Failure, Rejection, Depression, and Sundry

This post will likely be rambling and a little ranty.  (And apparently sappy at the end)  You have been warned.

As of Saturday to be on target for my goals this month I needed 21,000 words done.  As of Saturday, I had just shy of 9,000.  Writing for the last few months has been very difficult for me, like pulling teeth to get any words out at all (which is why that last novel took four months when it should have taken two at most).  I’ve engaged a friend in a challenge (with whole dinners on the line!) for monthly word count goals in the hopes that I can shove past whatever is blocking me.  Last week, not so much with the shoving, obviously.

Alas, what’s blocking me is… me.  Or more specifically my brain chemicals.  Lots of quote “creative types” deal with depression and other issues, and I’m no exception unfortunately.  I struggle with life-long insomnia issues among other things (which is how I read so damn much, it’s easy to find time to read when you only sleep 2-5 hours a day).  Sometimes the writing process just stutters and stops.  I think this is one reason I’ve always been a “binge” writer.  When I’m running well I have to do as much as I can as fast as I can because I don’t know when suddenly the images will stop forming up right in my head and the mental white noise will start to take over.

The other thing blocking me is my old friend self-doubt.  Writing is easy.  Writing for a living, not so easy.  Especially in the stage I’m in, where I’m starting to break out a bit and hopefully learning my to cross my Ps and dot my Is.  Sales are wonderful motivators, but fear of success can be just as deadly as fear of failure.  Things are tight right now in my home life because of the sacrifices we’ve made so I can pursue my dream and my goals and now, a year and a half into the ten year plan, the reality of the situation has definitely sunk in.  We’re fine, we’re making it work, but as always I can’t help but put pressure on myself to write, do more, learn more, be more. Thinking long-term is good, but it doesn’t necessarily help the short-term panic attacks.

I almost broke my number of rejections in one week record this week, which of course doesn’t help either.  I don’t even know what my rejection total is up to, though if I had to guess I’d say over 200 easily.  In less than two years.  What that number should (and does, when I’m thinking rationally) say to me is that hey, I’m producing and sending out lots of work.  But sometimes I stare at yet another “this was well-written but no thanks” or “this was fun, but ultimately we decided not to publish it” etc and think “so they don’t like fun, well-written work.  What the hell should I be writing?”.  It’s a war inside between the rational/business brain telling me that it isn’t personal (because it really, really isn’t) and that I just need to take a deep breath and put the story back in the mail, and the irrational side of my brain “zomg u suckzorz and r gettin wurse.  stUpid RITUR.”

What does this all really mean? Basically…nothing.  So I’m 12,000 words behind where I needed to be.  Over the next few weeks I can easily find another 12-15 hours somewhere in there to catch myself up.  It’s adding an hour a day to a couple weeks of work.  Rationally not a big deal.  What does the rejection mean? Again, not much (beyond the fact that hey, apparently I write fun, well-written stories and stuff).  But the depression, the sleeplessness, the slog, it all combines to make my life not peachy at the moment.  I’ll catch up though (so stop planning your sushi outing, Amanda…) because I hate to lose a bet for one, and because any job has bad days, and any job I have is one that gets affected by my depression/insomnia issues, and in the end, I get to sit on my ass and make shit up and people have paid me (and will pay me in the future damnit!) to do this.  Which is still awesome, any way you look at it.

So for anyone who is struggling this month (and let’s face it, November ain’t a great month.  I didn’t like it before my brother died during it and I sure don’t care for it afterward either), you’re okay.  Everything will work out.  If you are doing NaNoWriMo and you fail one day, or one week, no need to stress.  It’s cool.  Think about it this way: if you fall short by 10 or 20 or even 30k words, you’ve still written 40 or 30 or 20k words more than you would have if you hadn’t even tried at all.  And for all the writers in my shoes, us neo-pros who see more no than yes still, it’ll get better.  We’re just getting started.  Sure, we take a few on the chin during the opening round, but really, we’re just lulling our opponents into a false sense of superiority.  The next story we write? It’s going to KO some editor, somewhere, sometime.  As long as we don’t throw in the towel, as long as we keep sitting on our asses and making shit up and sticking it in the mail.  Because that’s what counts and that’s the only score worth keeping.

