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Inspiration for the Discouraged Writer
Tracy Shawn --Novelist, Speaker Tracy Shawn --Novelist, Speaker
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Central Coast, CA
Thursday, May 26, 2022


Please Note: This piece was first published in booksbywomen.org on April 22, 2022 by Tracy Shawn under the Title: Writing Through Depression, Pushing Past Doubt: Inspiration for Discouraged Writers

Tracy Shawn at her writing desk.

No matter our profession, no matter our situation, a great many of us are dealing with depression. In fact, current research shows that the elevated rate of depression continues—and that it now affects one in every three American adults.

But what about the already-tormented writers? (And, yes, I am one of them…even before the pandemic struck.) If you are one as well, you may relate to my ongoing symptoms of writer’s depression: worried that my work will never be “good enough,” exhausted and drained from ongoing self-promotion, discouraged from one-too-many rejections, dejected about flagging book sales—plus the many other effects of general depression such as insomnia, trouble concentrating, fatigue, and on the darkest of days, an overall sense of worthlessness.

Finding Purpose in Your Writing

But here’s the thing: If I stopped writing, I know I’d become even more depressed. I’m guessing, too, that many other writers feel this way. But why is this? I believe it’s because writing is our purpose. A purpose that makes us feel as if we aren’t just creating—but also contributing. And, yes, as my dear friend Eve reminds me, my kindness and support is an important “purpose” in and of itself. I agree with her, too. But, alas, writing is what makes me feel as if I’m in my flow, allows me to share my work with the hope that people from near and far will not only be entertained, but feel less alone in their pain, more connected with their humanity.

As the great essayist and novelist James Baldwin said: “You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.” This thoughtful quote helps me write through the depression, keeps me pushing past self-doubt, gives me hope that through all the roadblocks and rejections that maybe, just maybe, all the hours of toil mean something. Even if my writing helps just a handful of people feel a bit more understood, a tad more hopeful—then I’ve accomplished something. Writing with this purpose in mind, then, can help keep the motivational fire stoked, no matter how challenging our hours-on-end-hunched-over-the-keyboard writing journey may be.

Reconnect to the Healing Power of Reading

Whether or not an author consciously writes with the goal to help readers feel less alone in the world—and no matter what genre one writes under—I believe most authors would be thrilled to know that their work invites readers to go on the hero’s journey with the protagonist, and in doing so, allows readers to feel as if they aren’t the only ones with crosses to bear. Even if it means that readers are so entertained that they could, at least, forget about their troubles for a while. I know the best remedy for my insomnia and anxiety is to turn on the light, crack open a novel, and fall into another world. It doesn’t have to be literary or even deeply meaningful (although that helps), but if I can enjoy a good story—the simple act of reading can be healing.

If you’re feeling burned out and uninspired as a writer, remember to reconnect to one of your first loves: reading. Think of reading as a writerly recharge. It may not only help you feel more connected to your humanity—but may also provide a shot of motivation to get your own words out there, too.

Remember Why are You a Writer

An article by Joseph Jaynes Rositano in ElectricLiterature.com cites a study done by National Library of Medicine in which researchers found that writers face a greater risk of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Rositano shares that those writers may be prone to depression because they are more likely to be prone to depressive realism, which theorizes that “…depressed people are depressed because they see the world as it is—depressing. They are ‘sadder but wiser.’” Depressive realists, then, are often keen observers of both society and human nature and can learn to draw inspiration from misery, drama, and hardship—the very stuff that makes a hero’s journey worth following.

If you feel as if you may be prone to depressive realism, understand that, yes, you may be more aware of suffering, yet are all the better prepared to turn that emotional pain into art. This is why you may have been drawn to writing in the first place. Just like the hero who learns to turn her biggest “weakness” into her biggest strength, learn to channel your sadness and depression into a creative force that not only makes your writing more poignant but also more relatable.

Remember, too, that writing can be therapeutic. Research shows that writing about emotional issues can be cathartic, helping to improve mental health all around. I know that when I fictionalized by journey through anxiety in my debut novel, The Grace of Crows, and wrote about the grief of miscarriage (inspired from my own personal experience) in my second novel, Floating Underwater, I felt as if I had healed some long-standing wounds. So, think about sharing your vulnerability and personal trauma, whether it be in an essay, novel, or poem. You may be surprised how many readers will resonate with your story—and relieved that the veil of depression has lifted.

Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows, won several indie book awards. Floating Underwater is her second novel. Tracy Shawn’s short stories have appeared in Literary BrushstrokesPsychology Tomorrow Magazine, and Steel House Review Literary Journal. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications and is currently working on her third novel.


Paloma Leary is devastated when her latest vision predicting a third miscarriage comes true. She falls into a mystifying world of increasingly bizarre phenomena, including an otherworldly connection with her mysterious neighbor, out-of-body experiences, and phantom visits from her dead mother, Esther.

Fearful that her “gifts” are a sign that she inherited Esther’s schizophrenia, Paloma grows desperate for answers. But when she undergoes a spiritual crisis, Paloma is rewarded with a life-changing vision, which reveals a tragic secret from the past. With her new-found knowledge, Paloma learns to accept her gifts and embraces a far different future than she ever could have imagined.


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