Saturday, January 06, 2018

Querying while suffering from depression

I've been wanting to ask this question for a while, but today's ("should I mention my impending demise") blog post gave me the courage. I want to preface this by saying if it makes you too uncomfortable, you don't have to put it on your blog or answer at all. I know this isn't the happiest of subjects, and I never want to hurt you or anyone else by bringing this up.

I suffer from severe depression. Lots of listlessness, oversleeping/eating, self-loathing, that sort of thing. Definitely not fun, do not recommend. I've had depression for seven years, but recently it's been getting worse. Sometimes, I go through these things I call "spirals," which are periods of time when I feel much worse than my normal not-doing-so-hot. I'm managing it the best I can with what I have, but it gets tough sometimes.

This brings me to my question. In December, I was at the beginnings of a spiral, and I got a partial request for a book I'd assumed was going nowhere. Which sounds great! But the thought of submitting my work and getting rejected again just about destroyed me. In my agitated state, I kept thinking about the inevitable "thanks but no thanks" and it made me feel worthless. And I know, your writing is not you, but it sure does *feel* like it. Writing is the only thing I kind of like about myself, so when I get full/partial rejections, it hurts a lot more than it should. When I'm feeling normal, full/partial rejections just ruin my day. In a spiral, I'm praying a rouge meteor will fall from the sky and smite me.(**)

So what should I do? I love writing. It's the only thing keeping me somewhat sane in this miserable existence, and I would love to share my work with the world (and get paid for it, of course). And participating in query challenges or sprints with my writing group helps motivate me to keep going. But the nature of publishing is so difficult for me. I can send a full/partial when I'm feeling okay, like today, but a response can come months later, when I might be in a spiral. It's like a book version of Russian roulette; I never know when a rejection will come, so I can't prepare myself for it. I never sent that partial request. Should I forget it, even though I'm squandering an opportunity? Should I pull my one remaining full too, so I don't risk being in a spiral for that rejection? And what does that mean for future books? I can't bear the thought of never querying again and giving up on my dream of seeing my book in bookstores. I may not always feel this terrible. My depression has gotten worse because of recent stressors, so theoretically, when those go away I'll feel closer to my normal more often. But I'm also concerned. When mere partial requests--not even rejections yet-- have me eyeing the kitchen knives, I know I have to do something different.

Again, you don't have to answer if this makes you uncomfortable! I know it's a hard thing to talk about, and I've had years of practice. Also, I want to make it clear I'm in no immediate danger. I'm feeling pretty okay right now, and I have no intention of harming myself. No need for any suicide hotline links or anything (trust me, I have them all). I'm just trying to find a solution for now, and hopefully one day I won't have to worry about querying sending me into an abyss of despair. My goal is to get to normal amounts of woodland creature despair :) Thank you so much for your time, as always, and I really appreciate your blog and the community surrounding it.

Usually I redact the personal parts of a question, but I left them in here because I think it's important to have the complete picture.

I'm glad you're doing ok and not considering harming yourself. I'm glad you realize that's something to be concerned about. Please know that this world would be a poorer place for your absence. It's clear you're a good writer. The world needs all of those it can hang on to. Therefore, (**) no meteors for you my preciousssss.

Second, there is no one true answer here. I wish there was because then I would bottle it and give it away for free to everyone who needs it.

And everyone who needs it includes aLOT of creative types. Writers. Octo-spiders. Woodland creatures of all sorts. In other words, you're not alone.

But returning to reality, let's talk about what to do when you're querying with an unquiet mind.

The first thing to do is give yourself permission to handle this in the way that allows you to best function. Fuck the rules. Fuck the guidelines. Fuck anyone who makes you feel diminished or less, in any way, for taking care of yourself.

If getting rejections isn't a good thing for you, add a step to the process. A separate email address and someone else to monitor it sounds like a good idea to me, but really anything you set up that works for you is just fine.

It takes thick skin to put your creative work into the marketplace, and sometimes you just don't have skin that thick. That's not a character flaw or a personal failing.  It's just a fact. Figure out a work around.

If you're a member of a writing community, someone there could be your stand in; sending out partials, receiving emails, keeping a data base you can look at on your timeline.

