Wednesday, March 09, 2016

So, I've got some stuff on the web... (and a new rule for writers)

I had a question I was hoping you could answer on your blog. Basically, I'm new to writing with a few short stories published, and am working on some novels, which might be ready to query in the next couple years. My question is in regards to my personal blog, which I've been posting at since 2004. There's mention of my mental illness, personal life events, etc, which I've always felt reasonably OK about because my full name isn't on there and anyone mentioned is anonymised with nicknames. However, my first name is pretty unique and I'm the only person ever born in my province to have been given it (no seriously, I looked it up!). It's also in my blog URL. Anyone Googling me who knew my approximate location would conclude in 0.00002 seconds that the blog is mine.

My question is, if I start a new website that's just for my writing, do you think my existing blog is going to cause problems? I would hate to think that a prospective agent would think about representing me, Google my name, come up with that blog, and then turn me down...let alone prospective readers or just people interested in my writing. Do you think I should delete the personal blog? (I've got a lot of memories on it and it would make me very sad.) Lock it? (Or would that look suspicious?) Pretend it doesn't exist and hope the author site comes up first on search results?

When you introduce yourself at a business function, what do you say? If you're like most people you say your name, your company, maybe your job title. When the conversation continues you talk about things that are in the ballpark of your job. If you happen to find a point of personal intersection with the other people in the conversation ("We both hate kale!" "We both know Felix Buttonweezer" "We both think Barbara Poelle is the cat's pjs!") then the conversation might get more in depth.

My guess is however that you're not going to mention your mental illness, personal life events etc. This is not because you are ashamed of your life. It's because it's your personal life, and the conversation is a professional one.

Querying is a professional conversation.

Thus you'd NOT put your personal blog link on a query letter.

However, whether you leave your blog up, lock it so only designated readers can see it (people will just think it's nekkid pictures of you, don't worry), or take it down is a choice only you can make.

Generally speaking I'm going to click on the links you give me, not start randomly googling your name. I'm not trying to play gotcha with people querying me. I'm trying to find out if they're asshats or they failed to mention some key pieces of information (previously published books; previous agents; a distinct lack of love about agents and querying.)

Now of course, the elephant in the room here is "my mental illness." There's a huge stigma attached to mental illness and anyone who says otherwise is naive.

How much to reveal of your personal journey is your decision. Yes, there's a risk in being open about something a lot of people neither understand nor feel comfortable discussing.

That said, you must be yourself. At some point in conversations with an agent about representation, this topic will arise. Choosing when that happens means you don't have the information available to the googling public.

And your unasked question is "will someone reading about my mental health issues be more likely to reject my work?" I don't know the answer to that question. I know that someone who does is probably not a person you'd want to work with anyway.

The bottom line is I care first and foremost about what you're writing. I've also been in this business long enough to know that great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind. Being honest about who you are, what you've experienced, and how those experiences have shaped you is important. You may have a bigger impact on your readers by being honest about your life than you'll ever know.

One of the Rules for Writers is Be Brave.
I think being brave about your life is good, but that blog post is about a different kind of bravery.

I think you need a new rule: Don't try to spackle, paint or remodel yourself to please some unknown arbiter. You don't have to reveal every detail of your life, and certainly we all tailor ourselves in small ways to accommodate the feelings and mores of people around us.  But, closeting your true self will kill your spirit and your creativity.

Thus the new rule: Be Yourself.


Lucie Witt said...

I love the new rule.

I try to keep my blog/website focused on legal and writing issues that are important to me - my personal experiences seep in, but I try not to let my blog function as a personal blog.

Every writer must decide how much of themselves they will share with the public. People tend to feel very strongly about not getting political. Me, I get political (though I try to be respectful of others. I think I do okay at this part). I identify as a feminist. I talk about my experiences in a multiracial family. This might turn off some agents, but I can't imagine they would enjoy my books if that is the case.

Best of luck to you, OP. There are some tough decisions to make, but I think Janet really nailed it when she said an agent who would be turned off by you openly discussing your mental health history is probably not someone you want to work with.

