Friday, April 10, 2009

Even Writers Get the Blues

Got the blues?

You aren't alone.

Depression by occupational categories. (The NSDUH Report 2007)

Personal Care and Service 10.8%
Food Preparation and Serving Related 10.3%
Community and Social Services 9.6%
Healthcare Practitioners and Technical 9.6%
Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media 9.1%
Education, Training, and Library 8.7%
Office and Administrative Support 8.1%
Building and Grounds Cleaning and Maintenance 7.3%
Financial 6.7%
Sales and Related 6.7%
Legal 6.4%
Transportation and Material Moving 6.4%
Mathematical and Computer Scientists 6.2%
Production 5.9%
Management 5.8%
Farming, Fishing, and Forestry 5.6%
Protective Service 5.5%
Construction and Extraction 4.8%
Installation, Maintenance, and Repair 4.4%
Life, Physical, and Social Science 4.4%
Engineering, Architecture, and Surveyors 4.3%

We writers share a profession over which we have little or no control. We can write harder, better, longer, cleaner-- but in the end it is all subjective. So let me reiterate--basically you have little control over your career, the career upon which your life is based.

Please reread the above.

So how about we start by cutting ourselves some slack?

And if you know me at all, you know I have rules.

Rules for the Blues:

1. Acknowledge.
2. Limit.
3. Trackback.
4. Recharge.
5. Indulge.
6. Plan.
7. Support.

  • Acknowledge

Let's be clear, I'm talking about the blues--being down--periods of discouragement.

First, recognize and label what you are feeling. The blues isn't something to be ashamed of. It is not a sign of weakness.

Don't deny it or feel guilty. Instead take charge of yourself right away. Put yourself in control of the situation.

Get it all out.

No, I mean get it all out.

Try writing an email you don’t send, have a good cry, whine, stomp your feet–whatever helps you express your grief, anger, sadness, frustration or pain.

  • Limit

Set a time limit for yourself and stick to it.

I really do give myself 24 hours. Since I set that limit years ago, I need less and less time to get-over-it and move on.

No one else is going to set your boundaries. You have to do it for yourself.

  • Trackback

What caused the blues? Was it one single incident or an accumulation of events? Identifying what triggered the blues can help defuse the blues next time they threaten to attack.

Was it a rejection? We have rejections covered here in Seekerville.

No time to write? Let me recommend a great book on the subject.

Time to Write: More Than 100 Professional Writers Reveal How to Fit Writing into Your Busy Life , Kelly R Stone

We also happen to be giving away two copies of The Writer's Portable Therapist here in Seekerville this week. How's that for a book to read when you have the blues?

Are you stressed? Try taking The Holmes Rahe Scale. Maybe you have good reason to be blue, and by becoming aware of your total score you can make changes to prevent stress-related illness.

  • Recharge

Provide yourself with extra mental, physical and spiritual nourishment when you are going through a rough patch. Drink lots of water and eat foods that will boost your mental health.

Folate and Vitamin B12 create seratonin that normalizes moods. Foods high in folate and B12 include fortified whole-grain cereals, dark green, leafy veggies, beans, oatmeal, beets, broccoli, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, oranges, shellfish, wild salmon, lean beef, cottage cheese, low-fat dairy and eggs.

Omega 3 fats such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, ground flaxseeds, canola oil, walnuts and omega-3 fortified eggs are proven mental boosters.

Vitamin D also increases seratonin. Besides fortified milk and orange juice, and consumption of bony fish, you can supplement your diet with a multi-vitamin.

Don't forget exercise. Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.

Let's not leave out the miracle drug. Chocolate. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which makes the brain release b-endorphin, an opioid peptide. Blood pressure is raised, glucose levels go up and there is a pleasure or contentment response.

Recharge yourself spiritually. Feed your spirit. Pray, meditate, and utilize positive affirmations.

  • Indulge

Go ahead.
Pamper yourself.

