Friday 19 April 2019

Ways Back to Writing - Lucy Coats

It's been a long time since I've written anything at all apart from lists and ABBA posts -- and not character lists either; shopping lists, lists of furniture, mundane everyday lists. I have written here before about my battle with depression. This last bout of it has been very bad indeed, including terrible panic attacks (sometimes several a day). I don't say this to garner sympathy, but I hope that by being open and honest about this, I may help someone else who is struggling. That is my aim in writing this piece.

I always visualise my creativity as a deep well from which I draw. This last year, the well has been dry, with only cracked mud at the bottom. It has, frankly, been terrifying. Under normal circumstances, even in the bad times, I have ideas floating through my head all the time, tiny snippets of potential storylines, dreams that turn into book plots. This time, nothing.

I have so many strategies I use to get myself going creatively, and I teach them to my writing students. Normally they work. I tried all of them. None of them worked this time. Inside my head was an arid desert, devoid of anything. So in my saner and more reflective moments, I gave myself permission not to write, but to concentrate on getting well again, and work at that instead. Several months down the line, the well of creativity is beginning, very cautiously and slowly, to fill again, and I'm starting to find the way back.

'Bees' (c) Lucy Coats
In fact, I didn't start with writing itself, but with drawing and painting, beginning with a pattern of bees for a shamanic drum. The repetition of drawing the same thing over and over was very soothing -- each bee was the same, and yet I soon found that each of them was slightly different in the way they related to each other. Then I started spinning with a distaff and drop spindle, creation and meditation in one. I'm not very good at it yet, but the act of making one thing into another with my hands -- wool to yarn in this case -- was and is something I find very satisfying.

One thing I missed greatly in the arid time was my dreams. I am a prolific dreamer, and have had many good writing ideas from them in the past. But my depression nights were either black and empty or full of insomnia and anxious thoughts. Again, I chose to let them go, trusting that they would reappear in time. Eventually, a couple of weeks ago, they did. What's more, quite soon I had one of those middle of the night post-dream wakings which necessitate lots of incoherent scribbling down of an Important Idea at 3am. In the light of day, it turned out to be a good idea, though something entirely different from anything I've done before, not for children, and not fiction. I'm loving the initial research for this, and because it is so different, there is no pressure.

This morning, though, brought the real delight. I woke early, with the germ of a story in my head. A proper, bona-fide children's story. I'm taking time away from it to write this post, so forgive the brevity, as I'm longing to get back to it!

Having been through this depression cycle so many times, the most important thing I have learned from this round is to give myself both a literal and mental break from writing, to ask for help, and not to feel guilty about any of it it. Mental illness may not be something that can be seen, like a broken leg or arm, but it is just as real and just as painful, and just as slow, if not more so, to recover from. I have never been more thankful not to be under a deadline this year, for the first time in forever. If you are struggling right now, do be kind to yourself. And don't try and deal with it on your own. As writers in what is quite a lonely profession, we tend to beat ourselves up a lot, and to continually question the validity of what we do. Coupled with depression and anxiety, it is a toxic mix. There are people around you -- friends, family, therapists -- who can help. I know the inside voice all too well which says things like 'nobody will care'; 'why should anybody be interested?'; 'don't be a bother/bother anyone.' Trust me, they will care, they are interested, and you're not a bother.

OUT NOW: Cleo 2: Chosen and Cleo (UKYA historical fantasy about the teenage Cleopatra VII) '[a] sparkling thriller packed with historical intrigue, humour, loyalty and poison.' Amanda Craig, New Statesman
Also out:  Beasts of Olympus series "rippingly funny" Publishers Weekly US starred review 
Lucy's Website Twitter - Facebook - Instagram
Lucy is represented by Sophie Hicks at The Sophie Hicks Agency


catdownunder said...

Thank you Lucy.

Pippa Goodhart said...

We do care and we are interested, Lucy. Some of us recognise what you are saying, in others, if not in ourselves, and that helps us to help them. Thank you.

Susan Price said...

Those are great bees!
May your dreams become ever richer, Lucy and your well overflow.

About two years ago, I turned my garden into a wildlife garden -- it's now a mini allotment too. I find it a great aid for those mornings when you can't get out of bed because, what's the point? -- Well, the point is, I have to check on the seedlings, make sure the robin has his mealworms, tie in the clematis... And a score of other jobs, accompanied by bird song.

Steve Gladwin said...

In my own current up and downy creative and personal zone, Lucy, I so get this and have been having similar thoughts on much of it. What always comes over to me is how we automatically think that because things have a name, this makes them active. Depression for me is the opposite - the inactivity and inertia and panicky wool gathering which becomes a cycle you find more and more difficult, until the mind's metaphorical bucket of iced water brings you out - or more happily a dawning awareness that the light at the end of the tunnel is greater and warmer than you think. Thanks and much love and strength to all who struggle with all this. xx

Joan Lennon said...

Thanks for posting, Lucy. Words that need heard.

Biggles said...

Well said.

Sue Purkiss said...

So glad that things are beginning to improve, Lucy.

Anne Booth said...

Thank you for writing this. xx May this be a wonderful summer for you.

Enid Richemont said...

Know this territory only too well, Lucy. Maybe we could communicate off social media?

Katherine Langrish said...

Thankyou dear Lucy, and I hope the bees' healing is bringing you into a good place at last. I hav been thinkiing often lately of the wisdon of Candide, 'il faut cultiver notre jardin'. Well we should, we need to, I've been out in the garden a lot lately; it gives me relief, joy and hope and I was moved by your bees and your spinning. ALL CREATION IS GOOD.

Anita Loughrey said...

I found this very reassuring Lucy. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you for writing this. It is inspiring, and I love the bees. I look forward to more posts!