Category Archives: Depression

What Dreams Etc., Tempus Fugit, and so on

Misdemeanor the kitten
Ignore the kitten. The kitten is meaningless. Like most dream imagery is.

Whew. I had a doozy of a dream last night.

I won’t go into too many of the details because dreams are mostly boring except to the dreamer. In summary: my bicycle was stolen (by the employees of the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland), along with my credit and bank card. When I got to the bank to replace my card, I discovered that it had been turned into a paycheck cashing store, and had a wait time of eight hours. They were more than willing to let me in and give me expedited service because it was just a bank card I was replacing, but instead they kept me at the desk asking meaningless questions for hours upon end, and when I finally realized they were meaningless, they kicked me out.

Well, whenever I think about time passing, David Bowie’s song “Time Will Crawl” gets into my head, so here it is:

Oh, David Bowie. Too pure for this world.

I don’t really buy into dream analysis or interpretation too much; I believe dreams are mostly best interpreted in a gestaltish sort of way, taking into account everything that the dreamer thinks and believes and knows. “What did the red table in my dream mean?” “Well, what do tables mean to you?” I don’t know, this may be oversimplistic, but it’s a useful way of thinking about my own dreams.

So last night’s dream, what with the troublesome bank manager and the thieving Disneyland employees, was, I think, about wasting time, and that’s something that’s been on my mind a bit lately. In my last post, I wrote a wee bit about my angst surrounding starting library school at age 52 and about the length of time it will take me to get my degree.

Here, I’ll just talk about angst surrounding my writing, because I don’t talk about that nearly enough.

Cover of The Heroine's Journey by Gail Carriger
The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture

I’ve been reading The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger. It’s a fantastic book, a nice rebuttal of the tired Hero’s Journey that so dominates and pervades most writing. I highly recommend this book, especially to my writer friends.

Unfortunately, this book also has me thinking about writing. Not that this is inherently a bad thing, of course; it just makes me think of all the novels I’ve written, and the ones I’m writing, and the ones I want to write. The Heroine’s Journey is a perfect model, for example, for The Outer Darkness trilogy that I want to write someday, a space opera with heavily religious overtones (based on a role-playing game that I created with some friends back in the late 90s). It’s also a great framework for The X of Doom, my pirate trilogy. Unfortunately, it’s not as good a match to my work in progress, And the Devil Will Drag You Under. And that’s the problem.

Sigh.

I’ve written a number of novels. Here’s a partial list:

  1. Unfallen. A reporter uncovers mysterious goings-on in San Francisco and explores a vast supernatural conspiracy. Based loosely on a World of Darkness RPG I ran.
  2. The Outer Darkness. Wherein a woman whose husband is killed in a mining accident on the planet Anchorage gets involved in an interplanetary war. This has little to do with the above-mentioned trilogy.
  3. The Toymaker. A toymaker in 1850s San Francisco who turns out to be a powerful mage hooks up with a young widow from Boston, and they form a conspiracy to protect a group of supernatural people from being hunted.
  4. The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. Once upon a time called Fred Again. Madmen and elder gods vie for control of the Earth in a funny sort of way.
  5. Code Monkey! A Love Story with Occasional Monsters. The subtitle says it all.
  6. Love in the Time of Cthulhu. I only vaguely remember this one. Something to do with two people falling in love in a world which has been taken over by Cthulhu and other cosmic horrors, I think.
  7. Padma. A medical resident comes to terms with death.
Me, getting caught looking at a new project by my work in progress

So why weren’t any of these published? They never made it beyond barf draft, sadly, with the exceptions of nos. 4 and 6. Those two (and parts of 5) got to my critique group. I’d get to the point where it’s time to start revising and then I get caught up in a new project. It’s  tragic, I tell you. And very frustrating.

And the worst part is knowing that if I’d gotten my act together in 2001, when I decided to take writing seriously and wrote Unfallen, I could have finished all of these projects and more and gotten something published.

The biggest danger is that I will give up on my current work-in-progress for either The X of Doom or The Outer Darkness, and abandon And the Devil Will Drag You Under. I definitely don’t want that to happen. I want to be able finish a novel and say that it’s written enough, to the point where I at least do not fear shaming my ancestors when submitting it in queries to agents. None of the novels I’ve listed above are at that point. They are all regretful.

Ah well. What could have been is not necessarily what would have been, as they say. Still, if anyone has any tips for sticking to one thing and not getting distracted, I’d love to hear them.

When I was Sad

There are a lot of ways to be depressed, and depression takes a number of different forms. For me, it can be profound exhaustion, lack of motivation, or just plain sadness.

