A few years ago, a writing mentor looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “You say you were born to write fiction but that you’re not writing fiction. If you’re not doing the work that you believe you were put on this earth to do, is it any wonder then that you’re depressed? I’d be surprised if you weren’t.”
I’ve been passing on this advice for a couple of years now and it is one of the reasons I write fiction pretty much daily.
A few months ago, a friend asked me a question that took me by surprise: “Now that you’ve finished the novel, do you think it’s helped with the depression?” she said.
I was taken aback by that question because it has. But on further reflection, I realized that it’s not because I finished the novel that I feel a lot happier, more fulfilled, and in love with my writing, but because I continue to write more.
I’ve come to realize that it’s never about one novel or one thing. It’s not about the result. I write fiction almost every day now and it’s the writing that fulfils me, that process of creation, the knowing that I’m doing the work that I know I’m meant to do. It’s not the result that matters, not the publication of it, not even the finishing. It’s the understanding that I am aware of my calling and I’m honoring it. The results of the work I produce are not entirely in my control. But doing the work, showing up every day to tell the stories I want to tell, and change the lives I was mean to change? I’m doing that. I’m keeping my end of the bargain.
I truly—truly—believe that if I keep my end of the bargain long enough, the results are pretty much guaranteed. I have zero worry about whether or not my novels will be published, I don’t sleep over when I’ll get a book deal, and I’m not worried about success or bestsellers or awards. I’m pretty certain that I will have all of those things, but when they arrive or even if they arrive, is entirely inconsequential. The important point is that I believe that part of the true work I get to do is to write novels. That’s a huge part of my path in life. That’s what I’m currently supposed to be doing with my days.
And if I don’t do it, if I don’t sit down and write today, and tomorrow, and every day for the next year, would it be really any surprise if you find me walking down the street a year from now, tears in my eyes and pain in my heart because there’s a gaping hole in my life? Of course not.
Like my mentor said, “If you’re not doing the work that you believe you were put on this earth to do, is it any wonder then that you’re depressed?”
It’s so easy to just focus on the money and the success and the results. But if like me, you know that there is a story you need to tell that is the truest representation of you and for whatever reason, you don’t do it? Then I can guarantee that it will show up in the rest of your life. In your relationships, in your confidence, in your income, and yes, in your mental health. This is not a depression caused by a chemical imbalance. This is a depression caused by repression. It’s a repression of your spirit and your truth.
If there’s work of your heart that you’re not doing, you’re killing your creative soul slowly.
And the only way to breathe back life into that creative spirit, that literary part of you that is so quiet, you wonder if it’s dead?
It’s to reignite it.