DEPRESSION IS DEPRESSING

solitude

 

I don’t write much about depression because it’s, well, depressing, and most of the time, I’m trying to run from it rather than acknowledge it. When I’m depressed I tend to hide from the world and embrace my bed like a long-lost lover come home. I sleep. A lot. Because it’s an escape from the disturbing thoughts that obsessively bombard my mind.

The holidays tend to exacerbate this ugly beast of burden. There’s something about them that bring feelings of loneliness and unhappiness to the forefront. Right now, there are many posts on Facebook giving out the Suicide Hotline phone number, urging people to call if they become desperate. But many won’t. They’ll continue to suffer in silence.

For those who don’t have a problem with this illness, it may be difficult to understand the mind of a depressed person. Just like I don’t understand what it’s like to have cancer, or be paralyzed, or lose a child. I don’t pretend to. I would no more tell them to “buck up,” or “look on the bright side,” or “get over it” any more than a “positive” person should to someone suffering depression.

One word: Empathy. A quality many lack, especially when they don’t understand something. Empathy is “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.”

I personally believe the more sensitive and creative a person, the more prone they are to depression. They see more, feel more, and ponder more. About everything. But this can often lead to a downward spiraling of mood. Depressives are ruminators. They start with a negative feeling or thought, and they overthink it to death. They beat it until it’s nothing but a bloody pulp. Is it learned behavior, a default switch, in a sense? A chemical imbalance? Hereditary? Who knows, who cares? The important thing is realizing how dangerous and serious depression is.

I’ve been dealing with depression for over 20 years. I was never a depressed teen, but then again, I was partying way too much to feel anything. It wasn’t until I came down with CFIDS that I became depressed. Think about it. A healthy, outgoing 26-year-old actress living in NY, doing what she loved. Now imagine her getting sick with mono. Imagine it NEVER going away. Imagine all her hopes and dreams buried in a dumpster full of rotting food behind Denny’s.

Now I know there are people out there who get their legs blown off in Iraq, come home and start a foundation to help people like them, get married, and have a great life. There are others who are raped and tortured, write a book about it, and go on to counsel other survivors like themselves. I get it. Strong people turning adversity in to a positive. Rah rah for them.

But I’m not one of those people. Wish I were, but I’m not. I can blame it on my dad for yelling at me my whole life, telling me what a worthless piece of crap I am or I can blame it on brain chemistry. Bottom line? It is what it is.

So. Here’s an example of how my depressed mind works: I completed the first draft of my novel on Tuesday. It’s 90,000 words. That in and of itself is something to be proud of, right? And I was proud of myself. For the rest of the evening. The next day, I sat in front of my laptop, a little lost because every author says you should wait like 6 weeks before you edit, and I thought, Okay, WTF am I going to do while I’m waiting? So I start researching who I can shop my novel around to once I have a final draft ready.

Now, mind you, I’ve published 2 romantic comedies already, but decided to write a dark erotic romance. Why? I have no idea. I don’t read that much erotica. Hell, I don’t even like erotica all that much. So why did I write it? Come to discover the market is saturated already, and very few agents want to represent it. As for legit publishers, there is 1 for me to choose from. 1.

 

First thoughts: I just spent a year researching and writing a novel that I won’t be able to sell. Why didn’t I stick with my chosen genre, so I could have a better chance of building a following?

Second thoughts: Most erotic authors self-publish. I don’t want to learn how to self-publish. It’s too much work that I don’t have the energy for. I’m such a fucking idiot.

Third thoughts: Just like everything else in my life, I never think things through. Instead of furthering my career, I’ve stalled it. Something I can’t afford to do because I have a kid to feed.

Now by this point, I have a tension headache, my chest is tight because my breathing is shallow, and I start worrying about how I’m going to pay my rent next month. And afford $100 bucks to enroll my son in soccer. And renew HostGator for my website for $150. And pay property taxes. And buy soccer cleats, and…and…

And the worrying starts to spiral out of control. Depressed people don’t just think of the problem at hand (In my case, writing a ms that won’t sell). They remember every. single.  problem they’ve ever had since birth.

If only I were smarter, or married, or healthier, or skinnier, or richer, or my mother had breastfed me…fill in the blank.

