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What Gives You the Right to Write? Answered by an Author Who Fights Depression

Willow Shire is an author who struggles with depression. His non-fiction focuses on depression and the writing life.

Do you ever wonder, “What Gives You the Right to Write?” I do all the time.

Friday, I sat in my counselor’s office reviewing the events of the past two weeks. Sometimes we delve deep into my depression. Sometimes the sessions are more of a health and goal checkup. This session was a little of both.

In particular, we discussed my non-fiction writing on HubPages. One of my goals has to been to write about my depression and help at least one person.

Another goal is to build ideas for a book about my depression and the journey I’ve been on.

It has been an exceptional experience.

I’ve found that I can express myself in writing, where I can’t express myself vocally. The writing transforms my emotions, putting them onto a page.

It has been very healing.

I wasn’t very surprised when it came to the writing. It was the feedback that surprised me.

Most of my life, I’ve been told my writing is exceptional, but I’ve never believed it.

Why? Depression eats gray matter.

Teachers are paid to teach you. They support you in your endeavors to learn. By doing so, they earn a paycheck. That doesn’t mean they don’t care, but I’m always skeptical of those who give great reviews and have a paycheck backing them.

In the author community, it’s the concept of “don’t pay for reviews because they can’t be trusted.”

Deep down, I know my teachers have been sincere; however, my skepticism keeps me from trusting those opinions. In fact, several were the best teachers I’ve had and owe my career to, but that’s for a different story.

I’m constantly battling an army of maniacal orcs who beat me down, feasting on the gray matter they find in my brain. They consume chunks of the energizing meat. My neurons cease firing, surrendering to the bickering voices sitting behind my ears.

Those voices destroy any confidence in the positive opinions of my work.

With family, my mother always gives me good feedback, but she’s my mother. Kat does the same, but she’s my partner. My brother is my brother.

The voices nag at me, telling me they can’t be trusted.

The orcs dine on more gray matter. I imagine they serve it with some fava beans and a nice chianti, swirling the wine, and gulping it down.

Who am I kidding? Orcs don’t drink wine.

My family is my family. They love me. They might not tell the truth, but I know they do. My confidence doesn’t grow. The orcs devour that positivity.

I grew up in a small farm town. So small at the time of my schooling, the district had the largest land area in the state with the smallest class size.

English (anything with words) is a failed degree

I remember friends in college talking about their high school workload. Computer science, web development, creative writing, bowling, archery, psychology, and more.

We had government and advanced government.
We had English and advanced English.
We had gym and… well, gym.

The most diversification was in science; biology, physics, and chemistry.

Overall, those are basic high school classes. I couldn’t imagine taking anything else.

Other than a splash here or there in English class, I wasn’t taught creative writing. It wasn’t a class. It wasn’t an option.

Senior year we analyzed books and writing, but it wasn’t about creating stories.

Going to college for English was - no offense English majors - a wasted degree. At least that’s what I thought at the time. A friend bought my roommate, an English major, a book of jobs you could get with an English degree. The book was extremely thin, only a few pages long. It was meant as a joke, but we believed you couldn’t get a decent job with that degree; librarians, journalists, and teachers aside.

Again, no offense to English majors. That was the concept at the time because of our circumstances and experience.

Make money by writing? That’s silly.

Struggling with Criticism

My struggle with depression means criticism is also a struggle. For one, I don’t like accolades. With awards and recognition, most of the time, not all, I find the recognition is politically motivated.

I don’t mean government politics.

I mean social politics.

Powerful person A knows person B, so person B gets an award when person C is more deserving. The politicizing of feedback makes me angry, especially when I know someone who should be recognized.

Fortunately, this is something I’ve learned to take with a grain of salt. I worry constantly about how my work will be received. I push on, knowing I have specific goals; heal myself, write about depression to help others, and move into a career I feel can help the world. I need to know I’m helping people to fuel my soul and give me energy. Doing so helps me fight my depression which keeps me motivated and healthy.

As I write, I realize most people are happy to provide constructive feedback. Knock on wood, negative troll like feedback hasn’t been an issue. Knock on wood.

That nagging question about my right to write slowly fades. The positive comments lift me up. Negative comments bring me down fast, but I fight the orcs multiplying inside my mind by rereading the positive comments.

I win.

Today was no different. I received my first 1-star review on my book. Depression lashed out, trying to pull me in. Then I read the review. There was nothing about the book. They were unhappy that it wasn’t 99 cents, offering no feedback about the story. In my mind that’s the spoiling nature of 99 cent books.

Writers work hard on their short stories, novellas, novels, and other creations. I’m one of those writers who doesn’t believe every book needs to be 99 cents.

I recognized the silliness of that person and fought my depression. I can still feel it clawing in the darkness, trying to pull me down, but it’s not taking hold.

With those confidence blocking energies, what gives me the right to write?

The feedback on HubPages has been phenomenal. Not only on HubPages, my fiction books have been receiving high marks. The only low marks have been non-relevant details and not related to the overall stories.

I never thought this would happen.

I wondered.

I dreamed.

I hoped.

But, I didn’t believe.

My counselor and I discussed these details. I don’t think I’ll ever be confident in my work. Part of that is the struggle with depression. Another part is the bane that comes with creativity. It’s great while we create, but we can’t see the greatness when we’re done. We need others to support us, giving us strength and motivation to continue forward.

We need to know we have the right to write.

It’s not a question that needs answering. Everyone has a story; fiction or non-fiction.

Everyone has thumbs.

If you don’t have pens, you can use pencils. If you don’t have writing tools, you can pick up a stone and carve your story into another stone like the ancient Sumerians.

If you’re like me, questioning what gives you the right to write, remember…

You have thumbs.

You have a story.

Write.

Let’s face it; we better write, because if cats evolve thumbs, they’ll be writing their stories in our blood.

So write and share your story before cats inevitably take over the world.

Mark my words. They will… one day.

- Will


© 2019 Willow Shire

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