumble out of my head, with no effort to control them at all. On depressed days, these passages will often start with something like “everything stinks,” or “life is pus.” It’s pretty negative stuff, but I find that after a paragraph or two I get a little more rational. I’ll see that I’ve blown things out of proportion, insisted the universe work the way I want it to, or forgotten to count my blessings. In a half page or a page, I usually feel good enough to get to work.

At other times I get outside and walk for a while. We’ve got a dog now, so I have a built-in excuse for that. I let him lead—within reason—and give my attention to whatever’s happening in the natural world. On these walks, I try to look up and out a little, to take in the expanse of creation. It reminds me of God and the interdependence of all things, which always puts life into perspective and calms my heart. I also pick up the dog’s poo in a bag, which is life-affirming in a really weird, smelly way.

Other things work for me, like listening to music, playing a musical instrument, reading a good book (nothing sad, though), or throwing some paint onto a canvas. You probably have your own list.

One other thing that works: sucking it up and just writing what you have to write. Sometimes the old blues can give your work an edge it wouldn’t have on an ordinary day.

Writing this entry made me feel better. I hope your next depression tactic works for you, too.

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One Reply to “One of Those Days: Writing and the Blues”

  1. Depression is definitely a part of life, and even more so a part of writing. I think the main reason for that is because we bare ourselves so much through our stories, giving us a direct connection with our flaws and things we may not entirely like about ourselves.

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