I respect your willingness to talk about your illness here, but I don't want you to feel obliged to offer it up if you don't want to. This is your personal business, and you need only share information with agents that will help us do our jobs better. For instance, if you have a stand in, tell me. Or mentioning that email replies can be delayed. Or setting up a system to alert you to the fact I have news, but not sharing it till you call back, ready to hear it.  In other words: what works for YOU.

Mental illness is illness and people telling you to buck up or get over yourself should be removed from your contacts data base as well as shunned by polite society.  It is a MANAGEABLE illness and what you do to manage it (other than binge drinking and/or developing a heroin habit!) is your choice. Choose the path that keeps you healthy. Nothing else matters.

I hope you will continue to be part of the community that has grown up around this blog. There are many wonderful caring people out there and you're one of them. There are also people who are managing mental illness like you are, who didn't write in and are benefiting from your bravery here.


Lisa Bodenheim said...

Opie: Congrats on having manuscripts to send out! But what a lot on your plate. How wonderful that you have developed the self-awareness to cope in a positive manner with depression. And I'm so glad you find support here in Reiderland. It is a great community.

And I love Janet's answer. So true, so supportive, so compassionate. And I like that idea of finding a stand-in to answer the emails to your queries. Whatever it takes so those kitchen knives are not quite so attractive. Take care of yourself. And bless.

Adib Khorram said...

Seconding what Janet said...controlling the flow of information, managing when you see it, is so crucial to dealing with depression.

I have also found that having good friends outside of the writing life can be extremely beneficial to help keep perspective. (Writing friends are great, but sometimes you don't want someone to commiserate with, you want someone to remind you that the sun is shining, and oh hey let's go get brunch!)

french sojourn said...

This community is, if not the most incredible, definitely top 5 on the inner-webs. I doubt there is one person here you could not reach out to, if you felt they were a kindred spirit(mainly due to their comments.). Be well, and stay strong, you are not alone. ever.

Cheers Hank

Susan said...

I haven't been around here for a while because I'm trying to take care of my own health (not the OP), but this is why this community continues to remain so important to me--not just for the solutions to career questions but for the friendships, the support, a place to be reminded that we're not alone on our journeys, even if those journeys look a little different on the outside.

OP, I have no solutions for you with regard to your inquiry other than the advice Janet gave, which is spot on as usual. But I will say this. Two years ago, I was doubting myself and questioning whether or not I should scrap my book or move forward with self-publishing it. I turned to Janet for advice, and she told me something I will never forget: that in the middle of the night, there will be someone searching for comfort and they'll find my book and it will be what they need to hear. It will be a candle in the dark. Those words struck me because writing my book was my candle--hell, my lighthouse--in a very dark time. That's the grace that writing gives us.

Whatever path for publishing you choose, whatever those dreams are, you have within you your own candle--this love of writing. Keep that flame burning.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

OP, I feel for you. I have been dealing with depression since adolesence alrhough I have it better managed now. Thanks in part to this community- no joke. My writing is my elixer and I do freeze and freak out at the query phase.

My depression is not severe. However, my daughter suffers from paralyzing depression. When she spirals, it is frightening. College was an absolute nightmare for her.

We are very fortunate to have found her a terrific therapist. She travels extensively for work and her theraoist will skype with her whenever wherever. It never gets easier but it can be manageable. My daughter is doing extremely well in her career now but it is a never ending struggle.

Please be gentle with yourself, OP. Hide when you need to. These spirals pass and better days do come. And keep writing. Although depression does make you feel so isolated and hopeless, you are not alone.

Unknown said...

OP, thanks for sharing. I've always thought it unfortunate that writing is therapy for depression, but publishing is fuel for depression.

In case you don't know him already, I'd suggest reading Matt Haig, and following him on Twitter. He's a **wonderful** writer who is very open, in his work and life, about his depression.

We're all here for you!

Theresa said...

OP, I'm glad to hear that you are managing the depression. I hope you find Janet's advice useful. That was the first thing that came to my mind, too--ask someone to handle that part of the querying and be clear about the kind of information you want to receive. Keep relying on community, and the very best of luck.

Ashes said...

Major props to the poster for the bravery it took to ask that questions.

