Writing is tough enough without adding poor mental health into the mix. Most find it impossible to quiet the anxious thoughts in their heads long enough to focus on writing.
What do you do, if all you want to do is write, but your fickle mind won’t let you?
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pencil and form a sentence. I’ve also been mentally ill for as long as I’ve been writing. I went through periods of depression where I didn’t create for months. Many times, at the urging of one doctor or another, I’d pick it up again and explore my issues on the page.
During my horrible 30’s, I blogged about life with mental illness. I wasn’t a particularly good writer, but my feelings were raw, and I had a readership who identified with me on a deep level. An added benefit was that I was more honest than I could be in regular conversations with people, especially my therapist. She was able to read about what was happening to me and tailor topics for me to address in my sessions.
For the past seven years, I have been writing both professionally and personally. But, I wasn’t until I joined Medium in October of 2018 that my writing took off. Not only have I improved as a writer, but I have been impressively prolific. Even though there are periods I can’t manage to write anything, most of the time I spend hours and hours typing into my laptop. I do it every single day.
I’ve done all this even though I have a severe mental illness.
How the hell do you do it?
How do I manage to write so much even with hallucinations, racing thoughts, panic attacks, anxiety, and depression? How am I going to push even further and double my output in May?
I could talk all day about my process, or about getting “in the flow,” but, for me, getting a lot of writing done boils down to three things: motivation, positive thinking, and stubbornness.
I spend a hell of a lot of time motivating myself to write. If I didn’t do certain things every day, I wouldn’t get up every morning fired up to tell a story.
The biggest thing I do to keep myself motivated is to think about writing all the time. While you may say it’s not healthy to obsess, I find if I keep my writing goals in front of me every minute of every day, I am always working hard.
Even when I’m not typing into a fresh document, I’m writing. When I’m reading, researching, and brainstorming, I’m still writing. When I’m driving in the car, I’m writing in my head. When I’m posting on social media, I’m documenting conversations to write about later. Even when I’m sleeping, my dreams serve as canvases for me to create new ideas.
Yes, I still have a family life. But they know how important it is for me to stay motivated to write. Most of the time, they don’t put pressure on me to do otherwise. They know I need to be reading, promoting on social media, interacting with my fans, and obsessing over my next story. They know that even if they have to ask me something twice because I wasn’t paying attention — I love them and value them.
They know how I overthink and ruminate, so they do whatever they can to make sure I am in the right frame of mind to be ready to write as much as I can, whenever I can.
I do everything I can to stay motivated.
I know, you’ve heard it all before — positive, blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong; I’m no Pollyanna. But I’m always thinking of ways to keep myself in a positive frame of mind. It’s not that I don’t have negative thoughts — I do. But when my mind starts heading down a dark road, I counteract the negative with positive.
When I have a negative thought, I think of a positive one. Or two. If I see myself heading down a rabbit hole, I do something to lift myself out.
If you looked at my Facebook feed, you would see how I have carefully chosen people to follow so that I always have positive input when things turn negative. I don’t only see positive things on Facebook, but also Twitter, Medium, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.
Social media can be a battleground if you let it get that way. A few short months ago, I couldn’t even scroll anymore because there was so much negative shit in post after post. I shut off social media for a few months, and when I was ready to go back, I gave all my accounts an enema. I unfollowed everyone who caused me anxiety. I unliked pages that were feeding garbage into my mind. I cleaned everything away that didn’t make me happy.
I am a much more positive person today because of the drastic steps I took to remove the negative from my everyday life.
I am stubborn
Above all, I am simply stubborn. If I start to deviate from my goals or the path I need to walk, I force myself back. I’m not easy.
Coddling yourself may work for others, but if I want to get anything done, I have to be tough. I chastise myself if I complain too much. If I join a pity-party in progress online, I make myself leave immediately. If I start with negativity or begin to get unmotivated, I steer myself back onto the right road.
If going easy on yourself isn’t working, be tough! I didn’t make the drastic changes in my life that I needed until I started being brutal.
Be hardcore — but don’t forget to take yourself out for ice cream once in a while.
You can do it!
You can push yourself to be a great writer. You can be prolific. You can do it even if you have a mental illness.
Push yourself to do what you need to do.
I told you what works for me, and you are welcome to try what I do. But the bottom line is you need to find what works for YOU! But you will never find what works for you until you stop sitting around feeling sorry for yourself. You will never get anywhere if you aren’t convinced that you can change your life.
Stop letting things happen to you and take your life by the neck. Guide it where you want to go and don’t be nice if you don’t have to.
Motivate yourself. Think positive. Be stubborn about the things that matter.
One day, you will get where you need to be.
Did you like this? Sign up for my newsletter on Substack!
Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
He would love to connect with you on social media.