I wanted to be glib for this month’s topic on the best and worst writing days, but I can’t. Instead, I’m going to make a confession: the best days and the worst days are often one and the same because I, like many writers before me, suffer from anxiety and depression. I know, I know! I’m so freaking bubbly on Twitter. Yeah, well, I’m also #MedicatedandMighty.
You see, there was a day back in 2008 when I realized I couldn’t keep going the way I’d been going. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning. I suffered from road rage. The tiniest things set me off—either anger or tears—and sometimes I got the shakes or an eye twitch for no apparent reason.
Logically, I knew my life was awesome and yet . . .
And yet, I didn’t feel awesome at all. I made an appointment to see the doctor, and I will never forget that I sat there on the end of that table shaking and crying because I felt like a failure at life. I felt as though a normal adult should be able to handle these things. Never mind the fact I was teaching full time, going to school, had a 45 minute commute one way with one kid in Kindergarten and the other in preschool, always worrying about imposing on the in-laws who were blessedly shuttling my children to where they needed to be. I had a lot on my plate, which wasn’t that different from earlier in my life, but I wasn’t handling it. I still think baby number two altered my brain chemistry a bit, but no one will ever be able to prove that one way or another.
Dr. C, God bless him, asked all of his questions and went through the rounds. He prescribed Lexapro, and he didn’t make me feel like a second class citizen while doing it. Within a week, I was making lists again. Everything felt so much more . . . manageable. The road rage was . . . better. (It’s Atlanta. You can’t expect too much.) My husband got a new job that paid what the two of our jobs together had paid.
I was going home to write.
Believe me when I tell you, it hasn’t been all wine and roses since that day. There have been
setbacks. My last day of teaching high school was in May of 2008. I didn’t sell until October of 2013. There were rejections and promising requests. Since then, I’ve had rejections and promising requests. All sorts of other things happen behind the scenes that I don’t talk about because I’m learning this whole author gig as I go. Suffice to say this year has been a roller coaster. I’ve had the highs of first and second book being published. I’ve had some lows, too.
Probably, the biggest challenge of 2015 has been to get back into the habit of drafting. For the first time in a LONG time, I have half of this story and half of that, unsure of how to proceed and constantly interrupted by the other side of publishing. Can I find success again? Is my third book still a hot mess? Will my second book be a sophomore slump? Will my first book place in any contests? Win any awards? Am I doing enough promo? The right promo?
I remember sitting in a workshop where an author—I can’t remember who it was—reminded all of us who hadn’t sold yet to enjoy the ride because publication never gets rid of your problems, rather it creates a whole new set. From that point on, I made an effort to enjoy each success, and I still do. Request for a full? Celebrate. Sell the book? REALLY celebrate. Finish revisions? You guessed it. Finished copy edits? Grab a glass of wine and watch some Sherlock. Finished page proofs? Cup of fancy coffee. Book released? Big ol’ celebration.
I guess publishing is like life: you don’t know where, when, or if the highs are coming so cherish them as they come. You know, logically, the lows will be there, too. Prepare for them as best you can and remember those highs and how you enjoyed them. I had one spectacular low earlier this year, and I took a day to wallow. Then I picked myself up and started again.
On the whole, though? 2015 has been one helluva year. No matter what happens, I’ve had a book published. Two, in fact! Some folks resist the analogy between books and babies, but I’ve done both and feel it’s quite similar. I love my children more, but I do love those books and I did make them. While I wrote them I had critique partners who wiped the sweat from my brow and told me when to push. Then I turned around and tried to be a good book doula for them. It’s an amazing business we’re in, but it’s not for the faint of heart.
Should you be like me, one of those people who feels the highs as pretty damn high and the lows as awfully damn low, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being #MedicatedandMighty is what keeps my keel closer to even. Find good friends, loyal friends, friends you can lean on and, this is the biggie: remember that you are not alone.