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May is Mental Health Awareness Month

I haven’t written a blog post in a long time, but I suppose if there is anything is worthy of writing about in my first blog post in a while it is mental health.

There is so much I have to say on mental health and it was hard for me to decided what to write about. I could write information for those who don’t about depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and much more. I could write about coping mechanisms. I could write about signs of mental illness. I could even write about my own mental health experiences. However, I’m not going to write about any of those things (at least, not today). Instead, I have a message for those that are currently suffering.

Dear Reader,

I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now, but I’m certain that it’s difficult. I know it may be overwhelming and hard to do even the simplest of tasks. It may be work to read this note. It can feel like you’re drowning or that you have a weight that you have to carry with you day after day. You may feel tired and weak, but, I beg you, please carry on.

I don’ t know you, but I know that I love you. Now, please don’t make excuses for why I’m wrong, because you can’t change my mind. You’re a human being, therefore I want you on this earth even on your darkest days. I know others in your life feel the same way I do even if you don’t believe it.

Please don’t listen to inner critic. They’re wrong and a bad influence. You should stop hanging out with them. You are not the horrible things that your mind is telling you that you are, so stop believing it.

I want you to read this and believe it: YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN. I know you may feel like one when you’re struggling, but you’re not. You as a person are much more important and mean much more than your struggle. People love you, so believe me when you read that YOU ARE NOT A BURDEN.

You may feel ashamed of your struggles. You may feel ashamed at reading this right now. That’s why you should know that you have nothing to be ashamed of. Nobody will judge you for your mental health. If people can openly talk about getting a colonoscopy with no shame, you should be able to talk about your mental struggles with no shame. It’s okay not to be okay.

People are not entitled to hearing about your struggles. You don’t have to tell anybody anything if you don’t want to or are too exhausted to do so. That is okay. There is no pressure and no expectations.

You are strong. You are strong for fighting a mental war all day every day.

Your war may be gruesome, but there will be an end, so, I beg you, please keep fighting. I know it’s hard.

Here is a phone number to call for help (a.k.a. the suicide prevention hotline): 1-800-273-8255

Stay strong and keep fighting,

Paige Mulder

Writing Advice

I haven’t gotten a lot of writing advice in person. Technically, I haven’t gotten any writing advice in person. Actually, nobody’s ever given me writing advice. At least, not without my asking or having to go looking for it. I’ve searched the internet for writing advice. Most of the advice I’ve gotten from the internet was something along the lines of “Sign up for my email list and I’ll tell you how to fix (insert problem with writing here)”. The problems were usually writer’s block or finding time to write or something else like that. Due to searching for writing help online, my email inbox was full of emails from various writing help email lists that I could never seem to unsubscribe from no matter how many times I hit the button. Sometimes the emails were useful, other times they were advertisements. Eventually, I noticed that the email lists I was unable to unsubscribe from were sending me the same useful emails that I had received when I first signed up. I assumed they had run out of new helpful content to give me, so they sent out the same old stuff. At that point, it didn’t matter what emails they sent to me because I couldn’t unsubscribe anyway. That was when I decided I would be done searching for writing advice online.

Unfortunately, to this day those emails continue to flood my inbox.

Fortunately, I have found writing advice elsewhere. My English teacher! If I said I got writing advice from my English teacher (which I didn’t say), that would be a lie. My English teachers were all wonderful people and taught me many great things, but nothing about creative writing (besides in seventh grade when we wrote children’s books). Which wasn’t entirely their fault. Most of the problem was that the only curriculum my teachers were given had to do with nonfiction writing. At least, that’s what I’m going to assume. I would hate to think that my teachers have been keeping me from learning how to write about something besides persuasive essays and memoirs. Up until this point, I haven’t been completely honest. At school, I was able to write some fiction, but it wasn’t taught. We had this thing called “Free Write Time”. It was a class period (usually on Fridays) where we were able to write whatever we wanted (I bet you figured that out from the name). So, technically, I was able to write fiction. The problem was I didn’t only want to write fiction; I wanted to know how to write fiction. I wanted to know how to make it good. My English teachers (thus far) have failed to teach me how to do that.

(Before I go on, I want to let everyone know that I respect every single one of my English teachers and what they have taught me. Also, I believe that the most important things my English teachers taught me were grammar and spelling.)

If you’re still reading and have gotten past my ramblings about bad online writing advice and boring English teachers, then I am about to tell you about the best writing advice I have ever received. Are you ready? The best writing advice I have ever received is from Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. It’s a terrific book that answered all the questions I had about writing as well as the ones I didn’t know I had. Once I picked the book up, I couldn’t put it down. I’m sad to say this was the first book I’ve ever read by Stephen King. I always imagined the first book I would read by him to be It, Carrie, The Shining, or one of his other horror novels, but I’m not disappointed by the content in On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft even though it didn’t keep me awake at night. Overall, it was a great book that I will read several more times. I recommend it to any aspiring writer.

Here are some short notes that I took from the book:

  • Read a lot, write a lot
  • Form a habit of writing at the same time and in the same place every day
  • Be honest in your writing
  • Write your first draft with the door closed
  • Don’t edit or read your first draft, just keep writing it
  • Listen to the critiques of your first and ideal readers
  • You don’t have to be an English major
  • 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%
  • The second draft is with the door open
  • Have the first readers be people you trust
  • Edit a minimum of six weeks after you finish your first draft
  • Writer’s groups/retreats/camps/whatever-you-want-to-call-them are mostly useless
  • Don’t over-describe
  • Don’t tell something when you can show it
  • Adverbs are the death of your writing
  • Use the first words that come to your mind no matter how simple
  • It’s not about the money