Summer was a bummer, but I’m back

It’s the first full day of autumn, an auspicious day for new beginnings, and for better or worse, I’m back on my blog, after a leave of absence that lasted virtually all summer. I’ve been mired in a deep depression that stole over me last May, robbing me of my motivation and self-confidence, convincing me that I no longer had anything worth writing about, much less anything people would care about enough to read. But with the coming of fall, I’ve resolved to write myself out of my doldrums.

Writing is an integral part of my identity, and the notion that my writing years might be behind me severely deepened my depression. I spent far too many beautiful summer days ensconced in my old Lazy Boy recliner, endlessly reading other authors’ novels. For the first time in ages, I bypassed the races at Saratoga.

The sorry state of my parched and weed-infested garden all too accurately mirrors my state of mind. Upstate New York’s been unusually dry this summer, with only half its normal rainfall over the past two months, and my imagination has been suffering a similar drought. In May and June, my posts grew less frequent, more downbeat. Afraid of becoming a Debbie Downer like the Saturday Night Live character, I made a deliberate decision to stop blogging, possibly forever.

I made a mistake. I missed the creative excitement that came with crafting a new post, the cameraderie of the online community, and I came to feel increasingly like a nebbishy nonentity. So I’m jumping back in, hoping it’s not too late.

Charles Burchfield

What brought on this dark night of the soul? Probably a combination of biochemical and psychosocial factors. I’ve written before about my bipolar diagnosis, but it’s been well controlled with medication, and over the past few years, my mood has been amazingly upbeat and sunny. Back in May, in the post titled “Depression – cloudy, cool and drizzly,” I said, “I’m a firm believer in the biochemical nature of manic depression, as some still prefer to call bipolar disorder, and I know medications work.” I had faith in my shrink’s ability to tweak my medications enough to banish my increasingly bleak moods, but I’ve undergone lots of tweaking in the months since then, and nothing seems to work.

What triggered my depression, I’ve come to believe, is an old-fashioned identity crisis. For years I’ve identified myself as a mystery writer, but the success I’ve dreamed of has eluded me. I’m proud of my two self-published novels, Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders and Eldercide, but the sales have been less than stellar. I’d hoped that building an online identity through my blog would boost my readership, but I came to realize that impressive blog stats don’t necessarily mean lots of people will buy my books, and my track record isn’t likely to inspire an agent or editor to beat down my door any time soon.   

Even so, I enjoy online schmoozing far more than marketing my books in person. My depression descended soon after a signing at a local independent book store. It was my first straight solo signing ever, with no talk, panel discussion or party to drum up interest. True, I sold a few books, but each sale took painstaking effort in teasing out the themes that would appeal to each reader. For some it was the regional locale, for others an interest in bipolar disorder or end-of-life issues, for still others an interest in mysteries pure and simple. I’m basically an introvert, and the expenditure of energy left me drained and exhausted, with the realization that I’m just not cut out to be a demon marketer. Never was, never will be.

But am I still a mystery writer? At the very least, I’m a woman who has written four mystery novels and published two of them, and that’s something to be proud of, or so I try to convince myself. Will I write another? The verdict’s still out on that one. But one thing’s for sure – I’m still a writer, and I need to write. My life literally depends on it.

Can I write my way out of this depression? Stay tuned to find out. Never fear, I’ll cover other subjects as well, but I plan to post at least twice a week. And if you’ve read this far, please leave a comment – I know my readership has dwindled during this hiatus, but I need to know you’re out there.

23 thoughts on “Summer was a bummer, but I’m back

  1. I am glad you are writing on your blog again, Julie. So sorry the depression demon got you and pulled you down this summer. I hope you are on the mend and will be writing regularly now. You know I enjoyed both of your published books. I am going to pass the URL for this blog on to another friend who is also bi-polar and is involved with having her meds tweaked this summer also. Betsy

  2. It’s a wonderful post Julie, I am sorry that you had such a dark time, but look forward to reading more. are you interested in the series on women writers that will be at the Women’s Club on Madison Avenue in Albany? Next Thursday at 7pm Marion Roach will be speaking on memoir…..

    • Thanks, Amy. I’ve heard Marion Roach speak before – she’s excellent, and I might be interested in going again. I’m not familiar with the Women’s Club or their series.

  3. It felt wonderful to find a bipolar “comrade” here online.My garden too is filled with weeds ;o),among other issues as result of my depression.The hypomania was fun indeed until it got out of hand.It very productive and ‘Happy” and energetic phase of my life leaving me feeling most energetic than any other time in my life.But alas,we know where that journey climbs..I too am under Psycho pharmalogical care and working with a PhD to in an effort to get me “on track”.Working with them both has had a significant positive impact,especially since i have finally found a place that really “gets it”- Payne Whitney part of NY Presbyterian/Cornell in NYC.

