I'd tried the forced-march approach, the supposed discipline-building practice of just sitting down at a prescribed time every day and forcing myself to conjure words on the screen. It worked well for five novels worth of material, one and a half of which I published and sold with modest success.
Then it just stopped working. I stopped working. It wasn't for lack of ideas; I've got an infinite well of them that produces a bucket-load any time I turn the crank. The problem was in distraction and dissatisfaction. Those two forces worked hand-in-hand to keep me from creating. I'd been too long and too far from my true love, and it had been forever since I'd been properly paid. Those things added up, and all the will in the world couldn't get me to rise to the occasion of crafting the next great work.
Depression is a soul-sucking hole that pulls in all productivity until nothing is left but a husk that just wants to lie in bed all afternoon and, in my case, escape into video games and music all night. But it was still better than working a hated day job, enriching people I'd never meet. That thought was all that sustained me through those twilight years of independence.
But to every night must come a dawn. Self-preservation is a wild factor in the continued survival of the creative person. While I frittered away the time and energy on seemingly pointless pursuits, and allowed my skills to languish and atrophy, something in the back of my mind—or maybe in the pit of my heart—was gnawing, gnawing, gnawing away at whatever it was that was keeping the energy tied down. Before long, something had to give. Sometimes it's the artist's mind, and that's unfortunate. In my case it was the renewal of the will to make. I thrive on expression, on seeing my craft realized. It's not about money, or recognition. It's about the joy that resides in the act of creation. And re-discovering that joy is the most important thing a depressed creative can do. It's not easy, but it's surely the path to salvation and a return to livelihood.
Sometimes the only cure for creative block is to die a little. Just as the only cure for a life lived for others is to die a little. Die a little death, and be reborn, if that's what it takes.
An artist must do art. Everything else is meaningless.
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