It never ends.

17 Responses to “Failure, Rejection, Depression, and Sundry”

  1. Jeff

    Oh, I feel your pain.

    A book that really helped me deal with some of these fears — and is STILL helping me deal with them — is David Burns’ FEELING GOOD.

    In it he outlines all the mental obstacles we put in the way — all the ways we talk to ourselves that make us feel bad, depressed, etc.

    The reason I mention it is b/c you talked about the fear of success. Been there. Still there, sometimes.

    Best of luck. I’ll keep you in my thoughts.

    • izanobu

      Thanks, Jeff. I’ll check out that book.

      Also, dude, you change websites like I change haircolors 🙂

      • Jeff

        Yeah! Or like Barbie changes her clothes.

        Actually, I do this a lot — with everything. I can’t really “decide” if something is right unless I do it.

        With websites and blogging, that means putting yourself out there.

        This endeavor has been a bit crazier than I would’ve liked, mostly because doors opened that I hadn’t considered back in the summer and I’ve been trying to sort it all out.

  2. Brad R. Torgersen

    Insomniac, boy does that sound familiar. Not because I am, but because my wife (Annie) is. Big time. She’s lucky if she can get 3 hours unbroken sleep a night. Often she will have to stay up far past the rest of the family, and be up far earlier thsn the rest oof the family too. If even the tiniest disturbance happens, regardless of how exhausted she is, then she will be up for hours and hours. So — and I hate to say this — we don’t really spend a great deal of time in the same bed. She has to steal the sleep when she can get it, which is often during the day after my daughter is at school and I am at work — and she can rely on grabbing two or three hours without interruption of any sort.

    It can get so bad sometimes that she’s shambling around in a state of perpetual exhaustion. She’d gone to sleep clinics and other stuff, to try and find solutions, but nothing is ever bulletproof. She always winds up back in the same patterns of non-sleep. And yes, reading is often her refuge too.

    As with my Annie, Annie, I am concerned that you’re possibly pushing too hard at a time when you might not be physically prepared for it. I applaud the drive to make the writing plan work regardless of the rejections — that part is laudable — but like the old saying goes, Rome was not built in a day. Let the victories come to you. It will happen. Don’t bang your head against the wall so hard you bleed. Don’t let the doubt talk to your soul so much that it becomes a now-or-never thing.

    Back in 1996-1997 I remember feeling rather daunted and anxious about the whole thing. I’d written many, many stories, sent them all around the markets — there were just as many back then, though all of them were print — and gotten a heap of rejections. I was kind of freaking out and saying to myself, what the fuck is it going to take? I made some poor decisions then, about how I was going to tackle things. It wound up frustrating me even more, and adding years to the struggle. So I would advise caution as you approach your goals. Don’t be in such a hurry to make it all work that you suffer physically and psychologically. It’s really not worth it.

    • izanobu

      Thanks, Brad. Sounds like you have to deal with the same thing my husband does. Often I’m up at the slightest thing because some story or another has suddenly solved itself in my head or something. My husband jokes that he gave up on a full 8 hours sleep the day he met me 🙂

      I won’t push too hard, but I know that if I stop entirely I’ll just stay stuck. Last year I got stuck for about 8 months and wrote almost nothing in that time, which is not something I want to repeat. I may indeed end up owing Amanda dinner, but it won’t be for lack of trying and I know I’ll feel better about myself if I fail but end up with 70k done than if I failed and only managed like 20k. I’ve learned tricks and methods to work around this stuff. And, as with most things and depression, ironically I’ll start to feel better if I can actually get doing the things I should be doing (writing, exercise, etc). I won’t beat my head bloody though 🙂

