You may have heard or read about authors or other artists having problems with depression or other mental disorders. I’ve often pondered why this is the case. Perhaps it’s because we have to be so connected to and aware of our emotions and the emotions of our creations. Perhaps our lives were predisposed to depression and mental health problems, and that’s what led us down the path of creative expression in the first place. It’s really a chicken or egg question we have here.
Regardless, my point today is that depression is real. Trying to ignore it or pretend it isn’t there won’t make it go away. So, if you find yourself in a period of depression, anxiety, writer’s block, or a general funk, I’ve found in my own life that it’s important to celebrate the “tiny” victories. I put tiny in quotation marks because some days those “tiny” victories feel enormous. Size is relative and all about perspective anyway, right?
So what do I mean exactly when I say “tiny victory?”
I mean anything that seemed difficult that day, that took effort for you to accomplish. Our victories change size and perspective depending on what else is going on in our lives. I’ve learned a great deal from my amateur foray into photography. Take these leaves for example:
Or these dandelions:
Zoomed in on them, then blown up even more on the screen, they can look huge. But I know how tiny they are in real life. Logically, in my brain I know that. But sometimes, when life forces us to zoom in on the little things, when those little things feel too overwhelmingly large to us, we can find beauty, contentment, and joy in overcoming those seemingly small things.
To extend the metaphor, a tree can be broken down into smaller parts, like leaves. And the leaves into tiny fibers. If when you look at the task ahead, whether that’s writing a novel, or a story, a blog, or completing any major project. It’s sometimes helpful to focus in on completing the smaller tasks that make up the major project, and celebrating each of those victories to give yourself encouragement for the next step.
To give you a practical example of what I’ve been describing, I’ll tell you a bit of my own story. Over the past two years, I worked very hard every day at writing a novel, which I then completed the first draft of on January 1 of this year. I was in a peak creative time, sometimes knocking out one or two chapters in one weekend. But I couldn’t possibly maintain that level of creative production 100% of the time. That would be like running a marathon constantly.
I’ve now entered what feels like a more dormant period. Partially as a respite after running the marathon of writing the novel, and partially because I’m in a period of depression in my personal life. I’m editing a piece of the novel at a time. Some days, I may only complete one or two paragraphs or a scene. I still have to allow myself to count those days as victories for my sanity. It won’t do me any good to beat myself up for not being more productive right now. That kind of self-criticism is detrimental to creativity anyway. So, I give myself space to breathe, rest, and recuperate.
So, as you’re focusing on the tiny tasks and victories, also step back and look at the big picture of your creative career or life. There are peaks and there are valleys, but all together, they make a beautiful whole.