Depression and Writing: Don't End Your Story

People often ask me why I write. I give them plenty of answers like, it's what I was born to do (cheesy, I know), it's as vital to me as the air I breathe (also cheesy), I love to create new worlds, I have stories to tell, etc. etc. Writing is also my outlet when I'm stressed or depressed. When I slip into the text and the world falls away, I feel a warmth in my chest that dissipates every awful thing I'm feeling. I'm lost in the story, and everything feels right with the world. In a way, my writing saves me from my negative emotions. 

But what about those times when it can't? What about the times when writer's block is so strong is drives me into a downward spiral of depression? 

I've written about anxiety, depression, and writing before, but what happened a week ago is very different. 

On February 2nd, my depression almost won. I won't go into great detail, but I checked myself into a psychiatric ward with the guidance and support of a friend so that I could take care of my mental health.

So I wouldn't end my story.  

You see, I love writing, but I do the same thing many writers do. I attach my self worth to my craft. If I can't write, I feel like something's wrong with me and I stress myself out more than necessary. It's habit. It's worse when I have a block on a big project I want to complete such as Purple Door District 2. For months I've struggled and felt disconnected with my craft. That's bad enough, but when writing is supposed to be an emotional outlet, and I lose that, I sometimes feel like I lose my purpose too. 

Don't get me wrong, a lot of things compounded over the months to make me so depressed, but not being able to write was a huge part of it. Writers tend to forget about their mental health when they're so busy creating. We get swept up in what we should be getting done or how we're not doing enough that we forget the warning signs our brain sends us when we've pushed ourselves too far. 

-Lack of interest in the things we love

-Unable to deal with daily stresses

-Losing sleep over worry

-Beating ourselves down for not writing because we see ourselves as failures

Sound familiar? I was feeling all of this, and yet I didn't realize just how depressed I was until it was almost too late. I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm not shy when it comes to talking about my mental health. Several writers on twitter have been told that they shouldn't discuss their emotions or mental health because it's "unprofessional" or "no one wants to hear their drama." 

Bullshit. 

Talking about how you feel makes you more real. It makes you more human and relatable. If Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and blog posts are your outlets and the only places you feel safe talking about your emotions, then do it. The United States has such a stigma about mental health, like it's a hush hush topic that no one should talk about.

Again, I call bullshit. If we talked about it, then maybe more people would know when to reach out for help. Maybe more creative minds would realize they're not alone in their struggles and there are people who care what happens to them. 

You are not your craft. Your worth is not measured by your word or page count, or your amazon reviews, or the number of books under your belt. 

One of the things that struck me the hardest about going into the psychiatric ward was when the therapist said, "You're a writer? Oh yeah, I've probably seen most of the writers in the city here." What does that tell you about us creative folk? We push and push and beat ourselves down when we should be lifting ourselves and others up for our/their accomplishments. 

So in case no one has said this to you today, you matter. You are amazing. You are loved. And you have a purpose. No matter how lonely you feel, there's a community out there that understands what you're going through. If you're too nervous to call someone for help, then try #writingcommunity on Twitter, or any number of writing hashtags on instagram. Believe me, you'll find that there are more people like you than you even realize. 

And during those really bad moments, when you feel like the world is coming down and you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, please consider calling the suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255. 

Your story isn't over yet, and the world wants to hear it. You're not alone. 

2018 Wrap Up and 2019 Goals

I can't believe that 2018 is finally over. It felt like the year that just would not die! I made resolutions last year, but most of them I don't even  remember, except for wanting to start querying Dragon Steal, which I did manage to accomplish. For this post, I'd like to go over some of the awesome (and not-so-awesome) things that happened this year and cover my goals for 2019. 

2018 in Review

  • Finished editing Dragon Steal and submitted it for publication.

    • I've received several rejection letters but recently got a full manuscript request. While the rejections have hurt, at least the book is out there! 

  • I created my own website and started developing a branded persona on twitter, facebook, instagram, etc. I have over 1,000 followers both on twitter and on instagram.

    • Even better, I've met a ton of amazing authors and creators through these sites who I can't wait to work with next year! 

  • Wrote, edited, and published The Purple Door District.  I can't believe I developed my own marketing and indiegogo campaigns, formatted the book, published it, and held a launch party all in the space of six months. The question is, can I do it for PDD2? 

