Writing with bipolar


If you’ve been hanging around my blog for any length of time, you know that I love to write. Specifically I love to write fantasy and science fiction. I hope to one day be published in both of those genres, and have dozens of books I’d love to write. I’m even working on one right now. I love writing and enjoy spending the time I do with my characters. There’s just one rather large block in there that I have to deal with regularly.

Mood swings. Specifically the ones caused by my bipolar, as well as the problems with anxiety I’m still dealing with.

When I get hit by a mood swing – whether it’s hypomania or depression – my ability to focus goes out the window. I’m lucky if I manage 300 words in an entire day of writing. Instead I spend my time reading random little things online or futzing around on Facebook and Twitter. If I’m trying to read a novel at that point, I can get a chapter, maybe two, before I’m done and can’t focus on it any longer.

On those days, I’m easily irritated. I get frustrated with myself, with my characters, with my life. When that happens I start the downward spiral that leads to the thoughts of “I suck”, “I’m a failure”, “I can’t do anything right”, “Why do I even bother?” Those are very dangerous thoughts for anyone to have. My husband calls this my “death spiral”. Once I start down that hole, it can take a very long time to drag me out of it.

My death spiral tends to stymie my creativity. It steals my pleasure in anything I do. It make everything seem like a chore that I just can’t handle doing anymore. These are the days where I have to force myself out of bed, force myself to eat, to take care of the animals, to even care about what I need to do. I have just enough strength of mind to take care of the necessities. Writing – which is necessary to me – stalls and I feel like I just can’t do anything about it.

I’ve been asked before what I do to write on those days. It’s simple: I don’t. I let my mind wander and do what I need to so I can stay sane. What makes those days difficult is writing is part of what keeps me sane. I need the outlet to channel my chaotic thoughts and weird internal conversations. What I do on those days is read random little silly stories online, the ones that take maybe a minute or two to read. I put on a movie or TV series on Netflix and have that playing in the background. I do as much knitting as my scattered brain will let me. It usually isn’t much, maybe a few rows, but it gives me something creative to do.

I need that creative outlet. It’s part of what keeps me going. Writing is my favorite pastime. I spend more of my time doing that than I do anything else. Even reading, which I do a lot, can take second place to writing. I have been reading since I was four. I’ve been writing out the stories tumbling around in my head since I was eight. The written word has been, for me, a life saver many times in my life. I need it to keep me going.

People often equate truly creative minds as belonging to someone who is mentally ill. They talk about how, because authors/artists/actors/etc are battling the demons of their mind, they must be these incredible people who create stunning images with their chosen media while under the influence of those demons.


I will admit that there may be some out there who can work when depressed (or when they’re plagued by any of the other psychiatric disorders), but the majority of us struggling with this can’t. It completely stifles our creativity and makes it so we can’t even be bothered to do something we obviously love. It gets to the point where we just give up. Where the strength comes in is when, after those dark times have passed, we get back off the ground and get to work again.

Some people never resume what they loved after they find their lives back on track. It reminds them of the pain, or they think – because of the way society trains many of us – that because they’re stable they can’t create anything worth doing anymore. We need to encourage each other to get back on the horse. Pick yourself off the ground just one more time. And do what we love.


One thought on “Writing with bipolar

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  1. It’s true what you say. If anyone paints or writes while seriously depressed, it tends to come through in the writing or the art. You’ve seen it. Doesn’t mean that writing or that art sucks; it means there’s an underlying edge to it. Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald were both famous drunks. Yeah, they wrote some amazing stuff, but it came out darkish. I would never classify Gatsby as a cheerful book.

    I’m not saying don’t write when you’re struggling. Do write if you can. It doesn’t have to be great prose. There were thousands of words I wrote while dealing with depression. Some of them were really awesome but entirely wrong for my work in progress. I tossed them, but in a lot of ways, it was a win; I’d written, if only 300 words. The rest of the time I crocheted, painted, read, cooked, fed my creativity differently. I got out in the sun and soaked it up while watching the kids (they were young at the time). Yes, I got frustrated because I wasn’t making progress with the book, but you know, I did what I had to do to get through. Bi-polar is different than what I dealt with (which was PTSD due to childhood abuse and trauma). It would be so hard to deal with Bi-polar and the swoopy moods. I think you are very brave to share this; I’m such a private mouse, I never shared when I was going through horrible stuff. I’m proud of you.

    Just know that I’m here if you want to talk. I encourage you to do what you can in your life and your writing. Death spirals are tough, but you’ve got people willing to be your blanket holders so you don’t ultimately crash. Love you, lady.


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