I'm glad Janet suggested the practical solution of having a writer buddy manage your query responses and requests, it also occurred to me. Another, maybe obvious, practical thing that occurred to me, is turning off push notifications on your phone and PC. I don't suffer from depression, but everyone has bad days, and some rejections, for whatever reason, seem to hit harder than others. Getting one that stings while you're enjoying yourself can be a major hit, so remove that from your life. Make sure you're only checking email when you feel healthy enough to handle it.

And I also understand why neither of these suggestions are ideal. Because as long as you're querying and getting requests (hey, congrats on both of those!), you're also wondering and hopeful. And at some point, whether it is checking your email yourself, or through an intermediate, you will get curious and ask for an update. And those updates are always going to be disappointing, up until the day they aren't.

I hope you are doing everything you need to, to take care of yourself. Be that medication, therapy, or both. And I hope you remember to stick with whatever is working for you. There is a nasty cycle where people get help, feel better, assume they no longer need the help, then gradually get worse.

Barbara Lund said...

OP, thank you for being brave enough to ask the question. You are not alone! Janet and community, thank you for your answers. As a (mostly) lurker, I am impressed as always by the kindness and support here.

Amy Johnson said...

OP, you are a gift to this world. Even while you're hurting, you're concerned about not wanting to hurt anyone else. I can only imagine what such sensitivity brings to your writing.

Yes to Janet's advice. Yes to the comments about this community/family--such amazing, caring members and queen/matriarch.

Lennon Faris said...

OP, I hope you can find at least some solace knowing we're all rooting for you. Rejections suck and I can't imagine getting those while already in a 'spiral.' My little brother suffers from severe depression and I would do anything to make it not so.

I wholeheartedly second Amy's observation.

And I know it doesn't fix anything, but if you ever want to rant/ vent/ whatever, feel free to message me, email or FB. I really mean that!

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

OP, You have my deepest admiration for reaching out. Your struggles are uniquely your own, as well as how you cope and carry on. But sharing your burden opens the door for important dialogue that will undoubtedly help others, and I hope provide you with a measure of comfort.

Brava to Janet for the intelligent and compassionate response.

I would echo Hank in saying that you're not alone, OP. There are several people in this community who have become personal friends because we discovered we were kindred spirits.

Sherry Howard said...

OP, my heart reaches out to yours. Live your authentic life in whatever crooked way suits your needs, just as JR said. The writing life is brutal, whatever your mental state. Possibly, it may become easier as you get deeper into it. Possibly, not. You have such insight into your vulnerability that I have high hope for you being able to navigate this just fine. Recognizing your needs comes first, than planning for them is much easier.

On this topic, I'm about as steady-Eddie as they come, but the journey is rugged. I have found that the more you have going on, the more finished manuscripts you have, the easier it is to detach from those response emails. If you're juggling eight pins and drop one you keep juggling the other seven. So, try this: don't focus too much on one success or failure, juggle lots of work.

Sam Mills said...

Like others here, while I haven't dealt with more than average/situational depression myself, I've seen friends coping with more severe, chronic strains, and I'll say this: they are the strongest, bravest people I know. Sometimes they consider themselves weak, but the exact opposite is true. They keep going with a fifty pound weight on their back. I'm just cranky because I didn't get enough sleep.

I was just last night floating the idea of creating a separate writing email. Partly for the more business-like name, partly so my public email isn't the same as my social media and billing account logins, but partly for the exact reason Janet mentioned: so I can check when I'm in the right frame of mind, instead of scrolling through form rejections to get to those family photos somebody swore they just sent. I already have notifications turned off on my phone. I don't need to be pinged at the grocery store, thank you!

Claire Bobrow said...

OP - thanks for your question and for sharing your story. We're so glad you're here on the reef with us. Take care, and please keep writing. As Janet said, it's clear you're good at it. I hope you find a way to query that works for you. The world is a richer and more lovely place with you and your writing in it.

Joseph S. said...

Today's question is applicable to more than just a few people is my guess. Very good advice from Janet Reid, too.

Kathy Joyce hit on the head with:
"I've always thought it unfortunate that writing is therapy for depression, but publishing is fuel for depression.

Sherry Howard said...

I have a separate writing email that I use only for queries. It may "look" arrogant, but It works for me. I wanted to keep my actual name and the best way I found to do that was: author.sherryhoward@. It has helped me track my queries and correspondence much more easily! I only wish I'd done it sooner!