Amy Schaefer said...

"Be yourself" isn't just a rule for writers - it's a rule for life.

nightsmusic said...

Two words: The Blogess

Okay, now that I've said that, I agree with Janet in that, if someone doesn't want to work with you because of a mental illness, whether large or small, they are not the kind of person you want to work with anyway.

We all suffer some type of mental something. Whether it's depression, ADD, suicidal thoughts, inferiority complexes, Napoleon complexes, they're all out there. It's how we react to them, how we handle them. You have obviously overcome yours enough to continue to follow your dream of writing. You should be applauded for that (this comes from experience) and if your writing is great, your voice wonderful, an agent should be happy to rep you. You can't make the past go away, it's how you face it and move forward in spite of it that makes the difference.

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Wow...we can lock our blogs?

Opie: Vincent van Gogh? It is a different era although there is still a stigma attached to mental illness. But the QOTKU brings up an important point. An agent will click on the links you give. And a professional, successful agent will be attentive to the nuances of how you interact with him/her via email and phone calls. Perhaps you just need to take this one step at a time. Write an impressive story. Query it. And when an agent calls...

oh QOTKU? just a wee questions...might the call be the time Opie talks about their personal blog and how to handle it?

Unknown said...

Beautiful advice.

Anonymous said...

I am a writer, thus, I am brave. Our characters are bold, if we cannot ourselves be brave, then lets us all gather strength from our characters, for the boldness in them was first rooted in our mind. So, let us boldly give our words to the world, and be brave.

Stacy said...

I think the blog is actually a great litmus test, OP. Like Janet said, if someone has a problem with it, that person is probably not someone you want to work with. I'm partially deaf. I used to be TERRIFIED of losing out on jobs and other opportunities because of how people would perceive me. But then I realized that my friends were all fine with it and I just needed to find other people who were okay with it, too. Things got a lot better when I did.

french sojourn said...

I would think that there would be a difference between a personal blog, and a writing blog.
I have my blog about living in France for family and friends, and I am currently building, taking down, and building my writing blog.

I would think opie would want to start a specific writers blog / website at this point in time.

I took down my first blog ages ago. "The ups and downs of dancing at Chippen-dales."

cheers Hank

Colin Smith said...

Keep on topic... you promised... think of Carkoon...

A couple of things came to mind reading this. First, Janet, why wouldn't you Google a prospective client? After all, the blog they might *not* be sharing with you could be one that shows themselves to be a potential problem (e.g., full of publishing industry-bashing rhetoric, or talks about their involvement in local white supremacist groups). It baffles me why anyone who has an issue with the publishing industry and agents would query, but some people are like that. Anyway, this isn't something you'd want to find out after the contract's signed, is it?

I certainly agree with "Be Yourself," and to Opie, definitely don't be ashamed of your blog. While I'm not in the same situation as you, part of the reason I blog is as a sort of digital memoir. I've written posts about my past, and my "Music Monday" posts often contain anecdotes about learning instruments, and the links music has into past memories. I don't intend to set up a separate "professional" blog, so, like you, my blog kinda comes with the package. But if anyone wants a fuller picture of who I am, I have no shame in telling them to read my blog. And you shouldn't either. The fact you would put yourself out there, especially discussing mental illness, says a lot of positive things about you. I'd say don't be afraid to share it with agents, especially if it shows off your writing chops.

I'll stop there. All the best, Opie! :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kae Bell said...

OP: Your post reminds me of a decision I made with regard to journals.

For decades, I kept a journal, looong before blogging was a thing. I started in my teens and continued into my late thirties. This all pre-Internet.

Journaling, or writing in a journal, is generally a private experience, not shared like a blog. But it serves a similar purpose to blogging, in that it to allows the writer to reflect on his or her experiences. Over two decades, I had amassed piles of these notebooks filled with life musings and thoughts on college, work, travel, life goals, family, etc.

At some point in my late thirties/early forties, I reread the journals and decided that for me, I did not need to revisit those times in my life again. I had learned a lesson or two (I think) from the experiences and had moved on. I had changed a lot, grown (I hope) and the journals no longer reflected who I am, though they did chronicle the journey. It wasn't pretty.

