Laurie Stevens in the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. You can find out more about her at her website www.lauriestevensbooks.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.
Recently, I completed a sci-fi/ fantasy titled “The Return.” After spending a year researching the world’s developing technology and artificial intelligence and then another year writing the novel, I thought I’d be elated, ready to pop the cork off a bottle of champagne. Instead, I felt bummed. Lost. I’ve been in this place before, and it happens every time I complete a book.
Without knowing what to do with myself, I madly cleaned the house, worked in the garden, went out with friends to prove how sociable I could be, and wanted to pull my hair out of my head. Sure, being a social butterfly has many benefits but it doesn’t feel as good to me as sequestering myself in the cocoon.
It turns out I’m not the only one who has experienced feelings like this. It’s a thing, and I hate to admit it, but it’s nice to know I’m not alone. Why do some authors experience the “post-project-completion blues” when they should be jumping for joy with a feeling of accomplishment?
I missed my characters. I’d gotten to know them so well. I missed the world I’d delved into for two years. I wanted to find out what was up with this phenomenon and discovered many authors who blogged about it.
One author claimed that sending his “baby” out into the world to “face criticism and rejection” threw him into a panic. Another credited her depression as “feeling at loose ends” and worried that she wouldn’t survive without a “book in her head.” Many writers said the looming challenge of what to write next filled them with stone-cold dread and killed their creativity.
John Mayer, a clinical psychologist, confirms this gloom is part of the creative process. It’s a let-down that happens to readers who finish a book or viewers who’ve invested their lives in a TV series. “We often go into a state of depression because of the loss we are experiencing,” he said. “We call this situational depression because it is stimulated by an identifiable, tangible event. Our brain stimulation is lowered (depressed) such as in other forms of depression.”
Hypnotherapist and Psychotherapist Joel Annesley (https://www.joelannesley.com/ ) calls it post-task depression, and says it’s a very “real issue that many authors face after they finish writing their book.”
Annesley discussed it with his life coach, who likened the feeling to grief. It’s not just missing the characters you’ve come to know but that you “terribly miss the creative process of writing.” Authors express themselves through the written word, which is a powerful form of therapy, especially for the more introverted of us. Writing is a powerful tool to “express our vulnerabilities in one of the safest places possible—our notebook.” Imagine having such a convenient, wonderful outlet and then, poof, it’s gone.
So how do you console yourself? Rip your clothes? Cover the mirrors? The answer is as plain as a blank page. Keep writing! Dive right into that next project.
By the way, marketing your last project doesn’t mean you have to cease writing. In fact, you shouldn’t. Don’t you notice how the world seems to unfold better for you when you’re knee-deep into a project?
Like Annesley says, “The more I keep writing, the more connected I feel—to self, to the community, and to my own Quiet Confidence.” I like that phrase, although I’m still trying to figure out why confidence should be quiet. Any comment on that? At any rate, I’ll take confidence in any form over depression any day.
Jack Kanfield, the author of the New York Times bestselling Chicken Soup for the Soul, has published more than 250 books and says he doesn’t experience the post-creation depression. Maybe because he’s so prolific. He looks at post-book-life as akin to sending a kid off to college. Once the book is done, he feels proud and enjoys seeing it out in the world.
“I enjoy writing,” he says, “the process of it is having fun, so I experience success in the experience of writing the book as much as in publishing it.” Good outlook.
Have you experienced the Grief at “The End?” What do you do about it?