Writing fiction might seem like it’s reserved for the Hemingways of the world, but it’s actually one of the best ways I’ve discovered to escape the monotony of day-to-day life, and to give relief to my mental illnesses.
Since the beginning of time, stories have been one of the best ways to forget about your own life and take in that of someone else.
And writing a novel takes that a step further, where you’re in control of what happens, how it happens, and the overall results of the story.
As someone with anxiety and depression, there’s something about being in control of another “life” that brings me comfort even on my worst days.
Let’s walk through why writing a book, and even the process of learning how to write a book, can help you escape your day-to-day and bring something new, fun, and relaxing into your life with mental illness.
1. You Get to be Creative With Your Story Ideas
Most of us don’t get to express our creativity nearly as much as we want to.
And while certain types may find that creativity is more of a chore than a way to unwind, there are plenty of us (particularly those struggling with mental illness) who find coming up with writing prompts or story setting ideas to be not only fun, but a massive break from our own minds.
In fact, one study shows that, among 35,000 individuals, those who found themselves to be creatives were nearly 25% more likely to carry the mental disorder variants.
Which means that a part of us needs that creativity to feel right in the world—it’s a part of us, and a part of our mental illness in a lot of ways.
With writing fiction, you get to express that creativity in massive ways, including coming up with your own story ideas.
And that’s not to mention how creative you get to be with characters, plot, and more—which we’ll get to.
2. You Get to Worry About Focus On Something Else
There’s nothing quite like forgetting your own burdens for a while.
Now, we all have to face challenges in our lives but sometimes we need to give our mind a rest.
Not only does this give us a conscious break, but for nearly 40 million Americans suffering from anxiety, we allow our minds to refocus on something productive—something that will give us value—instead of the mess of worries flitting through our minds normally.
And that something is the story we’ve constructed.
Our minds get to worry about the characters, their lives, the events in the plot,
Here are a few tips to help you focus on your fiction writing:
- Throw yourself into the story by spending time coming up with ideas and variations of where your story could go
- Shut down all distracting devices and get into the “zone” however you find works best for you (for me, it’s taking a shower…always trying to capitalize on those shower thoughts!)
- Continue to ask yourself questions about the story, its theme, and how you’re going to bring your vision to life
3. We Get to Craft Characters to Express Ourselves
No matter who the writer is, their characters are a reflection of bits and pieces of who they are.
For those of us struggling with mental illnesses, expression is often a really important part of not only understanding who we are but also showing the world how we see it.
The character development process of writing fiction requires that we dig deep to craft people with qualities we like or find interesting.
And since “writing what you know” is such popular advice in fiction writing, we often pull from our own experiences and struggles in order to create these characters.
4. You Create Something You’re Proud of
I can’t speak for everyone with mental illnesses. But for me and my anxiety and depression, being able to create something—anything—and have it be something so completely me and of my own creation does worlds for helping me cope.
Oftentimes, it’s hard to feel excited about anything, even things anyone else would find riveting.
Creation is one of the best ways to feel this as someone with mental illness. Being able to craft, build, and make progress on something gives us hope and something to look forward to.
When writing fiction, the rewards keep coming.
You get to watch your character grow, the plot progress, and you also get to visually see the progress on the page as you write.
Are you ready to start writing fiction? Here are some tips to get started!
If you’re new to writing, don’t worry! Every great author ever started somewhere.
Here are some tips to start writing fiction to help ease your anxiety, depression, or other mental illness:
- Read great fiction
- Start by coming up with a single book idea you think is promising (using a “what if” strategy can make this easier!)
- Start thinking of which characters you want to include in that story idea
- Build a character bio in order to learn who they are better (oftentimes, using a character bio template is easy to think of the most important information first)
- Create a structure of a story setup (or inciting incident), a first slap, second slap, a climax, and a resolution (these events will be the most influential in your story)
- Start your story in “media res,” which means “in the middle” by opening the story with your character’s everyday life before the main plot conflict starts
- Write your heart out, write what you want, share your insight on the world
Writing fiction can be a powerful way to cope if you suffer from mental illness. Being able to unload your own struggles into a story, through characters you’ve built, to create a final product you’re proud of can go a long way in helping.
Have you tried writing fiction? What were some of your greatest insights into the process as it relates to escapism and coping with mental illness?