Therefore, I destroyed the bulk of the journals, keeping only the sentimental bits, mentions of family and special occasions.

Although my writing was private and yours is public, the question I asked myself then is perhaps worth considering. Why do you/did you chronicle your journey? Was it to educate and guide others through difficulties like yours? Or was it more a thinking/problem-solving process that you have now moved beyond?

So much of what we do today is online. But it does not always need to be. You can always print pages and save the hard copies. Or edit. Or, as I did, delete.

Good luck with your writing and querying and all the learning that goes with that!

DLM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DLM said...

This is such a sensitive and important post. Lennon Faris and I have had a little exchange on the stigma of mental illness, and I've been reunited this past year with my first love, who suffers depression and anxiety to an acute degree.

My own blog GETS personal, but it is not a diary and anything seemingly intimate I post is actually quite calculated and considered. It's not quite a spackle-and-paint job, but anything I present online is, shall we say, curated carefully. As I say to Mr. X, the man I love who lives thousands of miles away, when I send him a picture I pick the one where I've worked the angles. My blog is the same; I work the angles for a certain effect.

Hank, my blog is both, but see above re its personal content.

Lisa B, yep, you can lock a blog. In fact, I've kept one for many years which is an open dialog with Mr. X.

Jason, of course you're brave, you look like Joe Cool in your shades! :)

Kae, such good questions. Very much like asking yourself "What am I hoping to get out of this?" when you're thinking of doing some particular thing in a relationship.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

To rephrase Janet's advice my grandfather used to tell me not to worry so much about what others thought of me, that who I was had its own purpose. To paraphrase from a song that parroted his advice and crystallized this for me.

"If you believe in something, stick to your guns no matter what because it's better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you're not."

It took me a life time to understand that. And for writers, I really believe one of the greatest and bravest things we can do is share our pain, failings, and ugliness in our work. That is part of human experience. Words are powerful and putting your pain out there just might save a life or untangle an angry mind. Books and stories have a real magic to alleviate loneliness and despair and to give us courage to stare down our demons. At least, I have found this to be so.

Celia Reaves said...

Great question, OP, and one more and more relevant as we all tend to live more of our lives online. The Shark's advice is, of course, the best: be brave, be yourself, and if anyone is put off by who you are then you don't want to work with that person anyway. The professional vs. personal distinction is the key here. You give out your professional links and expect people to check them as a matter of course. You don't give out the personal links, but you aren't ashamed of what people find there if they check them.

My own experience with the personal/professional distinction is not nearly so profound, but it helps me to think about the situation. I teach college; that's my professional life. I also sing with a local community organization that performs at places like libraries and nursing homes. I don't advertise my music at the college and wouldn't include information about that in any professional venue. I'm not ashamed of the singing, obviously, but it is still something separate from my work life.

I would think about your personal blog in the same way. It's still you, but it's a personal side of you that's different from the professional side of you. Even without being ashamed of it, you don't need to share it with professional colleagues. Let them find it, if they look, but don't worry about it. "Oh, you found my blog? Cool. Yes, that's my personal story over there, and I hope you found it interesting. Now, about that plot hole we're working on in Chapter 5..."

Anonymous said...

I think to be yourself is the best rule. You may never get published, but you will always be alive, until you’re dead. From my experience, much of the mental knotting we experience is from trying to be perceived by others as something we just are not, or we try to hide our human experience so we can be a part of some other human experience that would stigmatize us because our round little peg doesn’t fit into that square little hole. I see writing as an art, even so-called genre writers are artists, and therefore it is an examination of what it is to be human, which you just can’t do if you’re hiding what it is to be human to you. I try my hardest to judge what I do by me. And what if you make it to a huge audience? What’s important to you would be the new important to them. What is it going to be? Trying to hide something always creates politics and intrigue. Who needs it. (Sorry this got so long.)

LynnRodz said...

I love the Be Yourself rule which I've always done and sometimes gotten myself in trouble for. A lot of times the two go together, Be Brave, Be Yourself.

