Bad Advice Wednesday: Avoid Literary Postpartum Depression

categories: Bad Advice / Cocktail Hour

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vintage manuscriptSo for weeks, months, maybe years you have been pushing toward the end of the book you are writing. It has been your main goal, your driving purpose. Not a few times each day you fantasize about being done.  What could be better?  It sounds like heaven.


And this morning, miracle of miracle, you have finally finished. You’re done!  Maybe you will drink some  champagne and tell some people and try to make an occasion of it. But maybe you also feel, instead of elation, a kind of depression setting in. Immediately. What the hell is this?


What is the root of this strange depression? It is emptiness. It turns out that all this time, even when you were griping about it and dreaming of the end, this book was keeping you full. And while you thought there was nothing you wanted more than to be done with the book, without it your life feels empty.  The  book has filled  up your days, even if you only work on a it for a couple of hours in the morning. And even if you don’t know you are, you are thinking about it while you eat, drink, and sleep. It has kept you company.  It has given you purpose. And now it’s gone.  And you are back to normal life, which as it turns out seems pretty blah.

So what to do?  Accept it is one answer, I suppose. Live with it and let the feeling go away on its own accord. Do the things you have not been doing while writing like the dishes. Chalk it up to yet another fucked up aspect of living the writing life.You can do that.

Or you can do what I do and what most writaholics do. Start on a big new project immediately. Some of us hate the emptiness so much we do this on the very same day. As you get on in your career it might not be so much that you are starting a new project as turning from one to another, moving from unfinished project to the next like swinging from one trapeze bar to the next, with only that brief moment in the void in between.

This of course does not sound like the route to great mental health. And if you have a healthier way of dealing with this problem, go to it. I’ve tried myself. I often will try to wait a couple of days but inevitably a kind of creepy, itchy non-writing feeling comes over me and I head back to writing. I don’t know what this says about me psychologically, though I’m sure it isn’t good.  But it makes me feel better. And it’s a pretty good way to get books done.





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