After the 2016 presidential election, it was as if all the creative energy was zapped from my body. I’m pretty sure I didn’t have it in me to write for several weeks. I was so devastated by the news that I couldn’t find it in myself to produce anything worthwhile. “What’s the point?” “Who cares?” “Does my writing even matter?” These were the questions running through my head as I curled up on the couch and binge-watched Parks and Recreation (the only thing that made me feel better at the time). Finding the strength to write when going through a period of unrest or grief is tough. One of my writer friends always reminds me that we need to be kind to ourselves. This is a good mantra for every day life, but it’s even more important to remember when we’re engulfed in sadness.
After being diagnosed with depression when I was 14, I’ve lived with sadness for some time. There are many days when writing is impossible for me because I am so consumed with my own emotions—drained from feeling both everything and nothing so completely. It’s hard, and remembering to be kind to myself is even harder. My best advice for writing through grief is to not write. At least for a while. This seems counterintuitive, but so much of writing is thinking. It’s gestating on this world and these characters in your head.
Sometimes the best way to feed your story is to seek external forces that fuel your creativity. After the election, I put my manuscript aside and started going for long runs. I went to on day trips to museums and antiquing in small towns. Most importantly, I spoke with writer friends to see how they’re doing. All of these things were the fuel I needed to reignite my creative fire. Not putting so much pressure on writing X amount of words or pages a day even in the midst of my grief helped me relax and immerse myself in my story. I am not telling you to stop or give up. Your words matter. Your story matters. But so does your mental health. And sometimes the best way back to your story is pausing to be kind to yourself.
When I go through these bouts of grief, I often wonder if my story is even worth it or if I’m even good enough. As writers, we all do this to ourselves. We feel everything. It’s part of our job. And right now we are living in a time that’s scary and unpredictable. Our words matter. What we say matters. Books help readers feel like they aren’t alone. They provide guidance and courage. People need our words. They need our comfort. And, as writers, it is our duty to provide readers with these sources of love and strength. Not only is your story worth it, but so are you. Remember that writing is difficult and doesn’t come easy for anyone. We all also feel varying levels of grief and pain. But we also have the gifts to help others through theirs. So take the time. Be patient with story and yourself. And know that you aren’t alone in your writing journey.