My depression is very responsive to medication. When I take my brain meds regularly, I am usually in a pretty good place. But last week I ran out of one of the critical ones, I hadn’t gotten refills on time, and the pharmacy was out for a couple of days. As a result, my brain went into a spiral of sadness. Here are some examples of what went on:

  • We are currently fostering two orphan kittens, feeding them by bottle because they are too young for solid food. One night when Jennifer was at rehearsal or something, I was holding the kittens and feeding them. They were crying out loud for food, and I told one of them — Pumpernickel, I think — that I understood because, “You’re just looking for your mommy.” And then I started crying, and couldn’t stop for a good ten minutes because hey, orphan kittens. I’m better now and I know that with us, the kittens are in good and loving hands.
  • One afternoon I texted Jennifer to ask he to swap laundry for me. She works at home and I was in the office at the time. She didn’t reply for an hour or so. Normally not a big deal, because, of course, she was working. But my brain spiraled out of control thinking that she’d had a heart attack and had died or something, and then it took everything I had to tell myself that the thought was irrational and so on. I almost cried in the office anyway.
  • On the way home the next day, I started crying again. Not sure why, this time. Probably the kittens again. Anyway, I was sad and frustrated with myself for being sad, and ended up yelling at myself to just stop it and get over it. I did by the time I got home. But that was bad: angry, sad, and frustrated all at the same time is no way to go through life, so.

Fortunately, the pharmacy had stocked my meds that day, and by the weekend I was back to normal.

I know a number of people who have weaned themselves off their own brain meds for whatever reason. I’m all for it, as long as they do it in consultation with this doctor. Me, I think I need the meds to keep functioning on a good level. There was a time before the meds when I felt like the above all the time. I’m glad those times have passed.

Writing and Depression, Part Two

So, here I am, over a month later, and feeling pretty much the same way: Struggling with my depression and struggling with my writing.

According to the National Novel Writing Month website, I’ve written 772,303 words in various NaNoWriMo projects. Add to that the number of words I’ve written on short stories, aborted novels that I never bothered finishing, and so on, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve written around about one million words of fiction, and that’s in this century alone, when I decided I was going to take this writing thing really seriously.

I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo sixteen times; in 2012, the novel I wrote was merely a continuation of what I wrote in 2011, so I guess I’ve written fifteen novels during that time. Only a few of those I feel were “completed”, in that they had the words THE END on the last page. And even so, I have not revisited most of those novels, to revise or rewrite them. The only exceptions are the Fred Again, which I wrote in 2005, and which I’m rewriting now as The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster; and Padma, which I wrote in 2016 and which I’m rewriting as well. Still, though, shouldn’t I have at least one completed novel by now?

In short, through writing those million or so words, I’ve accomplished very little.

I don’t think this is imposter syndrome; I see imposter syndrome as being the sort of thing you contract when you achieve some sort of accolade or accomplishment, and feel as though you don’t deserve it. No, this is just me feeling frustrated that I’ve come this far without having moved past the “early career writer” stage, and feeling like I never will.

On Being a Writer with Depression

I’m probably not the most authoritative person to write about this topic, since (a) while I write, I’ve published very little; and (b) my depression isn’t actually that bad, thanks to medicine, a very supportive network of friends and family, and years of therapy. So I can only speak to my own experience.

Hi. My name is Richard, and I am a writer with depression.

That probably describes a lot of writers, honestly. I don’t know a single one of us who suffers from a surfeit of self-confidence. Heck, one writer friend of mine says that one of the most important ingredients to being a writer is self-loathing.

I have wanted to be a writer all my life. I admit that I’ve taken breaks from actually writing for years at a time, though. I didn’t do much creative writing in college (unless you count philosophy papers), and for years afterward I concentrated on developing a career as a web developer. Around 2001 I decided to pick up writing again and make a serious go of it. I’ve worked during that time to improve my craft, to write stories that matter to me, and so on. Seventeen years later, I’ve published a few stories here and there, but I’m still waiting for my “breakout” story. I maintain six active submissions at all times, using The Submissions Grinder to track them. I feel like I’m doing everything “right”, but I’m getting nowhere.

Part of this current funk is a rejection I received yesterday afternoon1. The story is, I believe, a good one. My crit group loved it, and I got good feedback on it from a professional writer who agreed to critique it (Not for free, it was because they offered critique services to a certain level of support on their Patreon account). I sent it to a market that seemed like a perfect fit, but, of course, received a rejection. The rejection contained language that said they looked forward to seeing more from me, but that language is, I believe, form language that most editors send with their rejection slips. I certainly did when I was editing Daikaijuzine. Some editors honestly do include that language only when they really mean it, but I have gotten a number of actual form rejections that added, “We hope you keep us in mind for future submissions” or wording to that effect.

The depressive part of me, of course, is telling me that this is all hopeless, that it’s all a numbers game that’s stacked against me. When you see the same names come up on the market listings, it’s hard to not convince yourself that being published is not so much how well you write but by how well you know the right people. Note that this is objectively not true, but it’s hard not to think it when you’re in the throes of this kind of funk.

I enjoy writing. I wish I hadn’t taken such a long break from it. And I’m vain enough to want my stories read by as many people as possible. Still though. Today my mind is saying, “Why bother?”

Why bother indeed.