How about a in something that makes you feel special like a hardback book, a new tea cup, or a slice of Mary Connealy's carrot cake?

Treat yourself no less than you would a friend going through the same thing.
Be nice to you.

  • Plan

Take a stand and refuse to expose yourself to negative sources, be it critique partners, reviewers, or even friends. Life is simply too short to surround yourself with anything that doesn't add something positive to your life. Avoid spiritual and mental vampires.

MIRA/Harlequin Super Romance author, Brenda Novak has an excellent workshop available for download at Billspro (2007 , 24 most popular sessions) called, Overcoming Discouragement and Other Obstacles to Succes. I've listened to it no less than four times.

She talks about keeping a Gratitude Book where you document at the end of each day what you are grateful for. This is an awesome idea, especially if you have a hard time focusing on the positive instead of the the negative.

An attitude of gratitude keeps the focus on all the wonderful things in our lives.

Henriette Anne Klausner in Write It Down, Make it Happen says "You needn't wait to get what you want to be thankful."

  • Support

When you are blue is not the time to be alone.

Who is there for you? Who can you call or email when you have the blues? In this internet wide world, we have lots of friends and contacts, lots of social networks, but who can you trust to cry on their shoulder?

Writing is a solitary profession despite Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.

Cultivate true friends.
Tell those friends and loved ones who are there for you how much you appreciate them. Tell them often.

Now smile, cause you have a lot to smile about.

Remember that it is normal to get the blues, but if your blues seem to go beyond what I've discussed here or last longer than two weeks please schedule an appointment with your health care provider to see if there are other reasons for what you are feeling.


  1. Great post, Tina! And so true...we all get discouraged (as evidenced by my email to you!) and need ways to just get it out. Taking note of these feelings is half the battle. The other is doing something about them, and you've given several great suggestions on how to do just that. Thanks for the reminder!

  2. The rejections always get to me but only temporarily. I just keep on writing, hoping and praying...

  3. Good Morning,

    Thank you for including book suggestions in your post that can help us deal with writing disappointments.

    I think it also helps to know other writer's experience these emotions too. Our friends and family(unless they too are writers) don't always understand.


    PS I started a pot of hazelnut coffee.

  4. Good morning, Seekerville. TGIF.

    And Rose, bless you for making coffee.

    Someone once told me :

    Success is the best revenge.

    So I tell myself that when I get rejected.

  5. I'm so grateful for you, Tina!!! I'm thankful for all the Seekers, and for this blog! It's my daily fix. :-)

    Writers - 85% - You left that one off, Tina!

    Now why couldn't I have been an engineer?

    Oh, my goodness!!! My word verification is hyper!!! I'm not kidding. hyper. It should say Hyper-emotional, huh, Julie? Ha!

  6. Happy Easter Seekerville!

    Sometimes it's even scenes in my stories that give me the blues. Someone once said that you should harness your emotional state of mind by writing appropriate scenes while in that state. I've paraphrased here, but you get the picture.

    If word count is a must, jumping or skipping to a scene or editing a previously written one that matches your mood might be the ticket. Your story will gain from it, and it's likely going to be self-therapy as well. After all, our characters do move on, concur their rivals, right!

  7. Good post, Tina! I think writers can be prone to the blues since our lives can be so solitary. I especially like the idea of guilt-free chocolate.

  8. Thank you Tina! Hope you have a wonderful Easter. :-)

  9. I thought the "recharge" section was especially interesting. Who knew that chocolate was so good for you!

    I think depression runs in families but life makes it worse.

    We're lucky we live in the times that we do, where there is more acknowlegement of depression, more treatment options and less stigma. Or, as my SIL announced recently, "I take anti-depressants and thank God for them every day."

  10. I think Ann is right, and depression can run in families. If doing all on your fantastic list doesn't break through the mantle of depression, then there is definitely medical help waiting to be utilized.