OP, it all comes down to your writing first, then you have to show the agent you're someone they want to work with. Btw, it's the same for all of us and by you thinking ahead, and asking Janet for advice, I think you'll do all right. Best of luck to you.

Aww, Hank, why did you take it down? That's the blog I wanted to read the most.

Sherry Howard said...

Great new rule, Janet. We all need to be true to ourselves, but our true selves don't need to be publicly displayed at all times.

Kitty said...

At some point in conversations with an agent about representation, this topic will arise.

I'm clueless. Why will this arise? Should it?

Unknown said...

This is a beautiful answer to OP's question.

And, OP, I would leave your original blog up as is. Sure, go ahead and start a writing blog. Put that one in your query signature and Twitter page. Not because you should be ashamed of blogging about your mental illness - never! But because the writing blog is relevant to your job as a writer!

Best of luck when you join us here in the query trenches! We have chocolate.

Unknown said...

an unquiet mind.

I like that, I really do. My lack of focus isn't a character flaw, I've simply inherited an unquiet mind. Doesn't really solve anything, just prefer it over scatter-brained.

Not a big fan of rules, but understand the new one is necessary. Opie, mental illness is simply an arrangement of words. As is an unquiet mind. Some arrangements I like, others...not so much. You are who you are, love yourself. You're unique.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Choose to hide your personal blog if you must, but pleasePLEASEplease don't permanently delete the valuable information you have on there. Archive it, save it to your personal computer, but don't lose it.

This is part of your story and your history and has a great value. Please keep it in some form, even if it's no longer available to the world at large.

Laura Mary said...

Lots have people have covered the issue of prospective agents reading the blog, but it might be prudent to look further forward - how do you feel about your future *readers* reading your blog?
There may be those who are put off (good riddance to 'em) but I think it far more likely you'll have people reaching out to you, perhaps those with similar issues wanting to trade stories, ask advice etc. It could be a wonderful opportunity to enlighten the public on a stigmatised issue, or, it could become a real weight of responsibility, and end up defining you more than your writing career.

This is indeed a tough decision to make, I think you need to think through every best and worst case scenario, and only you know what they would be.

Best of luck with the writing, and listen to your heart.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

I think everyone's pretty much got it locked down: your life belongs to you. You don't need to hide it, nor do you need to share it. I wouldn't worry about being criticized for mental illness. One of the perks of being an author is that people expect us to be a little crazy.

Practically, however, you should make a decision about your blog and your privacy. If it would me an easy discovery for an agent, it will be an easy discover for a reader. This might not be a problem for you, but you mention personal life events that you're okay posting because of relative anonymity. Would you be all right if that anonymity were swept away? If not, my advice would be to lock the blog. But Janet's right - this is your decision, and you should do what you feel most comfortable with. :)

At any rate, good luck OP. And congrats on keeping up a blog since 2004! That's no easy feat. :)

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

The line between "sharing" and "TMI" is different for everyone. I tend to write dark and creepy stories, and while my blog reflects that, I also do Motivational Monday posts where I share a quote, a bit about how it pertains to my life (within my idea of reason,) encourage positivity, etc. The comments I get on those posts often leave me - and others! - feeling connected and not so weird. :)

I absolutely love this line in Janet's post - "...great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind."

Donnaeve said...

Like nightsmusic said, we all have some form of mental illness, whether we recognize it, or not, like it or not.

I don't want to sound like I'm some sort of rubbernecker when it comes to this topic, but I tend to appreciate books and movies that deal with the issues faced by those suffering from whatever form of it they have. And this didn't just come about recently. (Example, one of my favorite books decades ago was SYBIL, Flora Rheta Schreiber).

I was actually hoping maybe this is what you're writing about in one of your novels. If you Google mental illness in fiction (or movies), the lists are impressive.

I think you do as QOTKU said (as if you wouldn't!), and keep it to the business side of things, which doesn't have to include any discussion of mental illness, and even if it does at some point, I can't imagine you'd handle it any other way than...professionally.

