A WRITER’S DEPRESSION: PART ONE

Depressed Writer Clipart  I am a writer…

 

 I am depressed…

 

  I am not alone…

 

Writing is very often a solitary journey into the inner depths of one’s soul. A lot of what writers do is re-experiencing moments from our lives and/or our environments. We recreate and reimagine events in prose form, all in the effort to educate, entertain or uplift—sometimes all three.

Hours of our time is spent with a notepad, tablet or computer using words to interpret the miasma of thoughts and ideas swirling within our minds and souls, with very little—if any—regard to the effect that might have on our well-being.

A saner person might ask, “Why do you subject yourself to such torture?” The answer, isn’t always understandable to those who aren’t writers, but is as clear as clean air to most writers.

We do it because; we can’t stop…

Acclaimed fantasy writer, R.A. Salvatore is quoted as saying: “…if you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, then you’re a writer.”

As writers, we are drawn to this form of self-expression because it is within us to create and explore—both our own minds and the world around us. However, sometimes our called profession can cause us to spiral into a dark, lonely and sometimes dangerous place.

If it weren’t bad enough that writers face the sometimes daunting—but often rewarding—task of creating prose from the myriad reaches of our psyches, and attempt to make a living from our craft, we also are at war with our very own minds. We struggle to produce earnest prose, but are hardly ever satisfied with ourselves or our work. The phrase, “You are your worst critic,” is cliché yet, very succinct in its accuracy in describing why writers carry the burden of self-doubt, which is the leading contributor to depression amongst us, in my opinion. It is our own ambivalence which often proves to be our very undoing.

According to Portland based author and psychotherapist, Philip Kenney, At its best, self-criticism seems to drive individuals to revise and polish work. At its worst, it can torment and paralyze one’s efforts and completely distort the self-portrait beyond recognition.”

Writers and other creatives are sensitive people, perhaps more sensitive than many other individuals in other fields. Most of us are very critical of ourselves and our work, which is what drives us to improve in our craft, but can also be the debilitating bane of our existence.

It is our sensitivity which gives us the insight into our minds and the world around us and allows us to create the worlds and characters in our work. It gives us the ability to explore our fears and emotions in a way few others can experience.

However, there is a price…

That same sensitivity makes us very vulnerable. As we delve into the unconscious and subconscious of our minds, we are forced to confront those dark places hidden away from the rest of the world. Places which are very often too painful to talk about verbally, we use our writing to communicate about.

That’s pretty scary stuff, indeed.

Writers are prone to being overstimulated and suffer from emotional overflow. This often leads to anxiety—which in my experience—can cause an assortment of problems in the writer’s ability to function on the day to day and interact with others—most importantly their family.

We also tend to internalize our feelings and thoughts. Expression in writing is not synonymous with verbal communication, and we are frequently faced with anxious, emotional overload, which can cause us to have morose and solitary periods, as well as traumatic breakdowns.

In my next blog post, A Writer’s Depression: Part Two, I will explore the ways in which writers can deal with their feelings of anxiety and how to possibly determine the difference between the nagging self-critic and perhaps a deeper problem.

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MY FIRST WRITER’S RETREAT EXPERIENCE

IHW LOGO7aOn Friday, February 22, 2013 I attended my very first Indiana Horror Writers (IHW) Writer’s Retreat and the experience was very rewarding. I went into this with feelings of excitement and wariness. I’d heard stories from my fellow writers on what to expect and prepared myself accordingly. The first evening was spent settling into our rented townhome for the evening and unwinding from our outside lives.

When writers gather together it’s inevitable that we talk shop. Many of the struggles we face as writers are best understood and most sympathized with by other writers. But, there was plenty of time devoted to socializing and partaking in adult libations.

Our time together was semi-structured and not just a frat party weekend for writers, although we had our Animal House moments of lounging around drinking, listening to 80’s music and talking about such diverse subjects as our favorite pop culture icons to the role of S&M in writing.

On Saturday we all trickled out of bed and made our way to the kitchen for coffee—one of two brown liquids often associated with writers. We ate breakfast and then when everyone was at least semi-coherent, some of us participated in a writing exercise. The idea was to take a prompt and free write for fifteen minutes a piece of flash fiction, which we would then read to the group.

I was amazed at the level of creativity attained by some of my fellow writers. Their pieces—with minimal polish—sounded as though they were ready for publication. Although they all had speculative fiction slants, they were generally the funny type of stories you could find in Reader’s Digest or the Saturday Evening Post.

We won’t talk about mine…apparently the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet.

Later that afternoon after a couple hours of idle conversation, we grabbed our laptops and headed to the great room for a workshop. The leader gave us certain broad parameters to follow in stages which focused on developing a viable plot for a short story and/or novel. At the end, we shared what we’d come up with and again the level of creativity was astounding.

Apparently by then the coffee had done its thing because my peers enjoyed what I’d written and it was something I could feel proud of creating, unlike that prior writing exercise which shall never see the light of day.