And

I shouldn’t have married my abusive bf from high school, gotten into the car with that frat boy, done that line of meth, driven while drunk, picked up that hooker who turned out to be a guy, gotten that awful nose job…fill in the blank.

And

I should have gone to grad school, never quit that high-paying job even though it made me miserable, stayed on the Pill, kicked my husband out 5 years before, gotten my breasts done a long time ago, checked her license to see whether she was of legal age…fill in the blank.

And

My father, mother, old boyfriend, best friend was right. I’m a train wreck, a fuck up, stupid, ugly, fat, a douche canoe…fill in the blank.

And

I’m going to be 80 years old, poor, single, unhappy, fat, my cats will eat my dead body, no one will come to my funeral…fill in the blank.

 

This is how the depressed mind works. Or at least how mine does. Cognitive therapy helps if you’re willing to do the work. Meds only do so much for a while. Many lose the battle, because once that desperate hopelessness sets in, magnifying the feeling that nothing will ever change, that you’re going to feel this miserable torturous mindfuck forever, suicide seems like the only relief in sight. People usually don’t commit suicide because they want to end their lives; they commit suicide because they don’t want to feel the pain anymore. That’s an important distinction, and it truly breaks my heart. Because we’re not bad people. We’re not weak. We’re usually nicer and more successful than we think. And although I’ve had close friends accuse me of being negative (I’ve even lost best friends over it), I believe it’s more about their own self-centeredness in not wanting to be brought down. Again, they’re lacking that empathy factor.

I, on the other hand, because I’ve gone through so much hardship in my life would never berate or shun a person for being down, or negative, or suicidal. I’ve had strangers talk to me for hours, telling me all their problems or admit they’re wanting to commit suicide. Why? Because I genuinely listen, so they feel safe. I don’t judge them or tell them to turn that frown upside down. How many people can genuinely listen to the pain of another without judgment or telling them what to do to make themselves better? I’ve only met one or two.

If you need someone to listen and you have no one to talk to with a sympathetic ear, please, please, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255–24/7. Or message me here. You are not alone.

Happy holidays

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THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Being the social media slut that I am, I’m on LinkedIn. But if you were to ask me what LinkedIn was, being the woefully inadequate social media slut that I am, I’d tell you to Google it. I do, however, appreciate the writerly discussions on LinkedIn, specifically about marketing, because imo, writers are the most clueless when it comes to marketing their own work.

Example: I manage social media for an insurance company. I can come up with numerous relevant Facebook posts for them like there’s no tomorrow. My own author page however, consists of sporadic postings involving photos of half-naked men, quotes I’ve sucked off of other writers, and inane comments like, “Am eating my son’s gummy bear vitamins to satisfy a desperate sugar craving.”

One author on LinkedIn started this discussion: “There are a gazillion people with books out there. How does one stand out?” Everyone regurgitates the same old crap about how to market one’s book. She wanted to hear original ideas, crazy ideas, ideas that were outside the box.

When I think outside the box on how to market my book, it almost always involves something deviant or sexual—like, Hmm, if I do something to get arrested, I can give a shout-out about my book while being taken away in handcuffs, or Hmm, I can make a sex tape and somehow incorporate the reciting of passages from my book.

Another author on LinkedIn suggested standing on the street while naked between two sandwich boards advertising her book, so I’m not the only twisted one thinking along those lines. The problem is any idea involving sex isn’t all that original. The other folks who responded wrote about the same tried and true tactics we’ve all heard over and over again: hard work, luck, book trailers, door-to-door fliers, signings, writing crappy fan fiction without any knowledge of basic grammar. (Okay, maybe not the last one.)

Think outside the box.

The problem with cats is they think too much inside the box:

Kitty in box
They may attempt to venture outside the box:

Almost out

But mostly they remain inside the box, thinking of ways to kill you in your sleep:

PLOT KILL

Casting Charlize Theron in Monster was thinking outside the box. Gilbert Gottfried reading Fifty Shades of Grey? Pure fucking gold, as well as also thinking outside the box. James Redfield sold over 80,000 copies of his self-published book, The Celestine Prophecy from the trunk of his Honda. John Grisham who wrote A Time to Kill? He traveled around the South selling that baby from the trunk of his car, too.

This concept of thinking outside the box consumed me all week. I’m an Aquarian. I’m supposed to be unconventional and original. It should come naturally for me to think outside the box.