Cheryl said...

I used to (before I found meds that work) have my husband pre-check my beta reader's comments for me, with a general 'good' or 'bad' so I knew what to expect going in. It helped tremendously.

But it's funny, because this is one time that form rejections are comforting. You know it's the most diplomatic, kind rejection anyone can get. Personalization is so much harder to take (as I found out recently).

Susan Bonifant said...

Kathy Joyce: "OP, thanks for sharing. I've always thought it unfortunate that writing is therapy for depression, but publishing is fuel for depression."

I love how you put that.

No adequate words to describe the bravery of this writer, nor the way Janet responded. It took my breath away to see such hopeful, but realistic truth wrapped in such tenderness.

The suggestion that this writer shield him/herself from news that is unbearable in a particular moment is simple and brilliant.

OP: Come back here now and then to see how many you've touched with your honest words. You may not know now, but you will, how strong you really are.

Elissa M said...

Thanks for sharing your question, OP. I am also one of those "creatives" who has been suffering from depression nearly all my life. Things are much easier (less volatile, anyway) now that I'm older, but I don't know that depression is something that ever completely goes away. I've learned to recognize when it's rearing its hideous countenance and to adjust my routine accordingly.

I think Janet is spot on (as usual). Do whatever works for you. Having a trusted friend or family member monitor your submission replies is a great idea.

I've personally used a little mental trick to help me with rejections, which is to see them as a positive. All writers get rejections. All writers get lots of rejections. Even published writers get rejections. Therefor, getting rejections is proof that I'm really a writer, not just a dabbler. One day, other writers will be holding my first published novel up as an example of perseverance: "Can you believe she got over XXX rejections before this was published?"

RosannaM said...

OP, I am so touched by your story and sending out virtual hugs. I second everyone who advises doing whatever you need to do to keep the disappointments of "not right for me" letters to not hit with the force of boiling oil poured over the castle wall.

But I would add, when you have that set up--send the requested partial with a simple explanation of why it was delayed... i.e. "So sorry for the delay, I had an urgent personal matter that required my attention..."

And keep writing. And reading. And connecting with the rest of us.

Colin Smith said...

Opie: I've admitted this here before, and I'll do it again: I don't understand depression. I'm not saying that to belittle or dismiss your struggle, but to say that I've never seen the world through your eyes, so I cannot even begin to think I understand what you're going through. I really do feel for you, and wish there was something I could say that would make things all right. That would make you see hope, and know peace of mind. All I can do is offer my prayers and support for you. Know that this is a place you can come where you won't be judged, and where you can share your struggles and find people who will sympathize, and, perhaps most of all, CARE.

I think Janet's advice is excellent. Do whatever works for you to do what you love. The idea of having a trusted friend filter your query responses, and help you manage the areas of the writing life that are potential triggers for you, is a wonderful idea. Do it. And any agent/editor/publisher who isn't willing to work with you in this is not an agent/editor/publisher you need to be working with.

BIG HUGS to you, Opie, and all the very best to you with your writing!! :)

Megan V said...

OP The courage you showed in sending in your question is nothing short of wonderful. Depression is an illness, a difficult illness that many people struggle with every day. (though everyone who has it will manage it differently). Many authors have been where you've been. JK Rowling included.

In Harry Potter, the Dementors are a magical representation of depression, and chocolate is the short term remedy for the effects of their attacks.
The only thing that wards them off is the Patronus charm, a complicated spell that is even harder to produce in a corporeal form.

I think the Queen and other commenters are right in that, what might be best for you is to find that workaround.

You can have a friend cast their Patronus charm to help protect you.
If you don't want to call on another person, you can use technology to your advantage. I keep a writer's email, as much for organization as to prepare for the incoming response. That's an option. When you have days that aren't spirals, you can use those days to check that address. On those days find the source of your Patronus charm. In HP its a happy memory, for you it can be anything, including viewing the rejections as a badge of honor like other commenters have suggested. If you can't find that source, or you do but for some reason you can't produce that Patronus, well then if and when that charm fails, have your chocolate at the ready. You know your limits. You know what helps you best.

Best wishes on your writing journey.

