Mel’s Memos: I Just Want to Write
The urge to write something comes to me the moment I wake up in the morning. I go to sleep thinking about what I’ll write the next day. Plots and summaries are a slideshow in my mind at all times of the day. Characters lounge about in their own room until it’s time for them to take the stage and play their part on paper. Writing is more than a job. It is more than a hobby. It is more than just some lines on paper. For me, it’s many things, but most of all, it’s my therapy.
Many of my characters suffer from mental illnesses. This is part accident and part deliberate. I have several characters, many of them primary ones, that suffer from depression, are loners, and don’t get along well with others. In fact, I find it difficult to think of a character that doesn’t have some kind of mental illness. This, I imagine, is because I am also severely depressed. The ultimate question is: does writing help?
Yes and no. Due to my depressive nature, my stories will sometimes end tragically. This doesn’t sit well with a reader. However, writing tends to relieve so much of my stress that whenever I’m not writing, I become depressed again. It’s impossible for me to take breaks, because the downtime affects me so badly. Performing other tasks is almost impossible, even if I once enjoyed them. I lose interest in them now, rather quickly, in fact. I work indoors, alone, away from people. I’m already antisocial, so it’s a good profession for me, but as you can imagine, lack of social interaction isn’t good for one’s psyche. Chores get done, but not to the extent that they should.
Apparently, it’s common for authors to be depressed. If I hadn’t been married, I’d be much worse for wear. I don’t even know what I would be doing if it weren’t for writing and publishing. I do it so much that I’ve seen a vast improvement in my overall style in the past four or five years. But an author works in a field of constant criticism, mostly from those we don’t know or have never met. Publishing your own work is not only scary, but can also induce episodes in those with depression. I have no editor, no agent, and few who can review my work. When I release it to the world, I know I’m stumbling through the dark, trying to figure out what works, tossing rings to see which ones land on a spike. For all I know, I’ve written terrible novels that the world would never love, and the only way to find out is to cross my fingers and set it free into the wild world where millions of books lie dead.
Knowing that I might have written an awful book doesn’t stop me. I have to keep writing. It’s all I want to do. I live for it. If I didn’t write, my whole world would fall apart, as would the countless worlds I’ve created over the years. My biggest problem, however, is being unable to look at my work objectively. I look at it through the eyes of someone who hates it. While this allows me to be a good editor, it forces me to overwork the manuscript and add and delete things until it’s bled dry. Even the final product is mediocre to me most of the time, even if it gets praised.
But I have to keep doing it. Or I’ll lose my mind.