Cultivating a Creative Writing Practice for Better Mental Health

How creativity can form the conduit to better mental health…

Create the physical space

Setting aside an actual physical space in which you do your writing is quite a helpful exercise, both mentally for the desire to do the task and physically to ensure that you are able to work on your craft. Having the physical setup ready to go is often a good way to get around the barrier of knowing you’ll have to set it all up.

Become accountable

Showing up for a kind of work that nobody knows you are doing, and about which most people will not care, is tough. Writing creatively is generally quite a solitary activity. So, you have to make an extra effort towards accountability.

Make the goals tiny as possible

Set as many small goals as you can — make these achievable. Celebrate each tiny milestone, even if it’s just with a piece of positive self talk. Or buy yourself presents. Whatever feels good during a low period. In the words of James Altucher:

Image for post
Image for post
The blank page is intimidating. Start with whatever words come to you, even if it is “I can’t think of anything.” Just start. // Photo by Brent Gorwin on Unsplash

Work on whatever feels easiest

This might feel a little contradictory to a lot of productivity advice out there — in particular the infamous Mark Twain frog-eating saying. For me, morning are the hardest time of day when I’m in a low mood, so this saying is asking for me to immediately butt my head against a wall. Not a good start to a day. When depression or anxiety are in control, we’ve got to take the Twain down a notch. Yes, it’s great to be optimally productive by getting rid of hard tasks first thing. But if you’re already struggling, everything is hard. Don’t start with the mountain. Start with the molehill.

Work without editing

In continuation of this, I have learned the importance of not editing before the process of creating is finished. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated for me than in the community of actors I work with. The ones who succeed are incredibly resilient; they work through and keep on offering something new. That is the way I like to think of it: it’s an offering.

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.”

Conclusion: Practice non-judgment. Try not to self edit (or generally edit your work) during a bad phase of mental health. Just write something.

Image for post
Image for post
Need a particular tea? Flowers? Soft furnishings? Go for it. Whatever makes life easier. // Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Respond to your particular patterns

Recognising how you experience depression is key to this point. Know yourself first — what does mental illness look like, feel like, smell like, taste like, for you?

A Summary…

Eliminate the barriers — even if it is as simple as having the book you need to refer to right there on your desk in front of you. Or arranging a check in with a friend. Or having a coffee ready to go. Whatever it is, make the practical aspects that facilitate your writing as simple and ready to go as possible. Make your practice sustainable and achievable. Figure out ways you can congratulate yourself for the work that you do. Feel the importance and contribution every additional sentences makes. Every little bit counts.

Written by

Trying to live better. Writing on Mental Health, Relationships, and Living Ethically. Editor/Podcaster.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store