Sometimes I succeed at thinking outside the box in other areas of my life. Because I can’t afford to go on vacation, I vacation through beer. Sampling beer from different countries allows me to visit places without ever having to be strip searched or robbed by gypsy children. Now when anyone asks me whether I’ve gone away lately, I can tell them Denmark, for example, adding, “And their Doppelbock really knocked me on my ass.” I consider that thinking outside the box.

lottsa beer

lottsa beer

Since my first book, The Accidental Cougar is a romance between an older woman (41) and a younger man (25), I’m constantly wondering: Where does my target audience hang out? I’m a middle-aged woman, but the only place I hang out is the grocery store. I don’t really feel like standing outside the supermarket selling my book like the Girl Scouts’ sell their cookies.

So I went onto Facebook and searched “Cougar” sites and found one with thousands of followers. Now granted, most of the followers are probably men trolling for what they hope are horny, touch-starved cougars, but women over the age of 35 are invited to submit their photo for posting on the site. Special preference is given to those wearing this T-shirt: THE COUGAR CLUB

I don’t know what you’re thinking, but singlewritermom thinks she should pole vault outside that box right onto that FB page. All I would need to do is put on my Victoria’s Secret Miracle Bra, aka Wishful Thinking Bra, aka Fooled You Bra, the Cougar T-shirt, some lipstick, and with a genuine smile, pose with my book. They’ll post it, all the cougar women will see it, buy my book, and I’ll be instantly catapulted to Amazon Bestsellerdom.

OR

I could take Dean Wesley Smith’s advice and stop wasting my time on social media, focusing instead on writing my next book.

What do you think?

IT’S ALL SO DAMN SUBJECTIVE

dr-seuss-be-who-you-are
“SUBJECTIVE” is the word I hear most when discussing the publishing business, and writing in general. At first I really didn’t get what that meant. I figured if I wrote a great book, everyone would like it. (Stop laughing!) Agents always say, “Write the best book you can. If it’s good, it will find a home.” (What they don’t tell you is that home is usually your own. Which is where it stays. Forever.)

Here are some excerpts from various agent form rejection letters we all know and love:

“In my search for clients I wish to represent only the manuscripts with which I feel a real connection. Ultimately—and for purely SUBJECTIVE reasons—this query did not spark that kind of enthusiasm.” (Which we writers interpret to mean, “Your manuscript sucks.”)

“We mold our client list from the many submissions we receive every month, and the process is both SUBJECTIVE and based on the direction of this agency.” (Which we writers interpret to mean, “Your manuscript sucks.”)

“Please keep in mind that mine is a SUBJECTIVE business, and an idea or story one agent does not respond to may well be met with great enthusiasm by another…” (Which we writers interpret to mean, “Your manuscript sucks.”)

Book reviews are also SUBJECTIVE. The most obvious example being the thousands of reviews for Fifty Shades of Grey. The reviews range from “If Heaven exists, it would surely be wallpapered with the pages of this trilogy, so we can all read this masterpiece for eternity,” to “I wouldn’t wipe my dog’s ass with the pages of this crap.”

SUBJECTIVE. SUBJECTIVE. SUBJECTIVE.

What the hell does this word even mean?

Based on (or related to) attitudes, beliefs, or opinions, instead of on verifiable evidence or phenomenon. Contrasts with objective.—BusinessDictionary.com

Proceeding from or taking place in a person’s mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.
Particular to a given person; personal: subjective experience.–thefreedictionary.com

Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes or opinions.—Dictionary.com

Do you see a pattern here? It means what floats one’s boat may not float another’s. What may be one person’s cocaine may be someone else’s bad LSD trip. One person’s kink may be another person’s therapy session.

Personally, I’ve found some of my female friends’ partners revolting. I pretty much think all of my ex-boyfriends’ wives are like, “Ugh.” To each his own, and even more so when it comes to writing.

I bought a book in Target a few months ago by a contemporary romance author I’ve wanted to check out for awhile. She’s been around a long time, has written a gazillion books, has beaucoup fan followers, and is a NYT bestselling author. And yet…

I picked up and put down this book so many times it took me forever to finish it. It wasn’t that this woman wasn’t a good writer; she was. But the heroine bothered me, because she was too adoring of the hero, so she came across (to me) as a sloppy puppy dog. There was too much conversation about feelings and too many internal monologues about feelings, which tend to bore me. I prefer more zingy dialogue. And there just wasn’t enough of a plotline to hold my interest.