Good Luck!

Unknown said...

Sometimes a blog post hits you right at the perfect time. Today was one of those days. I'm so thankful for this community and for this blog. M
Back to work!

Craig F said...

In this topic, as in so many others, the writing is the trump card. Many, maybe most, Agents never even meet their writers face to face. There is also the fact that everyone could be found to have some sort of mental illness, as has been stated.

In some cases mental illness is much closer to just sensitivity to outside influences. Some of the same sensitivities psychiatrists say are markers to other problems may make you a better writer.

In the past you were always told to write what you know. Because of the interweb research is much easier than in any time of the past. You must still write what you know but it relates more to personal things like interpersonal relationships and a world view. A sensitivity that some psychiatrist might think is a problem may make it easier to relate the emotion that can make for good writing.

If you are fearful that someone might disparage you because you are sensitive you can always write under a pen name.

Leah B said...

Everyone else has covered the blog portion pretty well, so I'll move on to the next part--talking to a prospective agent.

Janet has posted a list of questions before to ask during ~*the call*~, for you, consider what impact your illness will have on your career.
~ Do you have days where you literally can't get out of bed? If this happened while you were supposed to be promoting, what would the agent do?
~ Do you get anxious out in public? On skype calls (with camera)? On regular phone calls? On IMs?
~ Is the prospective agent willing to reschedule business calls if you can't make them for whatever reason? If you have to reschedule on short notice (we'll say with only a few hours warning, not like 5 minutes warning), will the agent get cranky with you?
~ Is the agent willing to keep communication to emails if you can't handle calls?

I don't know your diagnosis, so some may not pertain to you, and I'm sure there are more questions to ask. But think about your answers, what you'd prefer in an agent, and what your bare minimum standards are.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am at work, can't read all the comments but I have time to say this:
Janet, your response to today's OP is why I come here several times a day, why I feel at home here, why I stay.

Now, I'm gone.

Joseph S. said...

I like the new rule.
I just wish the real me wasn't so boring.

Karen McCoy said...

So much this. I am glad this writer has a blog where they can be themselves.

And I hope we all can continually find authentic spaces to be our true selves. (This blog is one place to start.)

BJ Muntain said...

Yay for a new rule! (I'm not being sarcastic. I love this rule.)

It's also possible to hide your blog from search engines. Depending on your blogging platform (WordPress, Blogger, something else), there may be a place where you can choose to hide your blog from search engines. If you can't find it, and can't get this information from somewhere, you may be able to find a widget that will do the same thing.

I think you're brave to speak about your mental illness online. No, it's nothing to be ashamed of, but the stigma is out there that it is. I agree that it's not something you mention at business functions, and you probably knew that. You probably wouldn't mention your angina or diabetes at a business function, either.

There are a lot of writers who live with mental illnesses. Some are diagnosed after they're successful, and they have fewer fears of mentioning it than those who aren't published or otherwise successful yet. Wil Wheaton and Elizabeth Moon are among these. (Ms. Moon has a wonderful article about The Writer and Depression on her website.) Mary Robinette Kowal is another author who is dealing with depression, and gives pointers on dealing with the writers block that often comes with it. The Bloggess is a writer who became successful after acknowledging her illness online.

Mental illness is a personal problem, as any illness is, really, and how each sufferer deals with it is personal to them. I can't tell you if mental illness will keep you from getting published (unless it's because it's keeping you from writing at all), but I hope that the stigma is fading. I'm sure that mental illness is more common among creative people than non-creative people, and there have been studies linking it to higher intelligence, creativity, and other qualities many writers have in spades.

BJ Muntain said...

Sorry. For some reason that link to Mary Robinette Kowal's site didn't work. Let's try it again:

Sometimes Writers Block is really Depression

BJ Muntain said...

Kitty asked why this would eventually come up in a conversation with an agent.

The answer is simple: as with any illness, there will be times when it affects your work.

Mental illness can make it harder to concentrate, harder to be creative, harder to sit for a period of time, harder to get out into public, harder to return phone calls... There are many things a mental illness can make more difficult - and these things are different for each person, even among those with the same illness - so these things need to be mentioned to the agent.

