During my struggles with bipolar disorder, my main challenge has been depression. I've found dozens of ways to force myself to write when I'm crying, stuck in the depths of despair, and even suicidal.
Mania presents a whole new set of challenges. My thoughts whiz by in no discernible order. Sitting still to capture any of them is next to impossible. I'm cranky and anxious and I think everything I write sounds like crap.
But the work still has to be done, so I've developed a few techniques to help me write even in the throes of mania. If you deal with these issues, too, I hope you find these tips helpful.
Stay in Touch with Your Doctor or Psychiatrist
If you're manic, your medications probably need adjustment. Your doctor may want to changes the dosages or even try a different medicine altogether. Remember that new medications often take a few weeks to reach their full therapeutic effect. Don't give up on them too soon.
Take Your Medications as Prescribed
The evilly seductive thing about mania is that it can feel good, especially when compared to the living death of depression. It can be tempting to reduce or even stop medication in order to prolong the manic phase. Mania, though, can mess up your life and your career just as fast as depression can. Stay on your meds.
Think Twice Before You Hit Publish or Send
When I'm manic, the words flow at the speed of light, but they don't always make much sense. My grammar sucks, and my ideas often come out a jumbled mess. What seems perfectly reasonable to my manic mind is incomprehensible to everyone else. Therefore, no matter how brilliant I think my writing is, I don't submit anything until my beta reader gives it the green light. This policy has saved me from embarrassment more times than I can count.
If you're too wired to sit down and put words on paper, use the time to accomplish writing-related errands and tasks. Go to the library, the office supply store, and the post office. Go to a museum and do some research for that historical novel you've always wanted to write. Just keep a close eye on the amount of cash you spend. Shopping sprees are an unfortunate characteristic of mania. I once ended up with over a hundred yellow legal pads. True story. I'm still using them.
Force Yourself to Work for Just a Few Minutes
If you can make yourself sit down in front of a keyboard or pick up a pen, you may be surprised at how easily you get lost in your project. Make a deal with yourself that you'll only work for ten minutes. At the end of that time you can get up and walk away if you're still not engaged.
Take Regular Breaks
When you're manic, it's easy to get carried away and work for hours at a time. You may find yourself working through meals or even staying up all night to finish a project that has captured your imagination. If you have this tendency, set a timer to remind yourself to get up from your chair, stretch, drink fluids, eat, and sleep.
Calling all bipolar writers...how do you deal with a manic episode?