Props to the Queen for a brilliant response.

Karen McCoy said...

Opie--virtual hugs from here too. Thanks for being so brave and honest--depression is something not a lot of people like to talk about, and I commend you for sharing your story.

I deal with both anxiety and depression (the rejection process heightens both of these), and I have a "positive" wall in my office that I turn to whenever I receive curveballs in writing, publishing, or life in general. It consists of artifacts I've collected over the years that help me remember the positives. It has cards, notes (including a 1993 letter from my grandmother that I just found) and quotes, like "Dwell in possibilities" by Emily Dickinson and this one from my cousin Emily Robinson, a musician: "The point is you are moving towards something that lights you up. The world needs you in all your glory."

Good luck, Opie. Remember, you are not alone!

Steve Stubbs said...

OP: if you suffer from depression the first step is to get a good medical checkup. There are a lot of people who write themselves "doctor" who have a Ph.D. or Ed.D. degree, and some I know have hallucinated their degrees. You want to be checked out by an M.D., someone with medical training.

Tell the doc you are suffering from depression and you want to be sure the disorder is not somatogenic. He will be startled that you know that word. There are underlying medical conditions that can cause depression symptoms. It is probably psychological, but it is important to rule out a somatic etiology. You don't want to waste time on talk therapy if you have hypothyroid, for example. That is important because there are a lot of people who will be happy to take your money for chat when you need medical care instead.

If you are diagnosed Bipolar I (if they give you a numeric insurance code from DSM or ISD insist on a name) try REBT. It has been very successful in dealing with bipolar depression. You will have to have someone teach it to you. The comments in your post suggest REBT MAY be the thing for you whether you are bipolar or not. If rejection makes you feel worthless, that is the kind of thing REBT is tailor made for.

Otherwise, this is very condensed, but there are three thought patterns you must banish:

The first is what Eric Berne calls "Waiting for Santa Claus." If you believe all good things come to those who stand and wait, and most people do, forget it. Santa ain't coming. As the song goes, "Take your passion and MAKE IT HAPPEN." That attitude works. You are already doing that with your writing. Make it a way of life.

The second is the notion that someone owes you something. Most people believe someone owes them something and I know as soon as I hear it that they suffer depression. I INSIST on believing that nobody owes anybody anything. I like emphatic words like "insist." I am not asking anyone's permission to believe healthy beliefs. I INSIST on it.

The third, and this is much more rare, is the shaken reed position, usually stated as, "I just take life as it comes. If it comes, it comes, it comes." The only thing that is sure to come to people who think that way is depression. Set a strong intention to MAKE it come, and make it come on your terms.

There is more, but that gives you an overview.

Finally, ignore all the bromides, such as "snap out of it," "get over it," "keep a stiff upper lip," etc. None of that works. What I said above does work.

Good luck.

Steve Stubbs said...

Off topic: There was an edition of "Texas Standard" on NPR Friday night that included an interview with someone from The Kirkus Review that may be of interest.

He listed several types of books that editors are through with. One of them was thrillers with a sociopath based on the book GONE GIRL. Apparently GG was a bestseller and lots of people are knocking it off. I looked on the Urban Dictionary and apparently "gone girl" is now a term. He said they are also tired of collections of stuff written by established authors in their immature period (a book by Joan Didion as an example.) And picture books about the joy of reading.

The interview is worth listening to. Unfortunatly you have to listen to half an hour of blather on other subjects that precedes it. Look on here for the January 5, 2018 show if you want to hear it.

Don't let any literary agents find out about this. Author dreck-o is hard enough to sell as it is without them knowing what is dead, dead, dead. Please, keep this from literary agents, please.

There are also some great pieces on the net on bestselling crime fiction writer Sue Grafton, who sadly died a few days ago.

Janice Grinyer said...

Opie, thank you for sharing your story,and JR too. As Hank said, you could reach out to anyone of this community and you would find a kindred writing spirit :)

And to the kindred spirits, it's okay for us to take care of our mental health at any point in time; we take care of our physical health, so why shouldn't we take care of our minds too? I took quite a few breaks while writing on a difficult subject these past two years-my writing improved because of it- I am better prepared to move on to the step of querying. It's a win-win for everyone when we take care of ourselves.


