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Laurie Stevens on The Grief at “The End”

Laurie Stevens in the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. You can find out more about her at her website, 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 ( ) 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?

Laurie Stevens

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. Laurie lives in the setting of her books, the hills outside of Los Angeles with her husband, two snakes, and a cat. You can find out more about her on her website,, or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I’m with you, Laurie. I must admit I had a lot of ahas, reading this post. I’m not glad you are feeling bereft, but I’m glad you explained it in such an articulate way. I’m not good with saying goodbye, whether in real life or in fiction.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie's Story

      Yep, it’s not a feeling I would have expected.
      Thanks for the affirmation!

  2. John DeDakis
    John DeDakis

    Yes. This resonates with me. I always need a major writing project, or I’m at loose ends. As you said: “Keep writing! Dive right into that next project.”

  3. Sheila Lowe
    Sheila Lowe

    I don’t experience post-project depression, I feel a great sense of relief. Perhaps that comes from knowing that I can now start thinking about the next project–the next part of characters’ journey. But I understand having that feeling with a standalone. Thank you for sharing that, Laurie. It’s always helpful to get different perspectives on the writing life.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie's Story

      I think that’s very astute, Sheila. I did not experience this feeling when I worked on the Gabriel McRay series. Probably because, like you with your series, I was ready and excited to get to the next part of his journey. Good insight.

  4. Laurie Buchanan
    Laurie Buchanan

    Laurie — You posed, “Don’t you notice how the world seems to unfold better for you when you’re knee-deep into a project?”

    Yes — that’s why I move along smartly to the next when I finish one. I’ve never smoked, but I’d venture to guess it’s something akin to chain-smoking but chain-writing instead.

    1. Avatar
      Laurie's Story

      This is why I writer’s groups like the Blackbirds are so important. If I’d cried on your shoulder first, Laurie, you would have given me that advice!

  5. Sherrill Joseph
    Sherrill Joseph

    Laurie, like you, I get post-task depression. Mine stems from preferring writing to marketing! I would much rather be with my characters in my writing cocoon than trying to convince real people to buy my books. And that socializing thing–I’d rather sequester, but I do force myself to get out. I’m usually glad I did.

  6. Avatar
    Laurie's Story

    Yeah, the marketing is a whole other animal. On that, I think, we can all agree!

  7. Avatar
    Ellen Mansoor Collier

    After writing five Jazz Age mysteries, I felt relief and elation…but now readers want me to continue and I’m starting to panic…Good luck!

  8. Tracey S. Phillips

    Laurie, this really resonated for me, since I’ve just finished a project and am pitching it. I wondered why I was feeling so anxious–duh! Sending my baby out in the world is indeed greying my hair. As to your question, “Why does confidence need to be quiet?” It doesn’t. I think when we’re feeling confident, we should shout it from rooftops, or from our back yard. We should blast our horns on social media and let them know “We are here! (Yop!)” Then remember that feeling as you dive right into the next project. Good luck with your submissions!

    1. Avatar
      Laurie's Story

      Thanks, Tracey. Being a dedicated author is not for sissies.

  9. Avatar

    Great post, Laurie! No, I typically celebrate and feel a sense of relief and accomplishment when I write The End. And then I can’t wait to start to revise although I usually try to wait a week if my deadline allows it. I think I know I’ll be back with those characters for the next book in the series, and I’m always searching for plot ideas for the next one. I also think I’m very goal driven, so reaching a goal of having finished a book feels good. The statement about sending our baby out into the world for critique does resonate with me for certain. That is always so hard!

  10. Avatar
    Laurie's Story

    You have a great attitude toward the process and one I will remember! Thanks, Margaret.

  11. Joy Ann Ribar
    Joy Ann Ribar

    I enjoyed and learned from your post and the experts you cited. It’s a blessing and a curse for me when a project comes to an end. I hate editing. Marketing is taxing. Moving onto a new project is priceless. It feels like my safe space, so there’s good and bad in that.

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