We then dispersed to grab showers and then make our way to Irvington for a debut book signing featuring members of our group. The bookstore was quaint and cozy. There were a number of people who showed up to meet, greet and get signed copies of our friend’s newest tome.

The authors and editors of Dark Faith: Invocations @ Bookmama's in Irvington, day 2 of the IHW Retreat. Lucy Snyder, Gary Braunbeck, RJ Sullivan, Maurice Broaddus, Kyle Johnson & Jerry Gordon.

The authors and editors of Dark Faith: Invocations @ Bookmama’s in Irvington, day 2 of the IHW Retreat.
Lucy Snyder, Gary Braunbeck, RJ Sullivan, Maurice Broaddus, Kyle Johnson & Jerry Gordon.

The IHW Gang @ The Oriental Inn, day 2 of the IHW Retreat! — with Rj Sullivan, R.J. Sullivan, author, Drew Leiter, Todd Manning, Kathy Watness, Natalie Phillips, Gerald Carlstrom, Rodney Carlstrom, Gary A. Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Michael West, Bill Larson and Chris Garrison.

The IHW Gang @ The Oriental Inn, day 2 of the IHW Retreat! — with Rj Sullivan, R.J. Sullivan, author, Drew Leiter, Todd Manning, Kathy Watness, Natalie Phillips, Gerald Carlstrom, Rodney Carlstrom, Gary A. Braunbeck, Lucy Snyder, Michael West, Bill Larson and Chris Garrison.

Riding the high of a successful book signing, we headed out to a neighborhood Chinese Restaurant for an evening meal. It was the first time I’d been to this particular establishment and I must say that on the outside it looked like a hole in the wall joint. However, the food and service was excellent and their menu prices were very reasonable.After everyone had gotten their food fix and were dealing with a case of the “I-tis”—after eating lethargy—we made our way back to our rented townhome to settle in for the evening.

A group of us again gathered into the great room and pulled out our laptops to pull up a piece of our work to share in a group reading. The stories shared were fantastically well written and crafted. The sneak peeks of, “Works in progress” from my peers was entertaining, enlightening and proved that I had joined a group of truly talented people.

Some of us, in an attempt to relive our youths stayed up until the wee hours of the morning; snacking, drinking and talking about nothing in particular. It was our last night and we wanted to be rebels, which we paid for the very next day.

As we tumbled out of bed like newly awakened day walkers, rising from a deep hibernation, we made our way to the kitchen for that morning elixir we writers seem to thrive on.

Me, Michael West Chris Chris Garrison & Rj Sullivan @ The IHW Retreat, Final Day! TCQ

Me, Michael West, Eric Garrison & Rj Sullivan @ The IHW Retreat, Final Day! TCQ

The end of our weekend retreat culminated in a brunch buffet where we talked about our assessment of experiences that weekend. Our out of town guests returned safely to their bailiwicks and we left in anticipation of next year’s retreat and what new and wonderful excitement it would hold.

This blog post is an illustration of how new experiences can and do strengthen our creativity and help to build important and lasting relationships for the future. If you are a writer and have the opportunity to attend a writer’s retreat, I highly recommend that you go.

You will be changed.

BETWEEN DARK & LIGHT BLOG TOUR WITH D.A. ADAMS

BDaL-TourBadgeToday I have the pleasure of Spotlighting in my blog, a friend and writing peer D.A. Adams! His latest novel titled, “Between Light & Dark.”

D.A. Adams is a writer at Seventh Star Press, publisher of my upcoming novel and short stories, so if you are a fan of speculative fiction within the fantasy realm, then this novel is bound to be a real treat! Not only am I a friend of the author, but I’m a fan of the series. D.A. Adams is a rising star in the speculative fiction world and a fresh voice for the genre.

I’m proud to know him and call him my friend, but even more than that, I’m inspired by his creativity and skill as a writer. As a new writer for Seventh Star Press, I’m  honored to be in the company of such a fine writer and person.

Do yourself a favor and check out the work of D.A. Adams, you’ll be glad that you did!

BDaL-Cover_FINALSmallerBook 4: Bethween Dark & Light

The Great Empire has surrounded the Kiredurks and are preparing to conquer the kingdom, but unknown to them, Kwarck, the mysterious hermit of the plains, has his own plan in action. To the east, he has summoned an elven army and charged Crushaw with leading them into battle. To the south, Roskin will gather an army from the fractured Ghaldeon lands. But to the west, an ancient and powerful evil stirs.

DAADAMSD. A. Adams is a novelist, a farmer, a professor of English, and in my estimation, a true gentleman. His breakout fantasy series, The Brotherhood of Dwarves, transcends genre and illuminates the human soul in all its flashes of glory and innumerable failings.     He is active on the Con circuit and has contributed writing to literary as well as fine art publications, and maintains his active blog, “The Ramblings of D. A. Adams”. He lives and works in East Tennessee, and is the proud father of two boys, Collin and Finn.     His ability as a storyteller breathes life into every character, and his craftsmanship as a writer makes these stories about relationships; human or otherwise.
Below are the other books in the popular series!