  • Had "Latte with a Shot of Poltergeist" and "Frozen Heart" published in anthologies. 

  • Submitted more short stories and poetry than I ever have before. While I received a lot of rejections, I at least received a few publications. 

  • Officially launched The Writers' Rooms with my co-Director, Alexandra Penn. We also finished our Articles of Incorporation and got certified as a non-profit corporation. 

  • Helped develop the concierge anthology through The Writers' Rooms. 

  • Returned to my college and taught a few classes about publishing and NaNoWriMo.

  • Wrote 50k words for The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit

  • Lost about 45 lbs through exercise and healthy eating. 

  • Attended my first book signing event with other authors and signed up for even more in 2019. 

  • Hosted giveaways for my book and swag that was developed by local creators. 

  • Started my patreon account to help raise money for my writing career. 

  • Received honorable mention in Writers of the Future. 

  • Truly started my profession as an author. 

It's been a really big year for me writing wise. I still can't believe that six months ago I decided to publish The Purple Door District. It seems like ages since I made that decision. I've managed to publish a few pieces of work this year, including on wattpad and patreon. 

Next year, I hope to do even more, but also find a way to take care of myself at the same time. 

2019 Goals

  • Focus on my mental health and take better care of myself mentally and physically.

  • Find an agent and publisher for Dragon Steal.

  • Finish writing and publish The Purple Door District: Wolf Pit.

  • Work on Fates and Furies with my co-author, AE Kellar, and hopefully publish the first book, if not in 2019, then in early 2020. 

  • Submit more short stories and poetry for publication. 

  • Start working on The Purple Door District #3 and Dragon Steal #2

  • Return to working on Traitors of the Crown

  • Lose more weight for health reasons and get healthier. 

  • Attend multiple writing conventions to both sell my books and to meet other authors. 

  • Start my path to becoming a full-time author. 

These are pretty ambitious goals, but I think most of them are possible. I really do need to focus on my mental and physical health, though, because I managed to break myself a few times while working on PDD. If I can't hold myself together, I won't be able to accomplish any/all of this. 

I'm really proud of what I did this year. It's my biggest year as an author, and I can't wait to see what 2019 holds. I'm also a little scared. What if next year doesn't unfold as well? I guess that's all part of growing up and making plans as a writer, though. Some years you're going to make it big, and some years are going to be a lot slower. I hope 2019 is still a fantastic one. 

What are your goals for 2019? Feel free to share them below! Also, let me know what topics you'd like me to cover this year! 

Happy Writing!

Erin 

Launch Week and What Comes Next

I can't believe it's finally here. After six months of planning, plotting, and procrastinating (we all do it), The Purple Door District is finally going to see the light of day. I've already sent a few copies out to ARC readers and to my indiegogo supporters, and the reviews thus far have been great. My favorite has to be: 

"Casey caught me hook, line, and sinker and I'm already impatient for the sequel!" -Rebecca Daniels. 

At this moment I'm putting the final pieces of the launch together. I dropped books off at Prairie Lights and M and M Bookstore. It's surreal to be handing them a paper copy of my book. My bookmarks at Haunted Bookshop are gone already, and a couple press releases should be appearing in the paper any day now. Everything is headed in the right direction. 

On Saturday, December 15th, the book will launch both on amazon and in stores. My first signing is at the North Liberty Community Library where there will be free cookies and pictures with Santa for the kids while parents do last-minute shopping. It's my first chance to sell my books beside other authors, and I can't wait. I've met so many incredible people over this past year, and it'll be such an honor to actually sell my book beside them. If you're in the North Liberty area, stop on by from 10am-1pm. You can find more information here

Saturday night will be the big event. From 6:30-8:30 pm, I'm holding a signing and reading event at The Makers' Loft in Iowa City. This is a fantastic new business that helps support local indie creators. They've agreed to sell my books there as well because they want to start a book section. People can come get their books, celebrate with dessert, and then listen to a reading at 8 pm. I'm also holding a raffle. Authors Shakyra Dunn, R.C. Davis, Alexandra Penn, Eliza David, and more, will donate their books to the prize pool. You might walk away with more than a couple of gifts! 

