There is PMT or PMS, depending on which country you live in, and involves normally nice girls and women turning into monsters a few days before their periods. There is PTSD and we all know how serious that is, no matter what has caused it. There is IABOS, Independent Author Burn Out Syndrome, when an Indie Author has worked themselves into the ground and must rest or perish. And then there is PPM, Post Publishing Malaise, also mostly applicable to Indie Authors. It's that strange state we fall into after hitting the Publish button on KDP and all the work that preceded that simple action is behind us.
And that is where I am at right now. So here is how it goes. Two years of solid research into my first historical fiction novel (SARAH ANN ELLIOTT Book 1), then another year of writing it, during which I realise it will be a series of books rather than a one off. I let the story have its wicked way and by the time I have it ready for the editor, it is 400 pages. How did that happen? I do another edit myself and am reassured that it needs to stay exactly as it is. It goes off to the professional editor and I begin the process of updating all my sites - Facebook, Twitter, my website, etc etc etc. That takes a day of non-creative slog. Then I decide on the cover and it's done at my end. I have given the editor my brief and a timeframe of a month and I know she will have the manuscript back to me by the deadline.
While I wait for the editor to do her stuff, I begin outlining Book 2 in the SARAH ANN ELLIOTT series and am excited by the story I still have to tell. I also turn my attention to the next book I will publish, OLD FARTS ON A BUS, and I have a lot of fun with that. It flows because the creative energy is still there. And then the editor is finished, I make the changes needed, upload Book 1 on KDP and hit the Publish button. And there is nothing more to do.
Well, that's not exactly true. I should be tackling the marketing and promoting campaign, but something is happening that I can't seem to control. It isn't IABOS. I am familiar with the total wipeout that causes, the fatigue, depression, anxiety, feelings of low self worth etc etbloodycetera. I recognise IABOS now and deal with it accordingly. This is more a surreal, dreamy state in which I know I have worked hard, a lot has happened inside my head to get this book finished, my writing brain knows the creative stuff is finished (until I start Book 2) but the business end of being an Indie Author is awaiting my attention, and I must step into that space and focus. But my brain will not obey. I start doing other things in short bursts - water the pots, empty the ironing basket, hem my black trousers, order ten lipsticks online because they are on sale, ring my sister for a two hour chat about nothing in particular, go out to lunch with my husband because I can't be bothered making a tuna sandwich, and snacking. Lots of snacking.
Now, when you snack, you need somewhere comfortable to sit. That's usually my recliner in front of my TV. Hubby and I have separate TV rooms and we firmly believe it is the secret to a happy marriage. He watches Fox Sport, reality shows about police and prisons and current affairs programs. Being a writer with my toes in the screenwriting world (had my first short film FLAMES screened last year) who writes mostly for women, I watch well produced, well written dramas, comedies and sagas aimed at the female demographic. No soaps or reality shows. Never that. So while I'm snacking, I decide to catch up on the good stuff I've missed out on because I've been in my study writing so much. And I realise that there are 7 seasons of Game of Thrones, but I have only seen 3. Oh boy, a distraction! A major distraction! Better than a squirrel!
So I snack and binge watch all 7 seasons back to back and it is glorious! It is so good that it clears my mind completely of the book I have just finished and it feels like someone has gone into the attic and dusted, vacuumed, cleaned and polished my brain. Hosed it out, blow dried it and made it habitable again. Seriously. That is what it feels like. Cobwebs all gone. And I wonder at the state I had fallen into, to be able to sit in a chair and watch TV for a couple of weeks without a break. Oh well, I did go to bed for a few hours at night, and I did eat when Hubby cooked, and I did shower and change clothes. But I didn't go out for a walk or do my regular morning exercises or watch my diet. I just let it all go. Not like me at all. I didn't feel depressed or anxious or particularly tired. I just didn't want to be bothered for awhile. With anything.
I've always said that writing is like surfing. You wait for that creative wave to come along and you grab it and surf it with all your heart. When it has passed, you paddle until the next wave comes along. I had been surfing the writing wave without a break for so long, now I just needed to paddle in shallow water for awhile. And it worked!
The malaise is passing and I can feel the mental and creative energy returning. I'm writing this, aren't I? I love writing and it distresses me if I lose that passion. How would I fill the void if I couldn't write? While IABOS (see my previous blog about that) is devastating and can leave you wiped out for long periods of time, PPM is more like a coffee break that you need to take with fresh choc chip muffins, soft music and a beautiful view to stare at for an uninterrupted length of time. A coffee break that can last for a few days or a few weeks. You can still function, you still feel well and sane, you just don't wanna write!
Stay out of the study. Don't turn your computer on. If you do, you'll just sit and stare at it and wonder why you turned it on in the first place. If you are like me and don't read other books while you are writing your own (outgoing conflicts with incoming, something about the voices of the characters in your head), well now is the moment to pick up another author's work and wallow in it. Or binge watch your favourite TV shows. Or catch up with friends who thought you had moved because they hadn't heard from you for so long.
Recharge and renew. PPM can actually be thoroughly enjoyable when you understand what it is. Oh, and when you check your sales report on KDP and nothing much is happening, don't be too concerned. Indie Authors must realise they are in it for the long haul. Your published work will outlive you. Bet you hadn't thought about that. It's out there and it's going to stay out there. You have plenty of time to get onto that marketing and promoting campaign. You have plenty of time to connect with your readers and watch those sales figures gradually increase. Sure, your books will peak and subside, that is true for all books, but you'll have moved on to your next book and, hopefully, will be focused on what really matters. And that is telling stories. Good stories. And PPM will happen again, and again. Learn to expect it and and cater to it.
It's a writer's life. That's all it is. And a writer's life can be pretty bloody good. Enjoy it!