    Hey...shouldn't pastor's wife be listed there somewhere? Surely that counts for something! ;)

  11. Tina,
    It is truly a great post. We have to take care of ourselves. We go through so much work to get our story out there and then bang, it gets rejected. I am so glad you addressed this. We have to be at least okay to do our best. By the way, I have the 2 books that you mentioned. They are excellent.
    Love those dog pics. Happy Easter, everyone.

  12. Wonderful post, Tina. Thanks for sharing. I liked how you said having the blues isn't a sign of weakness. So many times writers are told "it's not personal, it's business." That may be true, but this girl takes it personally at first. I do give myself a time limit, and then I pull up my big girl pants as Ruthy is fond of saying. :D

    My day job stresses influence my writing abilities. If it's a good day with the kiddos, then my writing output is high. If it's a bad day, well, writing just isn't in the cards. Going to school while balancing a full-time job, writing, and family adds additional challenges, but 22 more days until graduation! :D At least one stress will disappear!

  13. Wonderful advice, Tina! When I've got the blues, nothing cheers me up like a hefty dose of my Seekerville sisterhood. Just knowing y'all are out there, only an e-mail away, comforts and reassures me in ways you can't imagine. Bless each and every one of you!

  14. Hi Tina:

    Great post. It’s hard to be blue while looking at that last “happy dog” picture” you posted. I like to put similar happy dog and cat pictures up in my office and classroom. I even have a full size poster of the sailor kissing the woman in Times Square when it was announced the war in Europe was over. That was one of the happiest days in the 20th Century. ( I find visuals a great aid in fighting the blues.

    Maybe ‘the blues’ are like pain: they are the body’s way of telling us something is wrong and that something needs our attention. I used the plural here because I believe there are many kinds of blues and it is important to know which type we are dealing with.

    There are rational blues. A relative once called me and told me he was very depressed. I ask why and he said, “I’ve lost my job, I found out I have diabetes, I’m having trouble at home, my dog died, and I feel tired all the time.” I said, “You have every right to be depressed. It’s rational for you to be depressed. The best way out of your depression is to take action to solve your problems. Depression feeds on inaction. The more you do, the better you will feel.”

    There are physical blues. An example of this happens when everything is going great in your life yet you feel very depressed. It could be your blood sugar is too low. Solution: eat something sweet. Perhaps you have a clinical depression and you need to restore a chemical imbalance. Let a health professional help you do this.

    There are psychological blues. These result from an ‘attention’ deficit. You are not having your emotional needs met. Seeking attention and getting it can work wonders in these cases. This is where talking it out with a sympathetic friend can work wonders.

    The cure for the blues then depends on the cause of the blues.

    Now a word about writing given passages while in an appropriate emotional state. This can indeed lead to very powerful writing. One of my favorite new authors, I loved her first three novels, wrote her fourth book in such an overwhelming depressing tone, I could not finish it. I had to stop reading about 75% through the book. I found out later that the author had the worse year in her life as she was writing that book. In this case, it worked too well.

    In any event, reading this website always makes me feel better.


  15. Awesome post. Oh, and that last picture of the dog, holy moly, that would wipe out any case of the blues I had. **smile**

    No, seriously, great post. It's so true. Thank you!

  16. I always like treating myself every day. I'm guessing that's a problem?

  17. Walt, treating yourself every day is only a problem if you're stealing someone else's treats.


    Great breakdown. But now I'm depressed from reading all the different ways of GETTING depressed.



    Ann, I like that perspective, that it's good we live in times where depression and mental illness are more openly talked about, although they're still singular maladies, aren't they? And I've been known to crack Prozac wisecracks because I'm a dweeb and have someone nearby who's on anti-depressants.

    Big foot in big mouth. Will I ever learn that NOT everything is funny?

    Tina, I loved this post because we know that it doesn't matter if you're pubbed or unpubbed, married or single, working or loafing, the blues can strike. They know no borders, no bounds.

    I say we beat those dagburned blues at their own game. Thrash 'em. Wire those blues up on coffee and chocolate, keep ourselves too Martha-busy to be Mary-lost-in-thought and forge ahead.