And it's not just the illness. Medications can cause other problems (sleepiness, dizziness, anxiety, to name a few.)

Leah B. gave some good examples. There are also times, including when changing medications, a person needs to take a break from anything that causes any extra stress. There are times a person with anxiety might seem scatterbrained, but it's not because they're not intelligent. There are times a person with depression may feel like giving up on writing, and these are times when having a pushy or encouraging agent might be very helpful. There are times when a person might be hospitalized because of an illness. All these things can change timelines, limit what an author can do to self-promote, and otherwise affect a business relationship.

Anonymous said...

I sure would like to meet that perfect person who is the foundation of all this mental health stuff. I’m starting to think he or she is a character in an Anne Rice novel. Normal seems to have come to mean you don’t exist except as an acceptable set of actions that follow an acceptable set of rules. But to follow those social norms might drive you nuts, or drive you to drinking, or what have you. Go figure. People are crazy.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Oddly my last blog post approached this subject. In my youth, I was seriously mentally ill (eating disorder) and while I survived, I still have the after effects which have caused many physical problems. I would not bring this up in that initial phone call at all but I would not hide it.

Like what BJ said, you do want to be clear if illness will sometimes interfere with your writing once deadlines and promotion come into play. However, this is true for anyone because illness, accident, and just life can be pesky with even the healthiest of us. But this is nothing to be ashamed of at all. We all have our demons and challenges. This is why lots of us write in the first place.

John Frain said...

Wow, if you didn't have another reason to visit this blog, this one showed up today:

"I've also been in this business long enough to know that great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind."

Mental illness runs a parallel path to physical illness. Sometimes a cold knocks you out and sometimes you can work through it. Sometimes medicines interact and spin you down a whole new path.

Society is starting to come around in a lot of ways. Just ask the 106-year-old woman who visited the White House to see a black president. Or the number of states that allow gay marriage. Opie, if you've been blogging since 2004, I'm sure you've witnessed many of those changes up close.

Your decision is a personal one, and Janet has excellent advice for you. The tone of your memo suggests you'll do just fine. Good luck with your querying and enjoy the journey. All the journeys.

Colin Smith said...

I too love the phrase "an unquiet mind."

There's much about mental illness I don't understand (although, there are those that would classify my theological persuasion as "mental illness"--seriously). That's not to say I don't feel for those that go through such things, but I have never had depression or suicidal thoughts, and it is totally beyond my comprehension how anyone could have such thoughts. Again, that's not a criticism; it's just my experience, and my mental disposition. As a writer, it bothers me because that's a dimension I can't give my characters from a place of understanding. Hence, I rely upon people like Opie to help me understand and appreciate their struggles--and not just to make me a better writer, but a better person.

That's my vote for Opie not only keeping the blog, but not being afraid to advertise it.

Premee said...

OP here - first off, would like to thank Janet for her wonderful answer. That was exactly what I needed to hear and I will do my best to always be myself and be brave! :)

Secondly, thank you commenters for being so SO SO SO supportive, understanding, and creative. I also appreciate the input about interacting with an agent and what to say if my personal blog does come up, or if Ye Olde Brain Problems cause any issues with response times, deadlines, and so on.

The plan now that my writing website has gone live (yay!) is to put the link on my Twitter and in my query signatures, and leave the personal blog as is, while removing it from search engines. If an agent does find it and freaks out on me, we're probably not going to gel in the future; and if my future hypothetical readers find it, maybe they'll appreciate a look into my mind. You guys are the best!

Catherine1216 said...

"I've also been in this business long enough to know that great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind. Being honest about who you are, what you've experienced, and how those experiences have shaped you is important. You may have a bigger impact on your readers by being honest about your life than you'll ever know."

Thank you for this, as I have an unquiet mind in many ways. This made me cry.

Susan Bonifant said...

Had to scroll through above, so at the risk of repeating...

