Saturday, January 25, 2014

Post Novel Depression

Writing a book is an amazing and sometimes all-consuming endeavor.  When you aren’t actively in front of your computer working on your book, you are thinking about it.  And as the words grow and build pages with your story, you become filled with a huge sense of joy and accomplishment.  Of course that is tempered by the times you are banging your head on your desk because you can’t figure out what will happen next or how to tie in an important plot point.  But when it is finished, and polished, and edited, you send it off with a smile and (in my case) a happy little dance that is vaguely reminiscent of Snoopy’s happy dance.  You may even hum The Charlie Brown Theme Song as you do it.  That’s okay.  I don’t judge.

And then it hits you, Post Novel Depression.  In my case, it happens about five minutes after I send my new book off to my agent, and immediately following the happy dance.  Suddenly, I have nothing to do.  The focus of the last few months of my life (other than kids, husband, making food, driving to various activities, cleaning the house and going to work) has been THE BOOK.  Now it’s gone.  I usually sit back down at my desk and stare at the computer screen, kind of like the little girl in Poltergeist stared at the static on the TV.  I’m suddenly lost, and I'm…mourning.

I miss my book.  I miss the funny, quirky characters I’ve created (even though I sort of hated them at times when they refused to do what I wanted).   I even miss editing.  Editing is no longer a dreaded activity for me.  Once I have direction and have set my course, I secretly (egads!) enjoy it.  It feels like doing a puzzle, and I’m a huge fan of puzzles.

After the initial sadness of Post Novel Depression hits, it only gets worse.  That is when you move on to the dreaded question:  What will I write next???  Suddenly, your heart is filled with fear.  What if I never write anything ever again?  What if the first five books were flukes?  What if I don’t hear the call of the muse and get another story stuck in my head that simply has to come out?

This is the stage in my grieving process when I start to get a look of panic in my eyes, and force myself to remember that this has happened before.  I can’t force the muse.  Eventually, she will show up.  I decide it is an excellent opportunity to clean out my closet.  Or do laundry.  Or put the books that fill the twenty seven book shelves in my house into alphabetical order, separating them by genre.  Or maybe by characters - one shelf for vampires, one for monsters, one for shape shifters, one for highlanders (separating time travelling highlanders from those who simply have mystical powers).  Sometimes I decide to clean out my linen closet.  My grandmother used to iron her sheets.  Maybe I should iron my sheets, too.  That might be fun.

It’s around the sheet ironing phase that I begin to realize I’m losing it.  I need to be writing, or I might start organizing my son’s sock drawer by color and shape.  Again.  That is when I remember I haven’t written a blog post in, uh, months, and sit down at my computer.  And it feels so good to be writing, even if I’m only writing about not writing. 

Post Novel Depression doesn’t last forever.  It’s over as soon as the new idea hits and you start to write again.  Worrying about it won’t make the muse come any faster.  Go back to your old notebooks.  Look over story ideas you jotted down years ago and see if there is something there that might work.  Take bits and pieces from those old ideas, put them together and see what comes up.  Go on Pinterest, create a board called “Inspiration” and pin every single thing to it that sparks you.  You might find something that works.  Worst case scenario, you’ll find a recipe for something like a killer mojito that will make the process just that much more bearable. 

It will happen again, and the more you relax, the sooner it will come.  And if you use this time to do a little cleaning and organizing with your bottled up creative juices, where is the harm in that?  Just don’t iron your sheets.  That is when you know you've gone over the edge and into the dark side.

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