February 07, 2023

The Frustrations of Creative Life


In her wonderful book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, which I discussed last year on my blog, Elizabeth Gilbert tells us that handling our personal frustrations as artists is the most elementary part of creating anything, no matter if you’re a writer, painter, or musician.

The first time I read her book, I was deep in a bout of depression (not spurred on by writing or publishing in any way but which was impacting my writing in every way), I remember asking, “But how?”

The second time I read her book, when I was finally back to writing, I still paused at that line and again asked, “How?”

How can someone handle their frustrations, with or without depression?

That, I believe, is the trick and the challenge. Finding a way to handle frustrations, and let-downs, and stress, and writer’s block, and depression is, indeed, the most important part of living any sort of creative life. What works for one person to help them handle these ups and downs—mostly these downs—may not work for others. And finding the solution can be a long, hard battle.

Elizabeth also says that frustration isn’t an interference of our creative process, but rather that it is the whole process, from beginning to end.

I agree and disagree with this, which I believe Elizabeth Gilbert will say is in my right. (Thanks, Liz…if I may call you that.) I agree because frustration is definitely a major part of the process, just as rejections are part of the process, and writer’s block, ideas coming and going, publishing woes, marketing stress, and everything else that may cause a writer headache and heartache.

I disagree because frustration can interrupt your process, if you let it. And it can certainly interrupt the process if that frustration is combined with, or a symptom of, depression.

When I was younger, before my first head-on collision with writer’s block and (unrelated) my first encounter with depression, I didn’t believe writer’s block could happen to me. I also never entertained the idea of experiencing depression because of my frustrations with not getting published. Nor did I think it possible that I would get completely burned out and be unable to write. I used to say that if I didn’t write in a single day, then that day felt wasted. I hated it, simply detested it, if I didn’t have time to write, because it was my joy. Oh, I was so innocent then.

Writing isn’t always a stroll over a rainbow, with unicorns and shooting stars and all things lovely and magical and bright. Sometimes, the going is tough. Sometimes, an idea doesn’t work, or you can’t get two thoughts down on paper, or you feel gutted by a rejection or critique, or nothing you do to market your work seems to be helping. These things aren’t enjoyable, but we put up with them in the best, sometimes the only, ways we know how.

Elizabeth Gilbert tells us that how we handle ourselves during those moments that aren’t so lovely and magical and bright is rather revealing for how dedicated we are to our passion, and it can also show us if we have the chops to handle this chaotic but beautiful life of an artistic person.

Well, I have been tormented by my frustrations. I have fallen into the slimy, greasy pits of depression. In my anguish…perhaps in self-pitying moments, I would say aloud that I should quit publishing, and trying to publish, but I never said I’d quit writing. I never could. To say that would be equivalent to death for me. Even if I had stopped trying to publish, I still would’ve written. But the thing is, the times when I threatened to stop publishing altogether, which I fully meant in that instant, I knew it wouldn’t come true. Mind you, I don’t have to publish, but there will always be a part of me longing to share my work with others that I may never be able to quell. So, seconds after I’d make this statement, I’d be right back at it. Honestly, when it comes to my writing career, and my writing in general, I don’t have a quitter bone in my body. I will continue writing and publishing, even in the face of the most disagreeable aspects of writing and publishing, even in the face of depression.

I preserve. I push on. But that persevering and pushing on can be difficult. I still do it, though. I have no other choice. Not if I want to keep writing and creating, publishing and sharing, and living the life I see for myself.

The fact I do preserve and push on and don’t have a quitter bone in my body, I think means Elizabeth would say I handle myself well in those not-so-bright moments and that I am equipped for the demands of creative living.

Yay me! Yet, I never doubted that I did.

You can preserve and push on, too.

When I am going one-on-one with depression, though, it can be hard to see the other side.

I believe, though, that every state of depression can be mounted, and everyone going through depression can find their way through it.

But how?

There is no definite or single answer to that. 

Universal Killer Chapter Six Teaser

Chapter Six is up today with BONUS material. When you’re a patron, you get access to the previous chapters and bonus material as well.


  1. I agree with you that frustration and depression can affect your writing life. It's so hard to maintain a positive writing life and stay committed to it over the years with it being so hard to succeed in the profession, no matter what route you take.

  2. I stopped sending queries to magazines a number of years ago because I couldn't handle the rejection. I still write my blog and sometimes feel inspired to work on a poem, but limiting my writing helps me keep the black dog away.


  3. Frustration and depression can certainly affect your writing. At least it does mine. I believe in you, Chrys. You will get through this. You have experience and story within you. All best to you!

  4. We all have those times when things aren't going well. It's hard.

  5. Great advice, Chrys. Thank goodness you want to share your writing with the world. You are an inspiration to me.

  6. Over time, frustration and disappointment can contribute to feelings of sadness and depression. We as a whole have those times when things aren't working out in a good way and it's tough I know.

  7. Hi Chrys - I hear you ... and admire that you're working your way through ... I don't have a problem finding things to write about - they just sit in my brain coddling ... eventually something will get written - as it will today ... life goes on - always one step at a time ... you take care sent with thoughts - Hilary

  8. Your words are so relatable. Thanks for sharing them.


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