Janet is right about the stigma, however, that bias has probably got some bend in it for two reasons:

First, without knowing what's on the blog, I know that we are a hugely confessional society; so many go public with their trials, to help themselves and to help others. What might have earned you a serious side-eye years ago may not today

Second, without stats on hand to shore up this point, I'll go ahead and guess that newcomer-agents, at the youngest end of the spectrum, are only within ten years or so of college graduation. And if they are evolving of millennial culture, I can, as the mother of four of them, attest that this is one very tolerant, bias-resistant, open-minded, accepting, and huggy - oh my God, huggy - generation.

If there is a stigma, my money is on that of the raised eyebrow variety, and not the dropped jaw of yesteryear.

Good luck OP. It's a tough, not particularly answerable question.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Colin, I spy newbies- welcome them. Fresh meat- I mean...

An Unquiet Mind would be a glorious title for a book. So many of our greatest artists, writers, musicians, actors, and thinkers have struggled with "unquiet" minds.

For the newbies- Colin will welcome you. Don't worry too much about the odor- it's kale. Colin flirts with permanent residency in Carkoon, the capital of toxic kale plants.

nightsmusic said...

Too late, EM:

An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness
by Kay Redfield Jamison

Lennon Faris said...

Wow, this post blew me away. My younger brother has severe OCD and this subject hits really close to home. Janet I do love your approach on this, a perfect blend of pragmatism and encouragement.

DLM - your thoughts on this stigma and how difficult it can be to overcome have been really interesting. I hope we can do that as a society some day!

EM - I really did enjoy reading your recent post. Very heart felt.

Colin Smith - you are so blessed not to have those issues. I've only felt them in tiny snippets and it has been just enough to truly empathize with individuals who deal with mental illness every day. You seem to have the empathy gene anyway, though :)

Premee - great question! so glad you found so much value here. Best of luck!

Thanks, Janet!

Colin Smith said...

E.M.: Darn--I don't have my welcome script handy... umm... Hey there, NEWBIES!! Welcome to the comments, AKA the Shark Tank. I hope you enjoy hanging out with your chums here. If you feel brave enough to further identify with the regulars here, you can add your name and website/blog/Instagram page/Twitter account to the List of Blog Readers and their Blogs on the top right of the page. Contact me to be added to that. There's also a Pintrest Page up there, maintained by Christina Seine, and a map you can use to let us know where in the world you are, generally--we don't need to know your street address. :)

Oh, and one last thing. Be warned. Don't ask Janet to do more than all she's already doing for us (which is already a lot more than we deserve). That's a Carkoon-able offense. And you don't want to go to Carkoon. Trust me. :)

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

To everyone today, BBBY
Be Brave, Be Yourself.

"...great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind."

Catherine, I cried too.

Colin Smith said...

If ever a character called Norman Bibby finds his way into any of my stories, you'll know where he came from. ;)

Bethany Elizabeth said...

This is slightly tangential, but I'll try to be quick. :)

Mental health is like physical health in so many ways. There's one way for things to go right, a million ways for things to go wrong. To (mis)quote Tolstoy: all happy [people] are alike, each unhappy [person] is unhappy in [his] own way.

While I would do anything to spare my family and friends the pain they've suffered from mental illness, I know that they've also become braver through the experience. Sometimes it doesn't work that way. Sometimes illness just takes everything you have. The only bright side is that authors (and all types of artists) have the ability to turn that pain into something beautiful. Cosmos from chaos.

Of course, I also know from experience that sometimes all you can do is huddle into a ball and hope. Or sleep. That's okay too - the world isn't going anywhere. But (back on topic!) like Leah said, it's probably a good idea to work out a back-up plan with your agent. :)

Donnaeve said...

Welcome Premee! Happy you stepped forward and glad you found the waters warm and welcoming here! I swear we are not urinating in the pool, although some might accuse us of having potty mouths occasionally. :)

Of course since you said you had your website up, I had to go check it out.

I was seriously freaked by that beetle thingy you had for your banner pic.


Stephen Kozeniewski said...

I think it was Polonius in William Shakespeare's immortal "Tommy," who said, "Meet the new rule, same as the old rule."

