Overcoming Author-Illustrator Depression

Depression is a very real, very damaging, very painful experience that can be short term or long term and have long lasting consequences. This perspective of author depression in no way is intended to come across flippantly as if to compare on the same level as chronic or acute depression. An author, however, can learn a great deal about how to process the feelings and thoughts encountered during the road to publication by examining depressive symptoms.

Life as an aspiring author or budding illustrator often begins with a spark of passion. Passion is coupled with excitement and soon enough the seed of starting something new blossoms into a beautiful flower of hope. As the flower grows in beauty and complexity it brings forth a very nasty thorn. This thorn is expectation.

The thorn of expectation multiplies into many, many thorns, some large and others small. One thorn may be the idea that your writing or illustrations will, by themselves, land you an agent on the first query. Another thorn may be your ability to write or illustrate a certain volume of work by a given deadline. Another, your social platform growth. Another, ample time to devote to your craft. And still more in the likes of success, fame, fortune, mass market appeal, style, ideas, understanding, etc. The thorns are many and, if not frequently maintained, can choke the beautiful flower that has blossomed.

Your work, your writing or your illustrations, are wonderful in their own right. Likely, they are unique and original. They are a creative expression of your own mind and heart. No doubt, without first being brought to life through you, they would never live through anyone else. Your works are your children, in a sense, that depend on you to be grown to maturity. You would never expect a toddler to be the financial backbone of a family. Yet, the thorn of financial expectation can bring you and me to a place of reliance that, if unmet, brings about a painful demise.

You see, with every thorn of expectation that covers your writing or illustrating, there is a nasty little consequence that can result. If you expect your toddler-age writing to captivate an agent, you can experience frustration when it’s rejected or worse, ignored. If you expect your first draft to appeal to a wide variety of people online, you may experience pain when it’s instead trampled and trolled. Our expectations, or lack of accurately viewing our craft, is an enabling force for author depression.

You may be wondering, how do I know if I have author depression? Well, read these questions very carefully and decide if the statements describe you.

  1. I don’t enjoy writing/illustrating as much as I used to.
  2. I really don’t feel like writing/illustrating any more.
  3. There is no point submitting my work for consideration/representation.
  4. No one important appreciates my work.
  5. I don’t have any more ideas to write about or illustrate.
  6. I don’t fit in with the writing/illustrating community.
  7. I feel like I’ll never be a successful writer/illustrator.
  8. The system is rigged. Someone like me can never make it as an author/illustrator.
  9. Those authors/illustrators being published are not as good as me.
  10. The book publishing business just isn’t fair. It’s only about who you know.
  11. My writing/illustrating is no good.
  12. I am no good.
  13. Maybe so-and-so is right. I should find a different hobby.
  14. No matter how hard I try, I can’t get it right.
  15. I don’t care how far I’ve come. It’s not good enough now and it never will be.
  16. Traditional publishing isn’t for me because no one likes me or my work.
  17. Self-publishing isn’t for me because it’s too complicated.

Did any of those negative thoughts sound familiar? Most likely, they did. Lots of writers and illustrators experience negative thoughts. These thorns that choke our dreams and goals are not relegated to the book industry. Every person on the planet who desires to become something more than who they are currently will experience negativity, self-doubt, de-motivation, and pain.

Although the thorns of life do sprout, they don’t need to become powerful. They can be resisted and overcome. It’s been said that as a man thinks, so he is. Our mental capacity is more powerful than we give it credit. This is most readily seen if we resolve to accomplish something. The act of resolving, or committing to make a resolution, means we are preparing in advance to triumph over adversity. It’s a mindset. As an aspiring author or illustrator, one of your mindsets must be to resolve that you will push through rejection. Rejection will come and it is outside your control. But, it doesn’t need to be a stepping stone towards author depression.

Any brief research will guide you to countless examples of great, wonderful authors and illustrators who worked so hard yet were faced with rejection after rejection after rejection. In October of 1912, Tarzan of the Apes was rejected by Rand McNally & Co. after being described as something that wouldn’t fit into the publishing company’s current plans. Two years later, Tarzan became a cultural sensation that went on to sell over 50 million copies and a multitude of adaptations.

Apart from mental preparedness, an author or illustrator must be emotionally, spiritually, and physically ready to deal with the inevitable onslaught of difficulties that lie ahead. Prepare yourself to wait in silence, longer than you deem reasonable. Prepare to be hurt by the words used to describe your work. Pray in advance to remain focused on your goal, that Christ would strengthen you and bring His plan to fruition through you. Resolve that you will continue in your craft, regardless of despair in a sense of lack of progress. Realize that you have grown and matured in your craft. Remind yourself that although there is nothing new under the sun, there is something unique. That something is you. Your stories, your ideas, your art is unique to you and never done before the way you do it. Expect others to not see things your way, to not understand your point of view, to not appreciate your hard work. Expect it, and plan to help them see the beauty that unfolds through you.

In humility, we must accept and admit that there are better people among us, better ones who have gone before us. They have worked hard, sometimes for a lifetime, and faced rejection and despair. The best have wanted to give up. The best, kept going. The best submitted their manuscript again. The best refined their art. The best honed their craft. Be among the best. Don’t give up. Don’t give in to negative thoughts. Don’t let your mind and heart take you that place. Instead, set fire to your passion. Set fire to your dreams. Set fire to your goals.

Resolve to take the road less traveled. Resolve to try again where others give up. Resolve to forge ahead when it’s hard, when it’s dark, when it’s cold and lonely. Resolve to stand out from the crowd by your…resolve. And then, as you release yourself from the thorns, enjoy, truly enjoy the flower of your passion that blossoms before your eyes.

It’s beautiful, even if no one else sees it. It’s beautiful. Nurture it. Water it. Feed it. And when it’s grown, you can snip off flowers here and there to give away. Some will appreciate them. Some won’t. But you’ll have a flower that continues to bloom and in time, like so many before you, your passion, honed through resolve, will find its place where satisfaction and joy reside.

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