September 1st, 2012 by Ken Scholes
Novel Post Partum and What To Do About It

Howdy Folks and Happy Saturday!

As you’ll remember, I finished revising Requiem — my fourth in the Psalms of Isaak series — last week.  I’d finished the first draft just two weeks prior to that.  Usually, there’s a gap of a month or so between finishing a draft and starting revisions for me but time was of the essence so I double-timed it and turned revisions around quickly.

Now, I’m not the most seasoned veteran when it comes to novels.  Requiem is just my fourth.  But I’ve noticed with all of the books so far that when I finish, I go through a period of post partum depression.  It doesn’t typically last long — a week or two — and it’s not uncommon.  Most of the writers I know have experienced it in some fashion or another.

There’s a sluggishness, a lack of motivation and energy, a mild paranoia that the book isn’t any good, a sense of the blues settling in.  It’s temporary but profound and I think it has to do with the amount of energy and focus it takes to “birth” a novel and the sense of relief and exhaustion one has when finally finishing.  This time, I felt it after finishing the draft and then again as I finished the revisions.

So what have I done about it?

  • I’ve kept up my exercise and better eating habits.  Exercise is good for depression — it has nearly the same effectiveness rating as an antidepressant.  And along with the exercise, I’ve added deep tissue massage to help with the strain my hands, wrists, arms and shoulders were under while pushing the book out.
  • I’ve kept celebrating.  I’ve continued to reinforce rewarding the good behavior of finishing a novel and putting myself in situations where people I care about (and people who care about the books) are giving me my attaboys.
  • I’ve taken the time I need for myself.  There are at least a few days where I’ve holed up in complete solitude and napped the day away.
  • I’ve let myself fall into other people’s stories.  I read a book.  I watched some Netflix.  Not tons because my brain is still a bit worn out by my own story.  But part of coming through the post partum is to re-expose to story and get the well filling back up for the next project.
  • I’ve started preparing fo r the next project.  It’ll be a short story set in the Oz universe.  So I’m re-reading some of the Oz books and thinking “What kind of story would I like to tell?”

So that’s how I’ve handled it and most importantly:  I’ve accepted it, rather than resisting it, and made it a welcome house guest in my heart for as long as it needs to stay.   Because I know it moves on when it moves on and that it really is just evidence of me working hard for a long time on something I care about.  And this one, of course, has the added complication of taking years because of the various interruptions.  Acceptance, I think, is actually the most important thing I can do about it.

What about you?  Do you get the post partum with your books?  And what do you do about it when you do?




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3 comments to “Novel Post Partum and What To Do About It”

  1. Widdershins
     · September 1st, 2012 at 4:06 pm · Link

    I spend some time s a human ‘being’, rather than a human ‘doing’.

    I learned early on in my career that if I jump right into another project it isn’t going to work out and I’ll crash and burn just that little bit harder.

  2. Patrick Swenson
     · September 1st, 2012 at 8:37 pm · Link

    Wow, a lot of how I’ve felt since finishing and selling my book. Good advice, Ken!

  3. Frankie Robertson
     · September 2nd, 2012 at 3:09 pm · Link

    I’ve never heard anyone talk about this before. That’s exactly what I feel, and your advice on how to deal with it is excellent. Thanks!


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