And speaking of gifts, Marion Mavis, author of The Supremacy Witch, and I are doing a giveaway on Instagram! Go check out our guidelines on how to win signed copies of both of our books! 

I really hope to have a great turn out to blog about. You can be sure I'll take pictures, and I'm planning to do a brief live recording as well. 

Then, on Sunday, I'll finally face plant my bed and get some rest.

This whole experience has been incredible, but it's also been draining. There have been more than a few times that I've wanted to throw up my hands and toss in the towel. Publishing a book is practically a second job. When I'm not doing my daily work and volunteer positions, I'm usually busy with writing, editing, or marketing. I'll admit I haven't taken quite enough time for myself since the whole process started, but I'm hoping to get some breathing room now that the book is going to be published.

What then, do you ask? What's the future of The Purple Door District

The answer is twofold. This will not be the only book. I started working on book 2, tentatively named Wolf Pit, and I'm already 50,000 words into it. My hope is that I can publish it in 2019. At the same time, my co-creator and I, AE Kellar, plan to work on our main series to get that ready for publication. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but with The Purple Door District finally taking flight, we think we're ready to crank the work out. 

The story doesn't end here, my friends.

The journey is just beginning. 

Pride

Today was a milestone in my life. I arrived home and found a package waiting for me in the mail. 

It was the proof of my book. 

Emotions flooded through me. Excitement. Fear. Anxiety. Pride. I've spent so many months writing, revising, and preparing this book for publication, I just didn't know how it would turn out. I could open the box and find a beauty or a beast. What if I hated it? What if it didn't live up to my expectations? What if I screwed up the formatting? What if...

I think the smile here says how I feel. 

thebook.JPG

This has been quite the journey, and though it's nowhere near over, getting this far has been an adventure in and of itself. I decided in June that I was going to publish The Purple District. I'd been posting it on Patreon for about 7 months at that point, and I realized that the book could actually go on the market.  I knew it would be a lot of work to edit, proofread, format, market, etc, but I didn't realize just how crazy things would get, and how fast that time would fly. Nor did I realize how it would impact me mentally. 

Most people don't know what goes on behind the scenes when an author creates a book. You see their marketing strategies and the final products, but not the struggles along the way, or the self-doubt. I pride myself on being a pretty honest and open person, and I'm not lying when I say that there were several times I wanted to quit the book. I cried, I screamed, I threw my hands up in the air and said, "why bother? It's never going to be good enough." I went through the typical thing all authors do; I thought my work was trash and didn't deserve to see the light of day. My editors and beta readers said otherwise, of course, and that gave me the courage to keep going. 

But deep down, there was another fear. For the first time I was going to put a big part of myself out there to be read, reviewed, judged, enjoyed, hated, whatever the feelings might be. Part of me didn't feel like I deserved the honor of having a published book. Part of me felt like I was ready to take on the responsibility. Today? I'm just proud to be able to hold the book in my hands and realize that made this. I didn't do it alone, of course, but I had the strength and courage to see the book through. 

It's a surreal feeling. I almost don't believe that I'm holding the book in my hands. Sure, there are flaws and there are things I need to fix, but I'm one step closer to being a published author. This opens the door to literary events, conventions, readings, and signings. I'm terrified to launch into this new world, but I crave it as well. Failure is always gnawing at the back of my mind. What if I mess up? What if I don't do enough? What if I just...fail? 

I guess in the end, it doesn't matter because look how far I've come. Even if people hate it or it doesn't sell well, I still did it. I still put in the time, effort, love, tears, and dedication to produce this piece of work, and that in itself is an accomplishment and something I should take pride in. 

I guess I want people to remember to take a moment and feel pride in themselves and their work. Whether you're just starting, you've created short stories, written full novels, or published your books, you're all authors. You all have dedication to the craft. Be proud of that. Look at your work and realize, "I did this." It doesn't matter how big or how small it is. You still created it. Hold on to that feeling so that you can go back to it when you have moments of self doubt. And remember, you're not alone. We all struggle with it and we all wonder, "Am I good enough?" 

I think you are. Keep writing, keep creating, and keep shining. Be proud of yourself, because I'm proud of you. 

And like I say on my dedication page, to anyone who feels alone or needs a community...welcome to the District. 