    • Hi Joan, and welcome. Where did you learn about my blog? It’s wonderful to hear from someone with the same diagnosis, and you’re fortunate to be able to work with people at such a first-rate place in NYC.

      I too worked with a PhD psychologist as well as my medication-prescribing shrink, but I “graduated” from therapy a couple of years ago when she thought I was doing great and didn’t need her help. I’ve been thinking of calling her again – I agree the two approaches work best in combination.

  4. Great to have you back, Julie! You’ve always had one of the more interesting blogs with different discussions. Marilyn aka: M. E. Kemp, new book out on Nov. 20th – DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER – new publsiher, too! L&L Dreamspell is very professional. You might try them with your new book, as I’m sure you’ll write one. You know you have the creepiest villain – bring Gabriel back!

    • Thanks, Marilyn. I’m fond of my Eldercide villain Gabriel as well – though fascinated might be a better word than fond, since after all he’s a serial killer, albeit an unusually compassionate one.

      I know I’ll feel better if and when I start a new book – meanwhile, do you think your publisher might be interested in taking on my old ones?

  5. Julie, I’m glad you are back. I so totally understand what triggered your depression. I could so easily have gone the same road. My book sales for the memoir are dismal as well. But I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be successful in the monetary sense. For me, it’s about touching people one at a time. I think as writers, we need to just write and let go of the results of that writing, because we have no control over them anyway. We can just do what we do. Welcome back.

    • I’m so glad to hear from you, Karen. I’ve thought of you often, since my writing is taking me more in the direction of memoir and I really enjoyed your book. I admire your approach to writing. I agree in theory about letting go of results – now if only I could internalize and live by that theory!

  6. Hi Julie.
    I was wondering how long it took you from initial diagnosis until you found the right meds to keep you afloat.
    It has been over 14 months and counting for me….the first several months I just got worse and worse with the a MD in the Village( NYC) and now 9+ months with Cornell Payne Whitney.
    Most days I feel hopeful the right ones will be in place soon…..although I must admit the process gets very wearisome -more so on some days then others.It’s been all the side effects v. the resistance to them…
    Ahhhhhh fun side effects.there is an entire chapter on that eh?!!!

  7. Hi Julie, Joan is a good friend of mine. I told her about your most recent blog. She is the woman with the same diagnosis as yours. Be well! Betsy

  8. Also had a bad inert summer.

    Maybe some of us suffer from a reverse SAD, where we get depressed from too much light (as it was an awful summer for someone who hates the heat)

  9. Julie, I have a suggestion. Instead of wearing the mystery writer cloak, change your focus to writing in general.

    I had some of the same second thoughts after publishing two mysteries, so I’ve written a historical fiction and have completed the first draft of a suspense novel. Now I’m thinking about a middle-grade mystery series and more women’s fiction. I’m an older writer too, but I won’t stop writing until someone pries my hands off my keyboard.

    Getting published? That’s a bonus, but it’s not the only reason to write.

  10. Patricia, like many authors you apparently enjoy the self-discover and thrill of creation, which cannot be denied as present in any creative endeavor. Keep that going.

    Your strategy to write in a cluster of genres can be a good one, especially if you can build a group of followers from one publication to the next.

    I hope that you invest some time and effort in the getting published part. I find that many authors get stuck in the proposal (and therefore getting an agent) part. Many writing coaches are available to assist.

    If it’s not too forward, then I would offer a free review of your proposal and manuscript. Tim Staveteig

  11. I just discovered your site while searching for info. on small presses and indie publishing. I’m really enjoying your posts and am fascinated by your mystery topics — my mother works in a mental health ward and has worked with the elderly, so I’m looking forward to learning more about your books!

  12. Julie,
    It does get depressing to be a writer at times because we expect so much because we give so much. Hang in there, girl! I get discouraged quite often myself. I don’t blog every day like I used to, because it takes up too much valuable time. I try to do a few a week on my personal blog, and always try to get the ones I’m committed to on my group blogs done.

    You may be glad to know that when I added one of the new Blogger features to my personal blog and also my group blog, your post came up as one of the popular blogs on both.

    Take care of yourself and hope to hear from you again.

    Morgan Mandel

    • Hi Morgan,
      Great to hear from you! Thanks for the encouragement and the thoughtful response. I’m glad to learn that my blog came up as popular via your Blogger feature, though I’m not sure how it happened, since I’ve been posting so seldom. But amazingly, my stats are still pretty good.

      Best wishes for good fortune with your writing.


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