But that’s simply my opinion. It wasn’t my cuppa. Hundreds upon hundreds of fans love her books, and loved this one, in particular. Does that mean it sucked because I wasn’t crazy about it? Of course not. It just means it wasn’t my cocaine.

If you were an agent, you’d want to sign someone who wrote a book that was your cocaine. Just like the person you marry should be your cocaine. And your passion should be your cocaine.

The next time you receive a rejection letter or a bad review, or get dumped by your lover, remember that damn word…no, not cocaine…SUBJECTIVE.

DRUGS, DIRT, AND PUBLISHING

MY BOOK 001
A friend of mine who lives in my complex mentioned he had spoken to one of his cop friends the other day. “You still living in the same place?” the cop asked. When my friend said he was, the cop told him, “The drug situation is getting pretty bad in there. Every other day we go in and arrest someone.”

“Well, that sucks,” I said to my friend, which was as profound a statement as I could muster given my utter powerlessness over the situation. It’s not like I can afford to move next month into an affluent gated community. And God knows if my son wants to do drugs later on he’ll always be able to find them, but I’d rather he not be able to find them next door.

In an attempt to pretend like we’ve moved to a different place, I decided to rearrange all the furniture. I like the changes; it feels very feng shui. Granted my Prosperity section is in my bathroom—a very bad place for your Prosperity section to be as you’re literally flushing away your finances—but eh, what can you do?

The high point while redecorating was when my son knocked over a plant full of wet dirt. Wet dirt is not easy to pick up from a beige carpet, even less so when your vacuum is clogged. Ever take apart an entire vacuum? It’s a messy job. After I removed a glob of dust and hair in the hose the size of a football and then put the thing together again, I resumed vacuuming…only to back up into my wine rack, causing one of the bottles to clink against another bottle and break. The entire bottle poured into my carpet. It was one of those situations where you can’t react fast enough to minimize the damage (like when the toilet overflows).

It’s okay. You don’t have to pity me. It’s pretty much par with the way things go for me. The nonexistent optimist in me acknowledged that I was damn lucky it wasn’t the bottle of red that had broken, so all in all, I think that attitude adjustment is great progress for me in the huge, happy bubble that other people call life.

Here’s some interesting publishing news: Harlequin recently sent a survey to its authors asking them for feedback. For those writers who aren’t familiar with J. A. Konrath, you must take a looksie at his blog, because he’s even more of a ranter than I am. He’s also a big advocate for self-publishing. In his most recent post, http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-harlequin-survey.html he rips Harlequin a new one, although it appears that many HQ authors have already done so as well. I was surprised to learn how unfair the HQ contracts were to authors (signing away your rights to a book forever is never an ideal situation for the writer), but since it looks like HQ is finally being challenged, I’m hoping there will be positive changes in the future for authors—although probably not seven figures like Sylvia Day just landed: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2013/harlequin-signs-hybrid-author-sylvia-day-to-seven-figure-ebook-deal-to-launch-cosmo-mag-ebook-program/

It’s a tough time in publishing. Things are in a state of flux and established foundations are crumbling. With the rising popularity of self-publishing, authors are claiming their power. Publishers are no longer the ones in complete control and they’re losing money because of it. So they’re jumping on the bandwagon by scouring Amazon bestseller lists for writers to sign, and forming digital imprints of their own: http://www.atrandom.com/eoriginals/index.php

I have a Nook. I even use it, although the numbers of times I have grabbed it before soccer practice only to discover it needed to be charged is why it will never be my preferred method of reading. I’m old-fashioned. I grew up with the printed page. The brand-new pages of a book will forever be one of my favorite smells. I love the feel of turning pages, finding my marked place, gazing at the author’s photo.

Perhaps if I had grown up in the digital age I’d feel differently. My sister, 20 years younger, only reads digital books. Going to a bookstore to browse the shelves is just not something she’s in the habit of doing—which is a good thing, considering physical bookstores are a dying breed. Like it or not, digital books are the way of the future.

Do you prefer the printed page or an electronic reading device? Where do you think books will be in 20 years?