It's going to be okay - in case if anyone needs to hear that today :)

Karen McCoy said...

Steve, your "Waiting for Santa" example reminds me of something my grandfather used to say. "There are two ways to get to the top of an oak tree. One is to climb the tree...and the other is to sit on an acorn and wait."

Donnaeve said...

Kathy Joyce has certainly pointed out the conundrum of writing/publishing.

Dear OP,

Even those of us who don't suffer depression, other than, as someone else mentioned, situational, can find writing towards publication quite the emotional roller coaster.

Here's an observation that comes from someone who is. The thick skin Janet mentions isn't just for querying and getting those rejections. You'll need it beyond that too. I've got two books out now, and the third will be published in March of 2019. On any given day I see stuff I have to "manage" emotionally. As writers, we can't help but compare our work against someone else. We see all sorts of recognition, awards, the best of lists, requests for authors to do this, that or the other, and it's hard sometimes not to get in a funk, even when good stuff happens - because you start to want more of that.

An adrenaline high is some addictive stuff.

When it comes to writing towards publication, know that you will need that thick skin throughout the journey. I would say that a person suffering from profound depression is undoubtedly strong, and it shines through in the way you wrote about your situation. Matter of fact, IMO, you wrote in a way that is knowledgeable, aware and bold. Yes. I'd say you are a really brave person and if you're dealing with this in the way you seem - your skin is already thicker than you think.

All the best to you OP. Keep writing. Protect yourself like Janet mentions - or in a way that works for you. I really admire you.

AJ Blythe said...

OP, it's tough on everyone to receive a rejection. Even tougher when you aren't having a good day. But I can't imagine how much harder it must be when you suffer from a mental illness, especially when you're in a spiral. I hope you are able to find a way to continue moving forward on your journey to publication. (((hugs)))

You know what this community is like. You'll always find support here. And thanks to Janet's reminders to be contactable, we all are.

While I don't personally suffer from depression, many in my family do. I've seen the battle. I'm sure your letter to JR will help others here and demonstrates how brave and strong you are. Remember that!

MA Hudson said...

OP - that’s brilliant that you’re getting requests. I know it’s trite to say “look on the bright side’ so instead I try to ‘look at it from the other persons point of view’. So far most of the agents I’ve queried receive qazillions of queries each year, so when I get a form rejection I feel grateful they bothered to reply at all (especially considering all the NORMANs out there).
I also try to see it as a question of taste. I know I’m fussy about clothes, food, books, so why wouldn’t everyone else be? Most of all, I try to keep my expectations down and just keep writing. Doesn’t mean the rejections don’t sting, I just move on ASAP.
That’s a heavy burden you’re carrying, OP, however, I’m sure it makes you a sensitive and insightful writer - the world needs your stories.
Big hugs.
Mary Ann

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Have jumped on late today for reasons which are very unimportant to anyone else but me. Am so exhausted I don't have the energy to read all the comments. The ones I have read prove to me (as they always do) how wonderful this community of writers is. Stay with us as best you can OP. We care and Janet is (write) again.

Anonymous said...

Reading this, my first thought was to remember this quote and agree with Janet that creative types are more prone to feeling emotionally crushed:

"The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him, a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create — so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating." -Pearl S. Buck

My second thought is to wonder whether it's helpful to tell someone how "brave" they are for talking about or dealing with depression. As well intentioned as I know everyone over here is, this attitude seems to perpetuate the stigma of mental illness. Depression is a treatable medical condition, not a deficit of character. We wouldn't tell someone with pneumonia how brave they were to go to the doctor and get medical treatment. We'd expect them to do that as a smart and sensible plan of action.

OP, to you I say, do the smart and sensible thing. You don't mention whether you've seen a medical professional, but if you haven't, do so immediately. We know so much more these days about what depression is and how to treat it. I'm fairly confident -- like 97.3 percent sure -- no is going to stick leeches on you to draw out the "bad blood." If you are taking medicine, consider that its effectiveness might have faded. Talk to your doctor about alternatives.

That said, I DO think it's brave to make yourself vulnerable by sending your creative work out into the world. That's a separate issue from the depression. You're in good company here with people who know full well how tough that can be. Anything you can do to make that process easier is worth trying, and there are several good suggestions here.

