How to publish when you’re too depressed to write

How to publish when you’re too depressed to write

I just got an email from someone saying they were too depressed to publish, so I’m sharing my response:

“Release it first, promote it later; the market decides whether they like it, and the work is what it is, so don’t let your feelings or doubts stop you from getting it out there.”

Edit: Now I’m rethinking my answer though and it’s a bit glib: what I should have said was – forget about forcing yourself to do things you don’t have the energy for: get help, try organic or pharmaceutical mood stabilizers or watch your diet for a trigger, depression may be caused by many things, it’s not something you can think your way out of. I’m tempted to say forget about writing and focus on small things that bring you joy – but I know from experience that doesn’t work; they won’t bring joy and you’ll feel more guilty for indulging and seeking pleasure all day. Fear and doubt in the face of publishing is normal, it doesn’t go away; but real depression isn’t always something you can just decide to push through on your own. In the future if I get requests for help I’ll do a better job of responding.

The truth is, depression and writing go hand and hand: in the beginning of “Book Craft” I have a chapter focused on the 3 orders of creative wretchedness, the difference between courage and confidence, and I introduced a simple framework to help, which is this:


In a response to the 3 Orders of Wretchedness, I’ve developed a simple framework that I hope will serve as a remedial potion, meant to instill a temporary path through the wild uncertainties of the creative process.

Purpose: Joy (motivation)

What energizes you

Plan: Value (market)

Respect your readers

Skill: Craft (mastery)

Practice your craft

And while that is a good starting point for the realistic fears you have around writing, it won’t do anything for the physiological symptoms of real depression or anxiety…

So I also included a bonus section which dives a little deeper into a very complex subject. I added that to under the “grimoire” section: (Motivation and Mindset).

Basically, mental exhaustion is a normal part of the process and writing can be draining; you can limit some of the fear by doing research and gaining experience; but you can also support your cognitive function by making sure your brain is getting the right fuel.

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