First up, before we kick off the article, some news. Still chugging away on writing the new novel, which is the first of the Nine Shot Sonata series of novels. Word from the beta-reader inmates at The Clockwork Haus is that the story’s good enough that I shall be allowed to live, which is always a lovely thing to hear. Thank you for not viciously murdering me. I don’t think there’s a Hallmark card for that, but there really should be.
Next: Hey I was on television! Well, not me per se. My voice was, though, so that’s jut as good! The episode of Parasyte that I recorded for (specifically a character called Miki) was up on Toonami this past Saturday night. It did my little black heart good, and I’m glad the show’s getting run on the block. It’s delightfully twisted, and I’d dig it even if I didn’t have a stake in it. Okay, that’s enough news, so let’s dive into the article.
This article comes by way of a couple of different requests from readers that I opted to roll into one go, and it coincided with a trend this month on Twitter that was truly heartening to see. Bell Canada recently did a wonderful gig called Let’s Talk. It was aimed not only at raising awareness for mental illness, but also about opening up the dialogue to remove the stigma. As I’ve discussed my only struggles in the past on this and other blogs, I thought it would be a good time to talk about something I like to do to help deal with anxiety, depression, and anger. Hopefully, it’ll help someone out there that is fighting their own battles.
It’s particularly apt for me to tackle it, given the last week I had. I ran smack into the GREAT OBSTACLE of any creative type: rejection. My short story submission was shot down by a major publisher. Granted, I took it much better than I had in the past (thank you time, experience, and medication) but it was still a wrench that threw my groove completely out of whack. Thankfully, no little old men needed to be hurled bodily from the upper reaches of my palace.
On a positive note, the judges gave him high marks for style.
Small aside: Currently, I’m buffered with medication, and I realize that not everyone out there has access to medicine. Moreover, I’m speaking from a purely personal mindset vis a vis my own struggles with mental illness. My advice here is completely under the aegis of YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. If you need help, do not hesitate to seek it out from a professional. There are many free services out there that can offer guidance and advice 24 hours a day. ❤
Now, rejection blows. There’s no getting around it. This article’s not a comprehensive step-by-tep for how to deal with rejection, however. That’s an entirely different piece. But, in a way, the advice here is a way to help all on its own. See, in the past, a rejection would have knocked me out of the game for up to a week with doubt, depression, and a few tablespoons of anger and self-loathing. But it didn’t this time. Why?
Well that has to do with the slice of advice I’m sliding your way. I’m nudging it over with my foot to bump against your leg. I’m giving you meaningful glances, then darting my eyes back to the pile at your feet. You should probably pick it up.
Instead of giving in to the onslaught of negative emotions that I was faced with—aided and abetted by the fact that said rejection also cost me a pretty decent payday that would have helped my wife and I out—I decided to say “Screw it. Their loss. I’m taking this story and MAKING something of it.”
So I did. I talked with my wonderful wife, and we decided I should take the story, bundle it with others, include some art, and eventually self-publish it. That’s not a plug, mind. It’s a call to action. though, let’s be honest here: I’d be stoked if you picked it up once it drops. I do like keeping the lights on around this joint.
I’ve spoken in the past how creative work can be cathartic against depression and anxiety, because the work is one of the few things you can truly feel you have any control over during the rough spots. But I want to take that a step or two further, and offer that the act of creating in and of itself can be an answer to episodes when they pop up.
Mind, there are a few things you should have in your checklist for self-care when your mind begins to try to fuck with you:
When’s the last time you ate?
Drank some cold water?
Put on fresh clothes?
Any of these can help, and I certainly stay mindful of them as best I can during my waking hours. But, recently, I’ve added “When’s the last time I tried to make something?” to the list. And that’s my tact for creative types out there.
Feels Mode Activate, fellow Whovians.
Depression and anxiety are, in their own right, forms of constant rejection. Your mind is lying to you, warping your current circumstances, and trying to convince you that you’re one misstep away from being a laughable Humpty-Dumpty. This crushes the drive to make anything, because after all, as your mind is likely going to point out, “What’s the point?”
I’ll tell you precisely what the point is: my mind, as a creative, is happiest when I’m making something. I’m willing to bet I’m not alone in this. So, try it from this perspective: the sketch.
I’m not referring to actual illustration, though that certainly applies as well. I mean the idea that you are working at making something, anything, without the intent to finish, share it, or worry about refining at inception. Keep it loose, free, and giving for mistakes. Just make the attempt, without the baggage of pressure to make it good. You might just surprise yourself with how good it ends up turning out, regardless.
Angry? Anxious? Depressed? Just feeling off-kilter? I hear you. I both sympathize and empathize. Write it down. Literal or fiction. Turn it into an outpouring of words. Play it on an instrument. Sing it. Sculpt it. Draw it. Paint it. Pour the energy into a costume piece, or cosplay prop, or model spaceship. Code it into a site you may never put up. Burn it into a wooden plaque that was a piece of scrap you were just holding onto. Codify it into the story arc you were building into that RPG maker game you were tinkering with. Wind it through the verb tenses and grammatical quirks you had in mind for that fantasy language you were slapping together. Dump out a pile of legos or building blocks of your choice and see what you craft.
Write. Play. Sing. Sculpt. Draw. Paint. MAKE!
(feel free to imagine a tiny marching band beneath this work, complete with gymnasts, confetti cannons, and potentially one sick guitar riff for good measure)
Your mind, all the while, might be needling you. Your work sucks. No one cares about this. This is a waste of time. That is, after all, what mental illness deals in. Lies and mutations. Fuck that noise. You can answer it directly. I do.
“Your work sucks.”
Maybe. That’s why I’m doing it. I get better with every attempt.
“No one cares about this.”
Maybe. I’m not doing it for them. This is for me. I might share, I might not.
“This is a waste of time.”
Time spent making something is never a waste, so shut the fuck up.
It’s not an instant fix, and certainly by no means a cure-all, but it is one more weapon in the arsenal for you to employ. When practiced, I’ve found it can quickly turn things like rejection into an opportunity for something even cooler. It’s not easy, mind, but the attempt alone is everything when it comes to your health and happiness, so give it a whirl. And if you dig what you’re crafting, consider it an incentive for your “one more day”.
Create. Making something is solid applicable proof that however bad you are feeling is not, and will never be, the benchmark for how the rest of your day will be, let alone how the rest of your life will go.
We can do this, badass. Let’s make some cool shit, yeah? I’ll see you later on this week with a new Speculative Singularity Serial episode. ❤