THE ALMOST EMAIL

Patience is NOT one of my virtues, which is unfortunate for me, since every writer NEEDS, I repeat, NEEDS to have it. There is so much waiting involved in the business of publishing – waiting to hear back regarding a query, a partial, a full, rewrites and revisions. Waiting for a pub date, an advance, royalties, and the list goes on and on.

I submitted my romantic comedy, THE ACCIDENTAL COUGAR, to an epublisher some months back. My manuscript changed hands four different times, in the hope of finding a fit for it within their press. “Not erotic enough,” so off to the contemporary line it went. “Heroine too old” (She’s 41!), so off to the Last Chance at Love line (Last chance? At 41? Oy!). “Heroine too young,” so back to the contemporary line, only to wind up in the hands of a paranormal editor. What did they want to do — turn my hero into a ghost? I didn’t know, but I was starting to feel like a cheap hooker being passed around at a bachelor party.

The paranormal editor gave me a date for when she’d get back to me with a response. Bad idea, because I treated that date like the Absolute Truth. Nothing else existed for me, except the 24 hours of said date. House on fire? Trip to the ER? No big deal, as long as I had access to a computer to check email…

The date came and went. No news is good news, I told myself. A week passed. I bit off all my nails. Week two arrived. I started snapping at my son for no good reason.

I HATE WAITING! I’d yell to the dog. She’d look at me like I was nuts and then lick herself. I got on my favorite writer’s forum and asked them: Should I ask for an update? (otherwise known as a status query)

The response was unanimous. “No good ever comes of it. Don’t. Do. It.”

All these thoughts rushed through my head: What if the editor’s email got lost in cyberspace? What if Yahoo is having problems? Maybe she meant she’d get back to me in 2012, not 2011.

Still, no one wants to pressure an editor into a premature rejection, so I sat on my hands and waited. For two days. And then I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had to know. I had to query. I had no sponsor to call who could tell me, “Step away from the keyboard. The urge will pass.”

I sent a short polite inquiry, asking where I was in the evaluation process. And then I waited. My mood turned foul. I expected rejection, of course. Who wouldn’t after being rejected as many times as I had? Why would this time be any different? I’m 43 years old. Success had eluded me thus far. Maybe I would never amount to anything. I’d die penniless, husbandless, and 401Kless.

My self-pity rant continued with a vengeance, because once I board the express train to Worthless Loserville, there’s no getting off until I reach my destination.

What a big fat waste of time all this writing crap had been. Time that could have been spent with my son, playing Monopoly and Go Fish. Time I could have used to learn Spanish, or bake cookies, or meditate.

No wonder my father didn’t love me. Who could love a loser like me? No wonder my relationships never work out. How could they? I have a huge “L” branded on my chest, and my name’s not Laverne.

Things that had no rhyme or reason began to enter into the equation at this point.

No wonder my cat throws up every time I feed her. And why I don’t get reception on the TV even though I have one of those converter boxes, which should be called crapola boxes, because they don’t work!  No wonder I was overcharged at the grocery store the other day. Because I am a LOSER.

I checked my email for the 500th time that day. Finally, there was the email that held my fate.

I took a few deep breaths. The longer I waited to open that email, the longer I was able to hold onto the elusive emotion of HOPE. Hope is like a beautiful soaring butterfly that can quickly transform itself into an ugly cockroach, smushed by a steel-toed boot at a moment’s notice.

“I have submitted a request for contract from the senior editor of the contemporary line.” Did my eyes deceive me? Were these words of acceptance? Well, almost…I suppose if I had waited longer to query I might have received an email offering an actual contract. It would have been the equivalent of “THE CALL.” But that’s what happens when you’re impatient. No matter. I’ll take this.

The heavens opened up. Colors became brighter. I had a spring in my step, and a smile on my face. It was like the feeling of being in love – only better, because there was no man involved. It was a sense of validation; all my hard work coming to fruition. One person other than my mother liking and appreciating my novel. See Dad, I’m not a loser. I can actually string sentences together to create a story that someone “enjoyed immensely.”

There is the slight chance a contract might not come through for me. The pessimist in me says, “Ain’t nothin’ final till you sign on the dotted line.” But for right now I’m walking on sunshine and feeling worthy.