Post project depression

I’ve been in a foul mood ever since I finished writing Vestal. I feel stressed, irrationally angry, mentally foggy, and just generally aimless. I don’t know what to do with myself.

Never mind the fact that I have a full-time job as managing editor of a newspaper and I promised myself that as soon as I finished the first draft of Vestal I would devote some time to designing the literary half-sleeve I’ve been working on for more than a year. Never mind that I have a trip to Turkey to plan. Never mind that I try to spend at least two hours reading each night after I get home from the gym. Never mind that I’m ready to begin planning for Book Three.

Whether it’s rational or not, I feel like I’ve lost my sense of purpose. I’ve been planning, outlining, and writing this book for a little more than a year, and now it’s done.

Having another book already under my belt, I’m aware that my work on Vestal is far from complete. The editing is always harder and more time-consuming than the writing (for me, anyway) so I know this book won’t really leave me hands for another year or so. Vestal is still young, and it has a lot of growing to do before it finds its way into readers’ hands.

The rational part of me is aware of this. But that doesn’t alter the fact that I don’t feel the sense of relief and joy everyone seems to expect from me. I feel grim, as though my jaw has been set for so long that it’s begun to ache from keeping it solidly in place.

Fortunately, the people closest to me already know this about me. They know that when I finish a major project I sink into a depression for a couple days or weeks. They don’t make the mistake of trying to pull me out of it or reasoning it away. They know I’ll eventually shake it off on my own and move on to other things.

I didn’t know this about myself until I was in my mid-20s and I’ve never really heard anyone else talk about it so I’m not sure if this is a normal tendency. I used to finish major projects at work and fight to try to make myself happy and proud of what I’d done. I think it may have been my editor who first realized it. But even now, knowing that I can expect to be utterly despondent the first couple of days after completing a book or special issue of the paper, it takes me by surprise. I become so focused on the endeavor that I forget what I’m driving toward emotionally.

Colin was the one who pointed it out this time. I was in a bad mood and couldn’t figure out why and he hesitantly pointed out that I’d just finished Vestal and, well …

He didn’t even have to finish the thought. It would have been difficult to anyway, because I have no idea what to call this. It is certainly depression, but short-term and linked to a very clear cause.

I’m hoping I’ll be back to normal—working at full pace toward getting my arm prettily tatted and an outline for Book Three—by the beginning of next week. In the interim, I wish I could just relax and enjoy the congratulatory dinner my boyfriend wants to treat me to. It’s highly unlikely, but at least I have a damned entertaining Iditarod race to keep tabs on. And even if it’s hard to focus, I am so terribly excited about Book Three.



  1. There is definitely a sense of loss associated with finishing a project that has possibly consumed a person for a long period of time. It may sound odd, but you form a bond with your story and you miss it when it’s ‘gone’. This is where sequels come in. I always say they are as much about the writers inability to let go of her characters as they are about being loyal to your fans. The first novel has as many bittersweet feelings as any other first, first kiss, first love and so on. Anyway, not sure if this helped or not.

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