How to get over Writing Depression

Writing blues

Writing Blues - FI

Having spent many long, sometimes frustrating, months writing that epic, what happens when it is finally done? You had it professionally edited and proofread—maybe—and now it is time to unleash it on unsuspecting readers. It feels good to have the thing behind you, and you can now put to bed all those characters that haunted your nights and bothered your days. You can sit back, put your feet on the writing desk, lean back with a tumbler of good bourbon in your hand, and give a huge sigh of relief.

But, is it a sigh of relief or a rising cloud of concern? When the initial euphoria wears off, you suddenly realize that you have lots of time on your hands, and you’re now starting to wonder what to do with yourself. Sounds familiar? Okay, there are all those Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook posts you wanted to catch up with, and then maybe not. When I look at some of those things, I just shake my head at what gets posted. Never mind, that’s another story. Perhaps you want to review a book or two, or read that particular novel that’s been sitting on the shelf for all these months. Now could be a good time to do a bit of travel, or a few more rounds of golf, or whatever takes your fancy. By all means, go for it. Still worried that something isn’t right?

You may not realize it, but you could be suffering from what I call post-book depression.

From a ‘high’ after finishing that novel, you have hit a ‘low’ of having nothing to do. Of course, there is always something else in your life that keeps you amused, but the big thing that’s been driving you all these months is gone! There is no need for that writing pad anymore, no need to spend hours staring at the computer waiting for the words to form, no need to dig yourself out of a mental block, no need to edit and re-edit the damned thing, no need to do anything. Writing a lengthy work gets you into a routine, something you are comfortable with. It is a stable element in your life. All of a sudden, that routine is rudely disrupted. Perhaps that tumbler of bourbon now serves a different purpose, other than being celebratory, as you ask yourself ‘what now’? Indeed, what now?

This is how it works for me. Having finished the novel, waiting for a review or two before releasing it, I am genuinely relieved the project is done. It took a lot of work and sweat and I tell myself I deserve a break. Then, all those symptoms I mentioned come creeping in. Should I get concerned? After a second glass of bourbon, it really doesn’t matter. The thing is, I usually need a month or two to flush my mind off my current project, banish all those haunting characters, and have a bit of fun; let my mind wander. You must define what works for you. In other words, I am taking time to recharge my creative batteries, which will enable me to face my next project. Sometimes I have ideas on tap, and I pick over them, probing the possibilities to develop one into my next book. Right now, having finished a major novel, I don’t have anything on mind, but that’s okay. I’ve been there before. Something will come up. The theme for my latest book came from a most unlikely source. I was watching a TV documentary, and wham! I turned the subject matter into a plot for a novel. Maybe watching more TV will give me another inspiration—or send me further into depression, seeing what’s on these days.

The important thing here, don’t mistake that ‘low’ for genuine depression. It is a natural reaction and you must allow nature to take its course while you get energized again. Make no mistake, writing something that is 100,000 words or more takes a lot of effort and perseverance. It is no surprise the work has left you somewhat exhausted. You were running a mental marathon that was perhaps ten months long. It’s okay to have a break before starting the next one. When will you know you are ready to start writing again? If the fires of creation burn inside you, a flash of inspiration will fan them and the compulsion to sit behind that writing desk again will be overwhelming. Ah, back into my comfortable routine!

If you liked this article, check out my insights into writing, editing and publishing on my Blog. I would appreciate your feedback!


2 comments on “How to get over Writing Depression”

  1. Excellent article as always, Stefan! I would add to that one small thing as I am starting to feel that familiar writing depression even though I finished that 100,000+ word manuscript and published it in April. Why the delay? Well, promoting it took up a lot of time, as well as some other things that happened. So, what did I do next? Well, not too long after, I jumped into other projects. This is where my point fits in.

    Don’t feel compelled to write something else right away. You definitely need a break. I think of my sequel in progress to the big novel (hell, I’m still mourning the characters in that book), and even though I know I need to work on the next one, I am not in a rush to focus heavily on it yet. Definitely take that break to regroup or you’ll just feel burnt out. When the “fire” comes, the urge to truly write, it will and there will be no stopping it.

    1. Thanks for your input, Heather. I am taking that break and recharging the gray cells. My breaks usually last about a month before I get restless and start working on my next novel. Ideas are alreasdy bubbling away. I just need to sort out which one of them I want to nourish.

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