Please take care of yourself as if you had pneumonia. I'm wishing you all the best of luck with the writing journey. Progress isn't always (or ever) a smooth straight line; that doesn't mean it isn't progress. Keep going.

E. Berg said...

OP: Your expression of emotional honesty took courage. Amazing, you. Chiming in with the voices above to say I'm here if you need to chat or be reminded you're not alone.

It's quite heartwarming to read these comments. Truly an awesome community of people.

Unknown said...

OP, thank you for asking this question, and Janet, you've given a brilliant answer (a stand-in is such a great idea); the post also happens to be full of your usual wisdom and compassion. Let's hope all the folks reading are taking care of their mental health while querying. It's challenging even without depression. I can't imagine how hard it is to absorb all the frustration and rejection in the middle of a spiral.

Best of luck with this OP, and I hope you find a way to keep your publishing journey as pain-free as possible.

Ninja Cat said...

I've been a lurker here for years, but this has compelled me to respond. I, too, suffer from crippling depression, but OP, you're in a better place than many of us. You've had requests. You have something agents have shown interest in, and that's no small feat. It's something to be very proud of. It at least shows your query is working (and you have a leg-up on me, who has never even gotten a request for my quirky story, so you can think nanny nanny boo boo. It might make you feel better :p). You have to relish the little victories whenever they pop up. Please take care of yourself. Do whatever makes you feel good, for however brief the moment. And remember that you are not alone here.

Unknown said...

Do it! You're not alone. The world needs your stories.

Julie Weathers said...

OP Good luck to you and yay that you're getting requests. That's awesome. Follow Janet's advice and have a good friend monitor your query email when you're in a spiral.

Next, see about some kind of counseling if you can. I know you've heard it. It does help if only to have someone listen to you.

Find some kind of inspirational books. For me, it's Max Lucado. They are just soothing and put my mind at peace. Maybe it's poetry for you.

Next, just get through today. Don't think about having to get through the dark tunnel. You just have to make it one more day. Eventually, the days get better.

The people who have been here a long time know my story, but you may not. I lost my daughter many years ago. Then I went insane. I had horrible nightmares. They were so bad and they were always the same and always about Mirinda. I got afraid to sleep so I wouldn't for days. I cried because I was so exhausted.

I could sleep if Don was home, but he was a long haul trucker and was gone for weeks at a time and home for a few days then gone again. He didn't accept what I was going through. Toughen up.

One night I had a hallucination that caused me not to be able to even go to the back of the trailer where the bathroom was after dark. It was a pretty horrific year. It was laced with three suicide attempts. Luckily, I tend to screw things up and when I finally get things right, God decides to send some friends by unexpectedly to take me out to dinner.

I didn't see how I could survive. But I did. I'm glad I was unsuccessful at one thing. I have three wonderful children and I've had a good life. You have no idea how very very many blessings are ahead of you. You don't know how many people care for you. You will never know how many lives you might touch. You are valuable and you need to stick around because there is only one you in this great big world and you're the best you there is.

Kae Ridwyn said...

Thank you OPie, for your bravery. Thank you also, Janet, for your response. I agree 100% - and will use your advice myself as well.
I am so grateful to have found this Reef, and honoured to be a part of such an incredible community.
Thank you, all!

MA Hudson said...

Julie - I’m so sorry about your daughter. That’s such a terrible loss. I’m not surprised you had a breakdown afterwards but I’m so glad your friends and family have helped you pull through. You’re a real beacon of wisdom around here and even when I don’t have time to read all the comments I always skim through so I don’t miss any of yours. Xx

Julie Weathers said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julie Weathers said...


No one actually knew anything was wrong with me. I functioned just fine in the daytime and when other people were around. Unfortunately, after you lose a child, people with children mostly stop coming around because they think it will make you uncomfortable. At night and alone, it was just me and the demons.

I was pretty much on my own aside from that one God sent visit.

Anyway, not about me, but it is maybe a reminder to reach out to people who are going through tough times. Don't assume they are doing all right.

Thank you for your kind words.

OP please, please do whatever it takes to keep writing. Find a safe way to query. Take care of yourself. Know people care.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

I am in awe in all of you this morning, in all of us.

As they say in the business I have been in for decades,

"Have a nice day."