    But then I'm a Republican.

    (Waiting for the backlash, armed and ready!!!!)

    A blessed Easter to everyone on this day of days, where the greatest sorrow spurred the greatest good.


  18. Happy Easter y'all.

    You guys always make me smile. Thanks so much for being friends of Seekerville. And if you need a CHEER hookup you know that you can come see us, right?

    A round of chocolate to all.

  19. Excellent post, Tina!! You have my baby at the top of the post, only her eyes are a little golder. It looks so much like her!!

    And then that cutie pooch at the end. I think I'm going to print it! :)

  20. Wow, Tina! What a fabulous post! Just reading it made me smile. And it let me know that although I'm sitting here alone as I write, I'm not ALONE. And there is a huge difference.

    Those pups are SO CUTE!

    Thanks, Tina! I needed that!

  21. Ooo, Tina! Love all the suggestions to beat the blues!

    My favorite? Packing up my AlphaSmart and some snackables (great list you included!!) and go outside on the deck, under a tree, or the park or just somewhere outside. Just being outside in the fresh air and sunshine does reduces stress leading to the blues.

    Sunshine is good.

    Fresh air is good.

    Writers spend waaaay too much time inside.

    Charge up your laptop battery and go plant yourself : )

    Great post!!

  22. There are so many little things that make me feel like I am going hog wild with treating myself.

    I happen to think going to a ten am movie all by myself is a huge treat.

  23. Thanks for the fabulous post. All good things to remember! Cheers!!

  24. Seriously, Tina, considering the times we live in, isn't being depressed a pretty rational reastion???
    I think we oughta be suspicious of cheerful people.

  25. Mary, suspicious of cheerful people? You might have a point.

    Tina, great suggestions for beating the blues. I like how you have a plan all ready for when the times come. And there's nothing like good friends to help chase the blues away.

  26. Thank you, Tina,

    I am always so bright and happy and cheery and . . .

    Okay... I get the blues sometimes... went through 2 years of start and stalls on writing because of feeling rejected and unworthy as a writer.

    So think you very much for your post today. It gives some good ideas on facing those lovely times when and if they arise again.

    And they shouldn't right? LOL

    And Vince, thank you for your insight during the down time we were having problems in business, problems with a family member and I was dealing with some health issues.
    It is important to realize what that stress does to a body and mind, and that being down during those times is part of a process and not one that only in our minds.

  27. Mary, we are suspicious of you, dear.

  28. Wonderful post. Then again all you Seekerville Ladies remind me why I'm trying to write. Nice to know we are all out there slogging away. Although some of you have more cake and chocolate than I do, but then again, I really don't want to go to the gym more often than necessary..Writing is subjective and rejections mean that at least we are sending stuff out...Better to write than just to talk about writing...:)Going to the post office does burn calories, and so does licking that stamp..

    warm hugs,

  29. Hi Ruthy:

    I agree, it can be depressing talking about or even thinking about depression. There is a commercial on TV currently that states something like this: “Studies show that 67% of depressed people are still depressed after receiving treatment so consider using our medicine.” Then the commercial mentions the side effects of the drug which are horrendous. It makes you wonder who would be so desperate to take that drug. If you see this commercial you’ll see what I mean.

    Did you know ‘depression’ is a euphemism? Up until the 1930’s the US economy went through periodic economic ‘panics’. FDR changed that by using the euphemism ‘depression’ to refer to what would have been called the ‘Panic of 1929’. Today it seems ‘depression’ has been replaced by the euphemism ‘recession’ which was later replaced by the word ‘banana’. (I’m not kidding. This is true of a past administration's policy.)

    Thought for the day: “It always stops raining”.

    Now back to doing my taxes. Talk about depressing!


  30. I'm with you Vince, my taxes aren't quite finished either.

    I miss the good old days when I handed them to someone else. With the new software, I can do it. But procrastination and sheer dread play a factor in getting them done.