Claire said...

Janet, I think you may have to break with tradition in choosing a subheader for next week. "Great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind" is just too good not to use.

OP, best of luck with your querying. I think writing is one area where the stigma of mental illness may have less of an impact on career progress than one might otherwise find. That's not to glamorise the "madness of the artist", as had sometimes been done in the past, because the truth of mental illness is usually much more prosaic and difficult than that. But great artists and writers are traditionally 'allowed' to be a little different from the norm. I have no doubt your experiences add a richness and depth to your writing that could not be learned anywhere else.

Janice Grinyer said...

Premee - such a beautiful question with a beautiful answer! And you have come up with a very wise answer yourself "removing it from search engines" but not from the blog hemisphere.

This way, in an immediate search, it won't be the first item to click on, but you are not denying yourself, your blog readers from your heart, and your life experiences.

And Shark. Just when I think you are the toughest, meanest, too dang truthful QOTKU to hit NYC, you go on and write something like this. Damn. Your heart is so gold that I can see the shine all the way here in Montana. I'm frickin' blinded.

Now excuse me why I go off and sniffle somewhere. Maybe outside. Yep. Outside with the horses it is.

Celia Reaves said...

Claire beat me to it! I nominate "I've also been in this business long enough to know that great art can often be accompanied by an unquiet mind" as the subheader for this week. It's such a beautiful statement of truth.

Thanks, Janet. For everything.

John Frain said...


The Shakespeare version is "Thomas."

Come on now, I won't get fooled again.

Theresa said...

Joseph, I've been thinking much the same thing. My writing is (hopefully) interesting, but that doesn't mean I am. I keep my blog entries focused on history,which is what I do and love, so I can share it with prospective readers.

Premee said...

Donnaeve - I'm down with the potty mouth! I think I'll feel very at home here. :)

Also, that beetle is Paranoid Beetle! I painted him a couple of years ago. It was just an ordinary beetle till I added the eye and then could NOT. STOP. LAUGHING. :D

Kae Bell said...

Premee, Have you seen the movie WarGames with Matthew Broderick mid-1980s, maybe '84?
Just read your blog and it was the first thing that came to mind. Also, with North Korea now in the game, you may not have missed all the nuclear fun.

Donnaeve said...

Premee, you painted that? Well, now I'm just impressed.

If you've been lurking, you probably know we have an artist in residence here, (probably other folks too, actually who have this talent)... Angie Brooksby Arcangioli.

I'm glad you're down with potty mouth. Even the illustrious Queen herself drops an f bomb now and then.


Megan V said...

I both love and hate this post, and I think it's because it deals with one of life's endless contradictions. I'm not going to elaborate simply because I could philosophize and rant for several paragraphs and I really would like to avoid a trip to Carkoon.

And anyways, I guess it all comes down to this: don't be afraid to be yourself, but don't advertise every little facet of your life that makes you who you are when it's inappropriate to do so.

star314159 said...

I'm not entirely sure how this applies to the agent/author relationship, but certain mental illnesses are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Just like someone with a physical disability, employers are not allowed to discriminate against you because of your illness and must make reasonable accommodations if required. "Reasonable" accommodations is definitely a term up for discussion, and agents aren't employers, so I'm not even sure this applies. But you do have rights, OP.

Brian M. Biggs said...

Excellent advice & rule: "Be yourself" Or as Shakespeare put it: "This above all: to thine own self be true."

I'm not sure if this works but my blog, "Ranch Dressing" mixes my garden posts and pictures with my writing posts plus some videos.

roadkills-r-us said...

OK, that was just beautiful.

"Be yourself." That's one of my core values.

But this is key, right here:
"I know that someone who does is probably not a person you'd want to work with anyway."

I wish more people realized that without learning the hard way.

Unknown said...

There are quite a few authors not only writing about mental illness, but confessing their own struggles with it these days: John Green, Francisco X Stork, Abdi Nazemian. So take heart. The world is slowly changing. Yes, there is still stigma, but I'd like to think it's being whittled away slowly.

Jaya Mehta