Cover 1.inddBook 1: The Brotherhood of Dwarves

The dwarven saga begins… Roskin, heir to the throne of a remote, peaceful kingdom of dwarves, craves excitement and adventure. Outside his own kingdom, in search of fortune and glory, he finds a much different world, one divided by racial strife and overrun by war. The orcs to the south want to conquer all dwarves and sell them as slaves. The humans to the east want to control the world’s resources. Caught in the middle, Roskin finds himself chased by slave traders and soldiers alike as he discovers that friendship is the best fortune of all. Just when he thinks he has triumphed, an act of betrayal sends him into bondage. His only hope of escape is the faltering courage of a disgraced warrior whose best days are behind him…


RedSkyAtDawnBook 2: Red Sky at Dawn

The dwarven saga grows… Crushaw, Molgheon, and Vishghu have liberated the Slithesythe Plantation. They must make their way to safe lands before being caught and returned to certain bondage. Across the orc lands, they and Roskin recruit and train an army of freed slaves, for between them and freedom are thousands of well-armed, well-trained orc warriors. Near the Pass of Hard Hope, in the shadows of the eastern mountains, they make their desperate stand. But even if they succeed, Roskin’s ordeal is far from finished, as he is haunted by visions of something awful back in Dorkhun…


ThFallofDorkhunBook 3: The Fall of Dorkun

The dwarven saga continues… The Fall of Dorkuhn, the third installment in The Brotherhood of Dwarves series, continues the adventures of the dwarf Roskin. Having escaped slavery, and survived the Battle for Hard Hope, Roskin returns home to a kingdom divided by war with the ogres.   On one side, his father desires to restore peace. On the other, Master Sondious, hungry for revenge after having been crippled, seeks to escalate the aggression. Roskin and his friends hasten to the capital, to make a desperate attempt to resolve the growing rift, but unknown to the dwarves, new and powerful menaces threaten to destroy the entire kingdom…

Seventh Star Press Links

BLACK HISTORY MONTH BOOK REVIEW #3

warmth_other_suns_211This is the last book review in conjunction with Black History Month and even though Black History Month ended yesterday, I am honored to review Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns.”

In keeping with the common thread throughout my February blog posts, I found it poignant that this book dealt with the Great Migration. Wilkerson explores the 55 year journey of African Americans from 1915 to 1970, as they abandoned the cotton fields of the Jim Crow south in search of greater opportunity to the North. It was this movement which led to the birth of the Harlem Renaissance, the founding of Bronzeville in Chicago aka “The Black Metropolis.”
“The Warmth of Other Suns” is Isabel Wilkerson’s first book. For those familiar with my previous blog posts, The Harlem Renaissance and black writers in general, the book’s title is borrowed from the Richard Wright’s work. Wright himself fled Jim Crow Mississippi in the 1920s seeking greater opportunities which would never have been realized had he stayed in the south.
The book was based on more than a thousand interviews, but written in a captivating novel-like style that made me find it hard to think of as non-fiction while I read it. At 622 pages, it’s not a quick read, but certainly well worth the time I invested in reading it. Given the climate for non-fiction works, Wilkerson’s book is Blue Rose rising from a crack in the concrete. The book earned her the respect and recognition of scholars and an interview with Oprah, which lends to its credibility and merit.
Wilkerson gives us another outlook on exactly what The Great Migration meant and its significance to US History. This often ignored facet of American History takes a backseat to the arrival of European immigrants as they made their way to the US via Ellis Island, but is also vitally important. However, in today’s society, those black migrants who braved the journey north are viewed as a more modern version of those same Europeans who flooded America’s shores in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Wilkerson states in her work that what was a common trait amongst them was their resolve and heroic determination to deal with what life gave them in hopes of a better future. It was then no surprise that according to census data, blacks who left the South were far more educated than those who stayed. This helped to create and strengthen the black Middle Class as black migrants had higher employment rates, than their Northern-born cousins, and more stable families, indicated by lower divorce rates and fewer children born outside of marriage.
Wilkerson says, the well-known “migrant advantage” has worked historically for Americans of all colors.
The book gives the stories of real people who lived through this era and gives the reader a sense of kinship to them. I felt as though I were a part of the history as it unfolded. We follow the journey of three blacks from the south, the story of each unfolding in a different decade of the movement and each detailing a different destination. This storytelling style allowed her to explore the migration during its span of 60 years and the various destinations of blacks after their departure of the south.
Ms. Wilkerson is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist—for her work at The New York Times in 1994—who currently teaches journalism classes at Boston University. With this book she has written a well-researched and authentic account of a neglected piece of our culture. The Great Migration is not only an important component in our history as a nation and especially blacks, but also an important part of Wilkerson’s own backstory as her parents left the South to settle in Washington D.C. which had its own impact on her life.
I highly recommend for any off my followers to read this book as it is an investment in our personal banks of historical knowledge and something worthy of passing along to generations to come.
COMING SOON!!!
Review of David Russell’s “Inanimates”.