 

The Purple Door District: Behind the Scenes

The world of The Purple Door District started out as the stubborn brainchild of AE Kellar and myself. We have spent years writing together, researching, brainstorming, and developing characters and rules governing our parahumans and worlds. Our main series, Fates and Furies, is still in production but occurs in the same urban fantasy setting.

But let me backtrack a little.

AE Kellar and I met each other on a Redwall roleplaying site when I was still in high school. We had a mutual interest in the book series by Brian Jacques, obviously, and the forums gave us the opportunity to create our own characters, be they cat in AE’s case, or a silver-striped red squirrel named SilverRose Brighteye. Some of you may recognize my NaNo name.

For those unfamiliar with roleplaying on forums, basically one person writes out a few paragraphs of a scene with their character, someone responds, and the two people (or more) write back and forth to create an adventure. Redwall provided the world for us; we just had to worry about the characters and plot.

We wrote together for years, developing characters and immersing ourselves in the world. Eventually, we sought after a change and started roleplaying on an urban fantasy website that has long since closed. That’s when we realized that we might have found our niche. We took our characters, built a world, and ran with it, rping back and forth most nights. We’d alternate taking point on a plotline and naturally switch to the next person.

Unless we both brainfarted, in which case we just started up a new plotline.

Years of writing produced thousands of pages of writing (I’m not joking, AE took a picture of the pile of paper). Eventually, we realized we wanted to do something with it, and thus Fates and Furies was born. But in order to fully create the series, we had to know more about our world.

When we started to design the District, I latched onto it and suddenly had ideas blossoming in my head about creating one in Chicago (I grew up around the area). Plus, as a birdmom of seven feathered kids, it gave me the chance to professionally write about a werebird, even if I still get the side eye. With AE’s blessing, I wrote The Purple Door District to introduce you to our insanity.

But what about the PDD struck a chord in me? It was the community. I loved this idea that people of different talents, appearances, and strengths could come together to protect one another. A lot of urban/paranormal fantasies focus on the battle between werewolves and vampires or different magical groups. It was nice to think that there was a neutral ground where everyone could get along under the direction of The Violet Marshall. With the way the country is going today, I felt it was important to show that it’s possible for a mixing pot of people to actually come together peacefully. I chose Chicago specifically because I knew I could create a diverse cast. Even more characters will appear in The Purple Door District Book 2.

Community plays a huge role in my life. I help bring writers together through The Writers’ Rooms, a non-profit corporation that focuses on providing a free, safe environment for writers no matter their background, income, experience, gender, etc. And I work with The Iowa Writers’ House which also supports writers through workshops, lectures, and bicultural fellowship. In the writing world, I firmly believe that the only way we can succeed is if we support one another. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris calls it.

Even through the book production, I reached out to the community for help. I asked Oni Algarra and Gabriella Bujdoso to create art for the book, indie artists who post on deviantart and instagram respectively. My cover artist is a Fiverr creator named Les. Sara Cunningham used her marketing magic to create sand jars and postcards for my book. Amanda Bouma taught me how to make jewelry so I could develop Bianca’s necklace. Leona Bushman, a fellow urban fantasy writer, guided me through editing my book and polishing it for publication. Alexandra Penn helped me format the book and was one of my main supporters who gave me the courage to publish the book. And my wonderful proofreaders, Shakyra Dunn and AE made sure the book was ready to go. I couldn’t have done this without my community, and I’m excited to support them just as they supported me. That’s partially why I created the Indiegogo campaign. I wanted to help give back to them.

As of November 5th, The Purple Door District is available for pre-order on amazon. There are no words I can use to convey my pride, joy, and hint of terror at having my book out there (I think I used up all my words in the manuscript haha). I do know that, had it not been for AE, I never would have been able to create such an immersive world.

We jokingly say that AE is the brain and I’m the heart, but I think it’s very true. While AE fills our books with well-researched facts and logic, I add feeling, creativity, and literary flare. I couldn’t have done it without my walking encyclopedia. All you see in The Purple Door District exists because of our love for storytelling and our incessant need to get fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night.

Keep an eye out. Fates and Furies is on the horizon.

And thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for all of your support during this crazy and amazing journey.

Welcome to the District.