Like so many creative people, I struggle with depression. I'm one of the fortunate ones in that I received help for the problem early on in my life and have been able to learn the warning signs of when things are bottoming out. That doesn't mean anything's been fixed. You don't fix depression. You learn to cope with it. If it's severe enough, perhaps you take something to mitigate the problem and make your life livable. But you don't ever fix it. I think that's the thing people who've never dealt with depression have trouble understanding. Well that, and you don't have to have a reason to be depressed. No one ever understands that.
And that's what I'm pondering today. I'm feeling down. Why? Because I'm feeling down. There is no why. I'm employed. I'm paid well. I'm happily married. I have cats. My writing career has been on a consistent upward trajectory. The derby season is going splendidly. There is no reason to be down except for the fact that I'm down.
When you're down, you find things to be down about (rather than getting down because of all those things). I should be feeling up. What a great life I have. But I don't. I'm still in the middle of the querying process of my most recent novel. That's always stressful in its own right, but it's oh so worse when you're bottoming out. Each day that goes by without word is one more opportunity for the depressed part of your brain to say, "See, you're a failure." It doesn't matter of those days are fully within the time the agent says they take to respond. It doesn't matter that response was so strong that you skipped stages of the process and went right to full manuscript review. Those are positives, and you don't focus on positives when you're depressed. You focus on every day that's gone by since those requests first came in and today, where nothing has happened. You listen to the demons inside your skull whisper that you're not good enough. You're never going to be good enough. If they liked what you had written, they would have read it by now. They would have answered. You're a failure. No one likes what you write. No one likes you.
That's a pretty shitty thing to say to a person, and you're saying it to yourself. How horrible is that? But it's like a wave. You just have to ride it out until it crests and things fall back to normal. You get through today because, at some point, tomorrow is going to be better. Maybe not tomorrow, but the day after. Or the day after that.
When I was submitting The Triad Society for the third time (meaning the third agent who had contacted me for re-writes), I said if it was rejected, I was going to take some time off from writing publishable stories and focus on fan fiction or something that would be fun without the pressure of submission following. I never did that. I got hooked on Family Jewels and started the process all over again. I remember how hard it was to have TTS read by three different agents on four different occasions only to have it rejected. That's pretty cool, right? People contacted me and said, I like you're story. Let's work on it. I think it's pretty cool, too, and days when I'm not depressed, it makes me happy. Today, well today I focus on the rejection part of it.
When I talk about rejection with my non-writing friends, the response is near-universal. Why would I want to subject myself to rejection? Why don't I just self-publish? I always tell them the same, if the story isn't good enough that I would brave querying, it's not good enough to be self-published. Self-publishing isn't a free pass. If you're taking your writing seriously, your story needs to be the best it can be no matter what path to publication your'e taking.
And it doesn't matter, because you can't escape depression. Feeling down that an agent rejected you? Swap that with your Amazon sales ranking. Only two people bought your book that month and one of them asked for a refund. No one likes you. No one wants to buy your book. No one thinks you're good enough. No one likes you.
See the trend? You don't need a why to feel this way. Depression is the why. All you can do is ride it out. When it passes, take the time to focus on the positive. Remind yourself of your accomplishments. Let the sunshine warm you and know that you're not alone. Keep working. Keep trying. Your day may not be today, but you still have tomorrow.