  3. thomaskcarpenter

    Annie–good job keeping at it even when you’re not at your peak performance. Even 9000 words when you feel like crap is a good start for the month. You’re a good writer and you’ll get there. 🙂


  4. Amanda McCarter

    Hey, I don’t want you to owe me dinner the first month out. At the same time, I don’t want your head to explode. That would make me a sad, sad Manda. Who would I rant with at odd hours on Facebook chat? Hmmm? Go at a pace you know you can achieve. Who knows, you may have one of those weeks where the words won’t stop coming and then your insomnia will be a happy thing.

  5. A.R. Williams

    Maybe you’re putting too much pressure on yourself in a rush to produce more words. To write more stories. To get further along the path to the elusive goal of happiness.

    Do you think you could enjoy it just as much to slow down a bit? To allow yourself to see the weaknesses and strengths in your work and try to write stories that either lessen the weaknesses, use the strengths as support beams, or both.

    Maybe you need to enjoy the journey more, instead of rushing to reach the goal.

    • izanobu

      I’m hardly rushing, AR, though I appreciate the concern. Writing is my full-time job and I’m just trying to develop more consistency and better daily habits. I’d hardly call aiming to work 4-6 hours a day “rushing”. In my last couple day jobs I was working 10-12 hour days with hardly any weekends in there. So this is cake compared to that.

      As for the seeing strengths and weaknesses in my work, what makes you think I don’t do that? Every story, every novel, I pick things I want to work on and focus on those for each. I’m also constantly studying and dissecting other writers’ works looking for what they do well and how they do it so I can practice that in my own writing and hopefully get better. Every story I write is one where I’m working on getting better at the things I’m weak on and trying new ways to improve my strengths. So I’m not sure what you meant there… I think you might be buying into the whole “writing fast means writing badly” myth.

      And rushing toward a goal? Well, I have some deadlines, sure. But otherwise, writing more isn’t really rushing. That would be like trying to catch the horizon. My ultimate goals will always be out in front of me. I can’t rush anything because I don’t intend to ever stop writing. The whole goal is the journey, in other words 🙂

      • A.R. Williams

        I realize you are a very hardworking individual.

        It’s just that when you talk of writing it often comes out as numbers, so to me at least, it seemed like there was no examination of improving strengths and weaknesses.

        I realize that writing fast is a myth when it comes to quality, but I wasn’t sure how you were utilizing examination and improvement into the mix of numbers.

        I hope my post didn’t come off the wrong way–which sometimes happens on the internet. 🙂

      • izanobu

        It comes out as numbers? Sure, the last few posts might, and I definitely use numbers as a way of setting concrete goals (since saying “I think I need to work on pacing” isn’t a concrete goal). But I just scanned back through my last ten posts and most of the ones dealing with craft aren’t numbers posts at all (see the Library Project post for an example of one way I’m working on improving my craft skills).
        But the only way for me to really practice and get things done and improve is to write more words. 🙂

        And it’s okay. Initially I was like “oh god, not another person who thinks that writing/practicing less would somehow help” but I gave you the benefit of the doubt 🙂 I know internet comments can come off as harsher than they are meant.

  6. D. M. Bonanno

    Knowing your issues is halfway to solving them. And you’ve got a great attitidue. 🙂 Keep going! 🙂

  7. Marina J. Lostetter

    I agree, November sucks. Maybe we’ve all got SAD, and the bad weather’s getting us down (Not to mention the deaths in the family. Sorry to hear about that. I’m off to my grandfather’s funeral tomorrow, so I sympathize). But, all in all, it’s just a lull, right? Not a wall. I’ve got full confidence you’ll be feeling the motivation again soon. (Wo)man Vs. Self is the writer’s greatest struggle. 🙂

  8. Scott W. Baker

    Not sure if it makes you feel better or not, but I just saw your name on the WotF blog. (I think it was you. You have so many names!) Congratz on the HM.

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