I’ve decided I’ll keep writing, even though the future seems uncertain.
What if I waited too long?
This is the thought that lurks at the back of my mind 24/7.
Three and a half years ago, I was in the throes of a deep depression. It was a horrific experience and it has stayed with me since. For a year, I struggled to be alive and wrestled with feelings of intense apathy, worthlessness, and hopelessness. I eventually quit my teaching job and took nine months off.
It took some months, but after a while, I started to feel better. I started to write again. I would go to a coffee shop every day and spend hours working on my sci-fi novel. I composed a 75,000-word draft in one month.
Feeling better, I eventually returned to teaching, and I set the story aside. A year ago, those feelings of apathy and hopelessness and self-disdain started to creep in again. I knew if I didn’t make a move, I would wind up being morbidly depressed again. I loved my job and didn’t want depression to upend my life again, so in March, I decided to go to a writing conference in New York during Spring Break.
With half my paycheck, I rented an airbnb and went to NYC. I had enough money to buy a subway pass for a week and about thirty dollars to spare (thank goodness for their $1 pizza stores). It was rainy and cold, and I had neither coat nor umbrella, but I stayed the course. Knowing that I would end up broke, cold, and hungry almost prevented me from going on the trip altogether, but I was desperate to do something toward achieving my goals. Besides, I knew that being proactive could help me ward of the oncoming bout of depression.
I pitched my story to four editors/agents from major publishing houses and got manuscript requests from three of them. One predicted that I was sitting on a million-dollar book deal. Elated, I rushed home to continue working, following the conference leaders’ advice to take 6-8 months to revise the story and make sure it was the best it could be before submission.
A year later, I still haven’t sent my work in. I’ve rewritten the story and am in love with what I’ve done so far, but revising is slow work when you have a full-time teaching job.
Now, I wonder if I’ve taken too long, if the window has closed, and if the world will ever go back to the way it was before the current pandemic. Will publishers still seek new books, or is that on hold? Will they still think there’s a market for my book? Will people have money to buy it? Will any of it matter?
New York gave me hope that I could actually change my life—that I could sustain myself by doing something I love. It’s not just about making the money (though that would be nice). It’s about finally being able to purchase time and owning it. I’ve always wanted more time to write, because writing feels like who I am, and when I don’t do it, I feel like I’m denying myself.
Now, with the world in isolation because of the coronavirus, you might think I have time to write, but I’m actually spending 10 to 11 hours a day teaching from home. I am also rebounding from another recent episode of depression.
When I can find a spare hour or two, I usually find it impossible to focus. My mind is preoccupied with thoughts of planning and recording lessons, reaching out to students, grading assignments, reaching out to students again, making sure my three-year-old niece still knows that I love her even though it might seem to her that I’d rather be on my computer all day, wondering if we’re stocked up enough for the newly issued stay-at-home order, and berating myself for eating too much and being too fat, for not working out enough. Worst of all, I worry that something drastic will happen and will I slide back into the life of financial instability that I knew as a child.
And through it all, I wonder if this will be my new reality, if writing a book even matters anymore, if I should be shifting gears and reverting back to survival mode instead.
And then I remember. Writing is survival, and it has always been my constant in times of uncertainty. Why should I forsake it now? Because I don’t know what the future holds? That has always been the case.Writing is survival, and it has always been my constant in times of uncertainty. Click To Tweet
So, now, I am going to finish writing my book, I am going to write my query letters, and I am going to send them out to agents—and I will continue to hope as I have always hoped. If anything, it will be therapeutic.
What were you working on before the pandemic? Will you continue?
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, you are not alone. People are here to listen. Call 1-800-273-8255 or visit National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to talk to someone now.