I’m depressed because I wrote a book. As I write this, I’m listening to Pink Floyd’s “Brain Damage/Eclipse” and feeling sluggish. This doesn’t make any sense. I’ve accomplished the thing I set out to do and I’m punishing myself for it. I had ample warning though. My husband reminded me, “When you finish #Nanowrimo, you will feel depressed.” I believed him because this is how I react during transitions. The blank period in between stressful moments is typically confusing and aimless for me.
There is an uncomfortable blank period of stillness between November 30th and January’s editing phase. The early coffee-driven mornings and the late-night writing session are suddenly over. You are done. If you actually wrote a novel in one month, you’ve been through the emotional/mental wringer. Now can you turn your brain off? That’s the question.
The first couple of days of December consisted of me resting on my fucking laurels. I could say that I was a goddamn novelist. I printed the book off and put it in a paper box, weighing it in my hands and running my thumb across the pages to hear the rustle. I created this thing, I could hold my work in my hands and feel its heft. I built this.
A week later, I started to ask the familiar questions: What’s next? What should I write now? When can I start ripping my manuscript to shreds?
That’s part of the reason I’m writing this essay. I can’t let my Protestant Work Ethic rest. There’s a full-on Calvinist flogging in my home right now. I SHOULD BE WORKING! MY LABOR WILL SET ME FREE! IDLE HANDS ARE THE DEVIL’S WORK! The pressure, that I’ve unnecessarily placed on myself, is worse now that my semester is over. I don’t even have that work to keep me distracted.
I have fifteen days before I can even touch my manuscript, so I’m forcing myself to rest. It feels odd to admit, but I’m conducting a forced shutdown of my brain and returning to the things that make me happy. Here’s a short list of how I’m combating Post #Nanowrimo Depression for the month of December:
- I started reading again. The constant writing prevented me from looking at anyone else’s work. Of course, there was the fear of another author’s voice popping up in my own work. Also, there simply wasn’t time for me to enjoy the act of reading. Now that I’m done with #Nanowrimo, I’ve already read two mysteries, skimmed through a literature anthology I plan to teach from, and started an audio-book. I’m hoping the cool down period of reading will help me with the January editing process. I’m looking at examples of dialogue and description that I neglected in my own writing (speed and quantity over quality) and finding inspiration.
- I started watching documentaries again. “Time: The Kalief Browder Story,” helped me get back into that groove of learning while I watch. Since I’m a visual learner, I benefit from getting a snapshot of humanity through these films. I even watched about “The Greely Expedition” on PBS’s American Experience. I have no idea how this will help me in my future edits or writing, but now I know how fucked up the Bronx judicial system is and how to NOT sail to the North Pole without a plan.
- I’m learning a new language. I’m trying to set aside a little time each day to learn Swedish. I’m afraid I can’t say why that particular language, but it can say that it’s keeping my mind limber. Language acquisition is not easy for me like my linguist husband, but the challenge of memorizing words and phrases, does block out the obsessive thoughts I have for my novel.
- I’m taking more walks. I didn’t exercise for the entire month of November. I either sat in the study or on my couch, hunched over a laptop, clacking furiously. Obviously, some kind of cardio activity will combat depression. I don’t like it, but I know it works.
I’m sure there’s something else I could be doing with my free time, but I’m starting with these things and trying to keep my shit together before the next stressful period. I realize I shouldn’t over-think the idea of RESTING, but I’ve been taught that it’s only for the wicked. I’ve got a ways to go.
If you’re experiencing the depressing come-down from #Nanowrimo, please comment with your own remedies. How are you taking care of your fried brain? What does your self-care routine look like?