So simplistic, such an overused cliché but to us all, have a nice day, nice is good, nice is better than not nice, love you all.

Sharyn Ekbergh said...

KDJames, I copied the Pearl S. Buck quote to keep. Describes my childhood and probably how a lot of us felt.

My Other Half and I know this year is going to be a hell of a roller coaster for family reasons. I think this will make me write more rather than less because I've always turned to doing something creative to make sense of my world.

A while ago we were discussing the writing of memoirs here and saying that a memoir may not be main stream publishable but it still will be important to someone, somewhere at some time. You never know when your writing is going to be exactly what someone else needs.

Last night I was reading a "beach book" before going to bed. I never read books like this. People with more money than I'll ever have, living in a sunny place I'll never be able to live in with their love life being their big problem. I slept though the night. It was sweet.

I used to read stories about people who had "found their passion" and were "living the life!" and wondered why I couldn't say that. Then I realized my passion is just this long winding river of finding meaning in story. Books have always been there for me.

So, OP, I hope you will persist because I hope I'll be reading you someday.

Brittany said...

Even if you don't have someone who can act as your querying assistant, just having a separate email account (one that doesn't send you push notifications) can be a huge help. Then it doesn't matter when the responses come in, because you're only seeing them when you choose to go in there. You might even put something in your signature like "Due to some ongoing health issues, I may not see replies immediately but will respond as soon as I am able. I appreciate your understanding." Because it *is* a health issue, and if you're matter-of-fact about it others will follow your lead.

Stacy said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your daughter, Julie. I'm glad you hung on. You are a gifted writer.

OP, I hope you keep writing and that the act of it helps you. I hope you find some coping methods for dealing with rejection when you're in a spiral. Janet has provided some really good ideas. I think it's great that you recognize your pattern--that's a huge step to managing depression and your life when you're in the throes of it. Know that we're all here pulling for you.

Anonymous said...

OP, I know everyone has moved on to the next posts, but I want to clarify something (my comment got too long yesterday and I felt constrained). I do realize it took a great deal of courage for you to send this question to Janet. You said so and I believe you. I applaud you for that, even as it breaks my heart. I didn't mean to imply you weren't brave, just that you shouldn't have to be.

Depression is not something you should apologize for. I can't speak for anyone else, but talking about it does not make me uncomfortable, it's not difficult to say the words. There's no shame and it's not some big awful secret. I've suffered from bouts of situational depression more than once in my life and anxiety is pretty constant. I know of many writers who deal with these issues openly. We should be able to talk about it and get help for it without having to feel ashamed and apologetic or as if we're imposing on others. I hope this conversation has made you feel more comfortable about being frank. I hope you never again feel the need to apologize or to brace yourself for feats of bravery before you can discuss it.

Sharyn, I'm glad the quote resonated with you. It does with me too.

Panda in Chief said...

Late as usual, here in Pandyland.
OP, thank you for your question, and Janet for your answer.
I also suffer from mild depression and anxiety, which, oddly enough has gotten much worse in the last two years. I wish you the best, and all the community here as well. These are the charms that keep the dementors from sucking all joy out of our souls.
(I think my patronus must be a panda, don't you think?)

roadkills-r-us said...

As usual, arriving late to the discussion, most of what I want to say is already well said. (The stand-in was the first thing that occurred to me.)

I was mildly manic-depressive for years. I was also terrified (and I mean terrified) of rejection. In a manic phase I queried a technical article, and thankfully got the article in and accepted during the same phase (it was a new magazine, hungry for authors, with incredibly quick turnaround). Almost all the rest of my technical publishing came about through situations that pretty well left me no choice but to write, and I had tons of support in every case.

Fiction was something else. I spent decades writing short stories and submitting none of them because of that fear of rejection. Had I not been healed of both of those, no amount of urging and coaxing by my wife and friends would have gotten me querying or publishing.

So I'm praying for you, OP- that you find the healing you need, and the strength to keep moving with all of it- writing, publishing, the whole works. And all the rest of you. You rock. Seriously. Big hugs to all who aren't averse- especially OP and Julie.

And if you need me, feel free to say so. I'll listen and discuss anything and everything. (I was a youth pastor for years; I've heard a bit of everything!)