Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Post-Book Blues

Everyone knows about post-partum depression, but how about the post-book blues? A writer works for months on a project. Momentum builds to the grand finale. And then poof, it’s all over. You’re done. Finished. Past the creative hurdle. What happens next?

What’s next is that you face reality, just like new parents who come home from the hospital with a squalling baby. Now it’s time to exert your parenting skills. For a writer, a manuscript is her baby. You polish your masterpiece, submit it, and then risk rejection, but you learn a lot along the way. Meanwhile, you begin to gather the research materials for the next story. It’s sort of like learning how to change a diaper and warm formula while already thinking about baby number two.

During this gap between writing projects, you can pay attention to bills, family members, and household issues that you’ve skirted while absorbed in your story. Dental cleaning? Check. Doctor visits? Check. Sort through files in home office? Check. Call for repair estimates? Check. If you have a day job, you can throw yourself into your work with renewed frenzy.

Is any of this fun? Nope. But you also have time to meet friends for lunch, to stroll in the park, to go shopping, or to do sports. Your mind is free to follow other pursuits. And yet as you go about your business, a yawning emptiness erupts. Where are those voices in your head? The characters who keep you company? The plot threads that invade your dreams?

When you can’t stand the silence any longer, the time has come to plant the seed for the next story or the next child, if you will. The joy of creation becomes impossible to deny.

So when you finish a book, how does it make you feel? Are you elated, relieved, or depressed?

20 comments:

  1. It's funny to ready this post today. I let my first baby go out into the world last week and boy was that letting go part hard work.

    I thought I would enjoy the free time, spend it with the family, catch up with my TBR list, but no, this was not to be. Within two days I was making notes for the second book and looking at some research. The characters who would be returning we're written up in note form with their reactions to the ending of the first one.

    I was really surprised how I needed to get back into it. I think I'm hooked.

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  2. Yes, it is hard to let go, isn't it? I always have wondrous plans for cleaning out my office, spending more time with the husband, etc. but I can't pry myself from the computer. I'm already kicking around ideas for the next book even though I vowed to take a break over the holidays.

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  3. Surprised. Even though I can always see the end coming, it surprises me when I get to the point where I look for that one more thing to tweak and there's nothing more that needs to be done. But it's a nice feeling. It's nice to have that time when you can do other things and not feel like you need to be working on the book. And at that point, I'm usually anxious to spend time putting down all those thoughts for the next one that have been floating around in my head by I haven't been able to focus on.

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  4. Excellent overview, Nancy. I think all writers can relate to your description. Finishing a manuscript always brings waves of excitement and apprehension for me. I'm expecting that mixed bag of emotions soon since I'm only a few thousand words away from finishing THE BLADE, my new thriller. One way to get up and running right away is to have a backlog of ideas for new books ready to turn to as I type those very scary words: The End. Then the cycle begins again with the scariest words of all: Chapter One.

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  5. Timothy, you're right in that it is nice to have a free mind that can wander and collect thoughts for the next book. I'm also using this free time to write the blogs for my upcoming virtual tour. The break from writing gives me a chance to get caught up on promo activities.

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  6. Joe, I'm with you on those scary words: Chapter One. I hate beginnings more than anything. But I still have revisions to face on the book I just finished. I'm hoping to put them off until January. My new Bad Hair Day mystery, Shear Murder, comes out then, so I need to get organized for the release now. By the way, I just got a great review from PW. Good luck finishing The Blade!

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  7. Great post, Nancy. I usually have a number of different projects, literary and otherwise, going at once so that the finish of one just means more time to devote to finishing another. After, of course, a suitable period of delirious self-congratulations. :-)

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  8. If I was on deadline for the book, I feel edgy, wondering about anything I didn't catch or have time to improve. Then I get philosophical; I remind myself that I did my best, and put it out of my mind until the next milestone.

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  9. What is this "gap between writing projects"? It sounds intriguing.

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  10. Joe H., I like the delirious congratulations. I admire your ability to work on more than one project at a time. Yes, Kathryn, if one has a deadline, there isn't more time for endless fixing. It goes the way it is. James, you made me chuckle.

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  11. I deal with post-partum depression after every book I write. The problem is that it keeps me from getting started on the next book for a long l-0-n-g time. You'll notice that my four published books are about ten years apart - once in a decade. My last book came out in June 2009 and I haven't been able to get started on another one.

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  12. I laugh, I cry, I have a cup of good coffee, then argue with myself about which one to start next. In that process right now as I draw near the end of my current WIP. Do I write the historical fiction that's been hovering in the background or the one that slid into my thoughts a few months ago?

    Decisions Decisions

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  14. Jan, you have to regard writing as a job. Give yourself a time limit for a break between books and then sit yourself down at the computer and get cracking. That's viable only if you're serious about writing as a career. If you just want to publish books at your own pace, that's a different story.

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  15. Basil, usually it's the book that calls to you the most strongly that you'll want to work on next. Which characters are nagging you to tell their story?

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  16. I'm at an awkward book stage, polishing up a first draft. My thoughts range between "what was I thinking" to "that's good, did I really write that". I know its too soon to think about the next writing project, but from past experience I know the time to let go will come all too soon.

    At this stage I want to drag the process out, so I find myself scrubbing the freeze-dried gunk off the sink plunger. I'll obsess over that perfect word that's hovering just out of reach. I'll think about how nice it would be to have a clean house and trimmed shrubs - but its too soon for all that industry.

    Once I reach the stage you're currently in, then I dive into all the piled-up stuff. The house. The yard. The promo ideas I sidelined until I had more time.

    As for friends, I learned a few years back not to let those relationships slide. I can be coerced to lunch with a friend any day of the week, deadline or not. I'll make up the time, somehow, some way.

    Great topic, Nancy!

    Maggie
    http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/

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  17. Maggie, you're right in that it's important to keep up the friendships. But I understand exactly where you're at. Once the holidays are past, I'll have to dig into revisions, and then I will finally be completely done. Or are we ever done? We can always gather bonus materials for readers from the worlds we've created, write blogs in case we do a blog tour, and devise book group questions. So until we do these things too, we don't really have to let go. But when we do, uh oh.

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  18. Fantastic post. I can definitely relate. After finishing my first book, I felt I had lost my best friends.

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  19. Yes, Carol, that's exactly how it feels.

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  20. When I finish a book I'm elated, especially because I will not end a book until I'm thoroughly and completely satisfied with the end results.

    The god part is, I don't have time to dwell on the characters I've left behind on the page. There are new ones nudging me on to the next story. I love my job!

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