Fanfiction writers are, by and large, solitary creatures. We feel deeply, read empathetically, and think critically. These introverted characteristics we tend to share can help us create rich story-worlds, compelling characters, and strong emotions in our writing. However, these characteristics can also bog us down if we’re suffering from mental illness — anxiety and depression are common experiences in today’s world and can make doing tasks like fanfiction writing seem impossible. For, how can you accomplish your writing goals (or write just for fun!) when even getting out of bed or doing dishes seems like such a daunting task?
There are several strategies you can use to help mitigate the black cloud looming overhead and start putting those words on the page. Not all of these tips will work for you (everyone’s experience is different), but if you give one or two a try, you might be surprised where it will take you! Here are my tips and tricks for how to write fanfiction when you are suffering from anxiety or depression.
What is it they say? Rome wasn’t built in a day. When you’re depressed or anxious, even the smallest of actions can seem monumental, impossible, overwhelming. And writing is daunting at the best of times, no less when you’re barely able to put on pants. So, set goals for yourself that won’t further contribute to your lack of motivation. Instead, start small. Take every minute, every word, as a new opportunity to get started. If writing 1667 words per day for NaNoWriMo seems impossible, reset. Break up your story into chunks. Make a plan to finish one sentence. Plan to write for one minute. You’ll often be surprised how easy it is to keep going once you’ve gotten started.
Develop a Routine
For many people struggling with anxiety and depression, even the smallest of tasks can seem impossible. This is why it is so important to develop (and I mean develop — practice, cultivate, work on) a routine that can help structure not only your day but your writing habit. Pick one thing that you do before sitting down to write — make a cup of peppermint tea, go for a walk around the block, stretch your muscles, meditate, put an instrumental playlist on, wrap yourself in a blanket in your favourite comfy chair, or make up a healthy snack plate. If you do this same thing every time you sit down to write, it will help trigger your brain into fanfiction mode. Similarly, have an endpoint in mind. Set a goal for yourself, whether that be one page, 10 uninterrupted minutes, or until your dog comes to bug you for a treat. Having a set finish line for your writing can help make the daily task seem less daunting. Again, you’ll often be surprise how quickly 10 minutes can turn into an hour when you’ve gotten started.
Be Gentle With Yourself
We’ve all been there — intrusive thoughts, comparing yourself to others, endless self-criticism. When you’re anxious or depressed, it’s the easiest thing in the world to beat yourself up. To feel like nothing you do matters. Or you feel like you’re the worst fanfiction writer in the world. But, please, be gentle with yourself, in life and in writing. So you couldn’t manage to string a sentence together today? Take a breath. It’s okay. You’re not alone. Give yourself time. Be patient and compassionate with yourself. The words will come, one at a time. And each word you write is another word closer to realizing your dream — of finishing that fanfiction story that you’ve been working on for months, or getting a particular chapter down on paper, or crafting a funny or cute line of dialogue. It’s a day-to-day grind, fanfiction writing. But the payoff is worth it. Be gentle. Be patient. Love yourself and each word you write.
Write What You Know
If you are currently suffering, try writing about it. Not only will it get you writing, but putting your thoughts on paper can also help you process what’s going on in your brain. For anxiety sufferers in particular, making lists can help slow down and organize cluttered thoughts. In terms of story, writing a character that is experiencing anxiety or depression in a similar manner to you can be a helpful way to externalize your feelings (a.k.a. release them from your body) and project them onto the page. Also, after you write about your experience, returning to the story or the character’s journey later on can help you process your own thoughts and feelings from a new perspective.
Join a Writer’s Group
This one can be tough. It’s hard to put yourself out there, even if you aren’t suffering from anxiety or depression. But forcing yourself out of your comfort zone can do wonders for your self-esteem and creativity. It can be incredibly comforting to know that others out there are struggling with the same things as you. And, for those “confident” people in online or in-person writer’s groups (you know, the ones who seem to easily bang out thousands of words every day and have a new genius story idea every week), just accept that they work at a different pace than you. It doesn’t mean they’re a better fanfiction writer than you or that what you are writing isn’t worthwhile. Everyone has different strengths. Try to be inspired by people who work differently than you, rather than jealous or resentful. And, hey, maybe you can use them as inspiration for your next character!
Celebrate Your Success
Part of how anxiety and depression keeps hold of us is that it convinces us we’ll be stuck feeling stuck and overwhelmed forever. It can feel like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This is why it’s so important to celebrate your fanfiction writing successes! Whether you get 10 or 1000 words written, or even just do some kick-ass brainstorming and day-dreaming about your story, take a few moments to rejoice in it. Close your eyes, take a deep breath into your belly, turn the corners of your mouth upwards into smile, and take a minute to be intentional about feeling pride and joy in your efforts. You did it! Practicing expressing gratitude and compassion toward yourself in small moments goes a long way in helping carve out spaces in your mind that can’t be touched by anxiety or depression.
Most importantly, to anyone suffering from anxiety or depression, know that you are not alone. We’re all in this together. Let’s go write some fanfiction!
If you are having suicidal thoughts, please click the following link to get in touch with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You are not alone, you are loved. Help is out there.