I finished a novel in November, and usually I take a few weeks off before I dive into my next big project. But something went haywire this year. Those few weeks turned into a few months, and now the motivation to sit down and begin writing isn’t really there.
What happened? I don’t know, and it’s frightening. This post is going to be a little strange, but since I began this blog, I’ve been posting about the experience of being a writer — not just writing itself, but the way things affect me, like reviews and events in my life. So this is one of those posts, about what it’s like when things aren’t going so well.
There are some obvious things in my life that factored into this dry spell:
- My cat, Koji, died. This was huge. Koji was a mean-tempered old cat (about 20-years-old) who was so vicious to outsiders we literally had to sedate him when we took him to the vet. (I have a hilarious story about the mass havoc he created there once, involving slashed hands and pee splattered everywhere.) Even drugged, he growled and snarled in his crate like a demon from hell, making everyone back away in trepidation. But he loved me. I’d had him his entire life. In my arms, he was a cuddly furball, and that’s where he died, purring, when he could no longer stand up on his own power. I was devastated by his loss, just two days after Christmas.
- My publisher rejected a novel. This shouldn’t be a big deal, because it happens to writers all the time, but it had never happened to me. Since I published my first novel in 2010, nothing I’ve submitted has been rejected. Perhaps some of those manuscripts should have been rejected, because they didn’t sell very well, but my publisher was willing to take the risk. Now the market has changed. Publishers are closing their doors left and right, so my publisher is understandably more reticent to accept manuscripts that don’t follow tried-and-true romance formulas. This makes me sad, but… business is business.
- My Christmas novel didn’t sell very well. Oh, it sold. Far better than novels I’ve released in the past. It just didn’t sell as well as the two previous novels, and that put me into a funk. Especially, since I’d put a ton of work into it, and was really vested in it. I also marketed it up the wazoo. Considering that my two previous novels far exceeded my expectations, you’d think I’d be grateful for having a banner year. (And I did have a great year, for book sales overall!) But… that’s not the way an artist’s mind works.
- I have a friend who is very ill. I can’t talk about it much on social media, but I’m immensely worried for her.
- Our dog, Kumar, is aging. He isn’t exactly at death’s door, but his muzzle has gone gray, and he is now on anti-inflammatories and painkillers for arthritis. Just a year ago, I was feeling guilty that I never exercised him enough, so we invested in a dog enclosure in the yard and got another dog to keep him company and play with him! But I was too late. He’s suddenly not in the mood to play much. The pup and he are gradually becoming play buddies, and the meds help him have more energy to wrestle, but he spent so much time snarling at the pup for trying to pounce on him when he wasn’t feeling well, the biggest side-effect of the new dog is jealousy. We spend so much time trying to convince both of them that we love them. It’s not exactly that things aren’t working out with the new dog, but it isn’t working out as I’d hoped.
- I feel like I’m letting people down. I’ve missed events I was supposed to participate in as a writer. I have a sci-fi novel (Martian Born) that got me into a wonderful sci-fi workshop, and I got a lot of encouragement to finish it — but it still isn’t finished. More importantly, my husband wants that one finished. I also have a romance novel my publisher was asking for, but after me telling them I needed more time to finish it too often… they’ve stopped asking. I can’t blame them, but it’s just another thing that makes me feel as if I’m drifting away from the career I loved so much…
All of these things point to a big problem with depression right now, of course. I can see that. I could go to a therapist, but like a lot of people suffering from depression, I’m not sure I want to commit to going onto antidepressants. I know they help people. I’m the son of not one, but two psychologists, and I lost an ex-boyfriend to suicide. (I.E., we weren’t boyfriends at the time, but still close friends.) I don’t want to discourage anyone from getting help, when they need it, and I’m still leaving that door open. But knowing myself like I do, I think there are some other things to try first. This may be the first big dry spell I’ve had, but it isn’t the first time I’ve dealt with my tendency toward depression.
What I do think will help is finishing this damned romance novel. It’s good. I know it’s good, and my publisher thinks it’s good (what they read of it). It’s only about two chapters from being done! I just need to sit down and force myself to start writing. Then maybe the words will start flowing again. Then maybe it will be time to finish that sci-fi novel…
And honestly, there is so much good in my life right now. I have to keep reminding myself of that.
I have a wonderful husband and a wonderful home. The new puppy is adorable and a great addition to the household (even if he does bark incessantly), and I did have a good year, professionally. My best ever, in fact.