During my cabin stay in Idyllwild-Pine Cove, I didn’t write the 30,000 words I had hoped for. I only netted 3,779 new words over five days. But I still think the retreat was a success for four reasons. The first is that I completed the first two chapters of the book. The second is that my beta readers loved the chapters (and they didn’t dislike Orly for what she does in Chapter Two). The third is that I’ve created momentum to keep going. The fourth is that I only needed extra anxiety medicine on one day during my stay.

I was supposed to be there for seven nights, but I only stayed for five. The isolation got to me. Even though I don’t generally interact with strangers in public, I still like to see that they’re there. I wanted to write where it was familiar—Starbucks store 20537. And so I left Thursday morning. It’s Sunday now and I’ve added 1,215 new words. I also began writing a story about Orly before she meets Yelena and her friendship with Abdul-Samad who is mentioned in Chapter Twenty-Two of The Scribbled Victims.

I also sent out a newsletter for the first time in a long time. I received many responses from readers which made me very happy. I’m going to try sending a newsletter once a month. Click here if you’d like to sign up.

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Late this afternoon, I arrived in Idyllwild-Pine Cove where I rented an A-frame cabin for a week so that I could write without distraction. I plan to work on the third book in the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy, although I also have a short story on my mind about Orly before she meets Yelena.

My goal coming here was to write 30,000 new words. I looked back at entries in my personal blog from the end of July 2015 when I took a similar trip to Bainbridge Island, also to write in solitude, also from a Saturday to Saturday, and noticed I also had a goal of 30,000 words. I remember I went on that trip because I had eight chapters of The Scribbled Victims and was stuck. I was struggling to figure out the mechanics of how Yelena would be able to adopt Orly. By Monday, I wanted to trash the story. But Tuesday, I spent a day in nature and then sat back down Wednesday and kept at it. On Thursday I had a breakthrough: Yelena would not succeed in adopting Orly. Once that dawned on me, I was able to keep going. I didn’t come anywhere near 30,000 new words, but by September of 2016, I finished writing the book.

As I mentioned in my two previous posts, my depression has been bad lately. My psychologist and psychiatrist are concerned about me being isolated for so long. My anxiety has been bad as well, but my anxiety was also bad in Bainbridge, and on that trip I succeeded in taking only three Klonopins and as I said, I had the breakthrough I needed. So, I’m hoping for a very good and serene writing week, even if I don’t hit 30,000 words. It’s just a number. It’s just a goal to keep myself motivated. I already have a good start. On the winding mountain road that brought me here, I acted out a scene, and when I arrived, I wrote down the last lines of a character who won’t live to see the end of the third book.  

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My depression persists. I believe it’s actually gotten worse. Down the spiral I go. Every day it’s a struggle to get out of bed. Yet somehow, with my new daily writing goal of just ten minutes, I’ve been able to make myself write every day this past week. My daily word count is minimal, but that’s not the point.

Yesterday I watched three videos posted on the Patreon page of an artist whose work I admire a lot—Elly Smallwood. She talked about doing your own thing as an artist and the importance of not comparing yourself to others. It helped to be reminded of those things, as I’ve been feeling like a failure as a writer. For some time I’ve been measuring my success by number of readers—something Elly would refer to as external validation. I need to relearn that the success is in the doing—in the writing and in the completion of work. Everything else comes second or not in any place at all. I think I often forget this because I spend too much time looking at social media, where it’s easy to compare myself to others and subsequently put myself down.

I need to stop looking around me and pay more attention to what I’m working on. Later this month I’m going to spend a week in a cabin I rented in Idyllwild for a writing retreat. I hope by then I have a better handle on my depression so that I make use of all that quiet time by writing my new book and not sleeping the days away.  

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Though sessions with my psychologist have been helpful, I continue to slip deeper into my depression. When it gets bad like this, I just don’t want to do anything but stay in bed, so I’ve been struggling to push myself to do things—to go to work, to exercise, even to read.

For a long time, my daily writing goal had been thirty minutes. I find it effective to set easy goals so that it is more likely that I will complete them. With having a day job that often leaves me mentally exhausted, it’s more palatable to contend with a goal of thirty minutes than one of three hours. The aim is just to get myself to sit down and start writing, because once writing I usually lose track of time and, consequently, I exceed the goal.

But in this depression, even thirty minutes felt daunting, and as such I hadn’t written any new words since August 25th. So today I decided to reduce my daily writing goal to just ten minutes. It worked, at least for today. I put on music, sat down, and wrote for hours. I finally had to stop as I was running late to have dinner with my friend Brie. (Again, I’m pushing myself to do things, and seeing friends helps.)

I’m still very early in the new book and the sentences are not coming easily. I’m trying to content myself with how the passages are building—one upon the next—but already I can see they’re made mostly of sentences I will later rewrite.

Orly feels more mature though. And that was I wanted.

But the point is, I’ve responded to my depression in a way that worked, in a way that allowed me to write—at least for today.

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