I’ve been rather depressed for a few weeks. That’s a circumstance of a complex convolution of a lot of life events I won’t go into here. Though one of those events is the completion of a novel, which tends to be both a happy and a sad event.
The reason I go into it here is because it is, while not frequent, cyclical. This is not the first time I’ve dealt with a depression lasting weeks or months. It’s not the kind of depression that prevents me from functioning day to day.
But it’s hell on my creative process. I don’t write. I don’t feel good about myself as a creative person. I compare myself unfavorably to others whose work I admire. I have trouble starting anything new.
So instead, I seek answers. I try to refuel creatively. I try to avoid things that fuel my depression. And occasionally, realizations come from unexpected places.
While I was at home in Colorado Springs, Colorado visiting my family, my nieces and sister got me hooked on a silly, time-wasting game called Dragon Story. It’s cute. You hatch and raise dragons. The dragons grow as you feed them, and they earn game currency over time. The more dragons you have, the more you earn, the more you can do. If you want thins to move along faster, you can buy in-game currency, which I try never to do. It’s real money that buys virtually nothing. Besides, in a way, it’s cheating. You’ll see what I mean in a minute.
I’m also a very infrequent practitioner of Zen Buddhism. I listen to a podcast (again, not often enough) called Zencast, where Gil Fronsdal and others dispense wisdom for free. Recently, on the topic of enlightenment and whether it happens suddenly, as in stories and parables, or gradually, Gil said something that struck me.
I’m paraphrasing here. He said, it’s gradual until it’s sudden. You sit and meditate and practice and check in with yourself and then “suddenly” it happens. Or it suddenly happens and you spend time incorporating that new awareness into your being. Or both. Over and over and over.
This is encouraging. To go back to the Dragon Story example, if I don’t want to “cheat,” then I have to wait, and return over and over to gather what the game gives me, slowly, and put those resources to use. So I do, somewhat obsessively, the same as I do with writing. No matter how far I drift or how I feel, I come back for the moments of epiphany — when a story comes together or a novel is finished.
Over and over and over.