Many of us in the video game world are creative people — developers, writers, artists, and creators of all kinds. Many of us are also familiar with depression, anxiety, mental health issues and creative blocks. This talk from industry veteran Bob Bates may help if you’re dealing with the latter, even if it’s caused by one of the former.
Bates updated his 2011 talk on living a creative life to reflect a changing industry that’s filled with indies and not just workers feeling like cogs in machines. He breaks down some great, sensible advice on structuring your days for creativity a bit of pop psychology care of Malcom Gladwell aside).
If you’re currently coping with serious mental health issues, don’t be too hard on yourself if these techniques don’t work for you. In a great (if vulgar) post about self-care for writers last year, author Chuck Wendig put this very important point ahead of everything else:
1. RECOGNIZE DEPRESSION
This deserves attention right up front.
Writer’s block is not depression. Depression is depression. It is real. It is a disease (or as some prefer, a disability). It is not fake. You are not making it up. It is not “all in your head.” And worst of all, depression lies. And for the writer, one of its most insidious lies is that depression somehow entangles itself with your work. It twines with the art, like a tumor seeking its own blood flow, and you start to associate the two together. Maybe you come to believe that depression or anxiety is essential for the writing. Or maybe you believe that it isn’t really depression, it’s just writer’s block or some variant thereof and surely the best way forward is to write your way through it.
That can work with writer’s block. That won’t likely work with depression.
Trying to write your way through depression is like trying to run fast through mud. It’s like trying to rid yourself of a headache by punching yourself in the head. It’s a very good way to sink. It’s a very good way to deepen the ache. Do not try to write your way through depression.
Treat depression as depression. Or anxiety or whatever particular flavor you have. I’m not a BRAINOLOGIST, so that means whatever it means in terms of the specifics — but likely, it means going to talk to someone of a professional nature and then potentially either continuing therapy or finding solutions in medication or other life adjustments. But it’s real. It isn’t an illusion. And it isn’t part of your art. That’s how the demon convinces you into letting it stay.
Wendig’s advice for writing applies well to any creative career. That’s not to say you have to set aside your creative side when you’re depressed. Having a creative outlet can be healing, and sometimes we have to find a way to be creative in less-than ideal circumstances in order to keep paying the bills. But if you feel like you’re sinking in quicksand whenever you struggle to produce anything, it’s vitally important to deal with the underlying issues rather than waiting till your head goes beneath the surface.