I’ve been writing pretty consistently which I’m both proud of and amazed by because I’ve been dealing with a lot of depression and anxiety lately. On Monday I had an anxiety attack while writing. That’s very unusual. I had a video session with my psychologist later that day and we talked about it. At first I thought the anxiety stemmed from the feeling that the first four chapters were basically finished and that someday readers would be seeing them as they are. But the more we talked, I realized that beyond the stress of publicly sharing what I had written, a lot of my anxiety was actually about finishing the book because it’s the last in the trilogy. I realized I’m upset because I’m not ready to let go of Orly. And as Orly Bialek was inspired by Ashley Vargas, my illustrator who died at nineteen, I feel finishing this series is like letting go of her too. I feel like after I put this book out, I’ll have nothing left to give Ashley, and that hurts me because my distorted thinking interprets that as forgetting her. Therapy sessions are often not as long as they need to be, and I still haven’t worked this out. We’ll likely talk about it again on Monday. But I know the best thing I can do for myself is to keep going, to keep writing, even if it does mean eventually getting to the end. Hopefully by publication, I’ll be convinced either by my psychologist or by my friends that finishing doesn’t mean forgetting.

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I didn’t write for two days this week. I think it’s because of depression. The murder of George Floyd, the subsequent protests, the conversations I’ve seen circulating and been engaged in regarding both, have filled me with anger and despair. I’m also struggling with disappointment in myself for not joining the protests because of the choice I’ve made to remain socially distant because of my bad lungs and having elderly parents.

Despite the depression and not writing for two days, I’ll pass 23,000 words today. I’ve also received survey responses from four of my beta readers on the first four chapters. Most of it was positive, but there are some rewrites I want to do based on their notes. My worry that the book might feel front heavy seemed to echo in the opinions of two of the beta readers. But I don’t know what I’m willing to cut. Most of Act One, and especially the lengthy third chapter, is all meant to show the layers and depths of Orly’s sadness so it will support what she sees when she scribbles herself. I’m afraid if I trim just to make the beginning shorter and less heavy on the reader, it will undermine this and the reader won’t understand why Orly sees what she does in her scribble, or at the very least won’t sympathize with her.

But as Act One ends where it needs to end in order to kick off Act Two, I can come back to this much later, perhaps even after I’ve written the last sentence of the last chapter (which I have already been composing in my head), because the depth in which I decide to dive into Orly’s heart doesn’t really determine the through line of the plot, inasmuch as it explains her motivations. My best friend, Amirah, mentioned that Orly’s feelings in these chapters are similar to the feelings I have been expressing to her as of late. Orly and I are in unison, it seems. While that would likely concern my therapist, it makes me happy, even if it is all about sadness. I don’t know if I ever said so here, but while writing The Scribbled Victims, I’d always felt at one with Yelena, that our feelings mirrored, and that I was her or she was me—chicken or the egg, whichever comes first, I don’t know.  

I had an idea this morning that I’m going to explore. I’m thinking of having The Scribbled Victims translated into Japanese. I’d really like my books to be exposed to a Japanese audience. I don’t know if that’s because I’m Japanese, or because someone long ago told me my work would resonate well in Japan, or if I’m just excited to see what the Japanese book cover would look like and how these new readers would flip through it from right to left instead of left to right.

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I’m making very good progress on the third book in the Black Wax Vampire Trilogy. It’s always my goal to write every day, but often depression makes that difficult. But in the past 54 days, I’ve written for 50 of them. On Monday, my book passed 20,000 words, and I reached the end of the first act. That was a big milestone and it felt good to get there. Just before writing this blog, I sent out the first 64 pages to my beta readers. I’m hoping they’re going to feel strongly about them and return feedback that will help shape this into the best book it can be.

I’ve complained before that I write too slowly. I see some authors touting that you need to publish X number of books a year to make it financially as a writer, and often that leaves me feeling discouraged because I doubt I’ll ever write even one book a year. Because of all the internet cookies and monitoring of web activity, some company must have caught on to my dilemma, because I woke up to an email advertising a video program that will teach me to write a book in six hours. I had to laugh. I can’t imagine what a book I wrote in six hours would look like.

Orly Bialek woke up in her casket feeling unloved. She drank scotch and scribbled some stuff with like black crayons, while everyone around her died, breaking her heart. She dropped her crayon and crawled back in her casket feeling like sad and shit. The end.

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Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve transitioned to working my day job remotely like so many others. In recent months, with the help of my psychologist, I have been trying to change my workaholic ways and no longer work after leaving the office. Most importantly, this means not checking work emails after I’ve headed home. I’ve been successful 82% of the time. But now that I’m working from home, I’ve found that I’m working longer days. Some of that is because of increased workload caused by the pandemic, but it is also because I am finding it difficult to separate work time from personal time now that I am no longer physically leaving an office. I’m working on it though.

Work stress along with the anxiety and depression that I’ve been trying to keep at bay during the unfolding of this crisis has made it difficult for me to write. It feels like I’m actively avoiding it and that just makes me more depressed. Until yesterday, I hadn’t written for nine days, and all I netted were nineteen new words. But that was something, and today I’ve netted 150, bringing this month’s total to 1,396. It’s far cry from the 6,000 I aim to write a month, but I just have to keep trying. Chapter Three continues to be a struggle, but I think the end is finally in sight.

A reader described a dream she had about Orly. With some slight embellishments, I’ve worked it into the new book as a surprise for her. I hope she likes it.

I’ve gone 90 days without checking reviews. Not checking regularly is something else I work on with my psychologist, as checking regularly hasn’t been good for my self-esteem. That’s not because of potential bad reviews inasmuch as it is when there are no new reviews. I might check soon though. I’d really like to know what people are saying about Scribbling the Eternal. Excluding friends, family, and a couple emails from readers, I really have no idea.

I hope you are all staying healthy and afloat and know that this strange world we are currently living in won’t last forever.

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Back on November 7, 2019, I posted that I felt disappointed when I went back to reread some of The Scribbled Victims. I mentioned how that always happens to me when I go back and reread my work after time has passed. That should have been such a happy day for me too, as it was the publication date of its sequel, Scribbling the Eternal.

On Monday, I told my psychologist something extraordinary happened in regard to this. I decided to listen to the audiobook version of The Scribbled Victims to try to keep me engaged with the series as I slowly write the third and final book. When I listened to it, I was no longer disappointed. I quite liked the story and felt myself loving Yelena and Orly. Sure, there were sentences I wish I could revise, different words I wish I would have used, but overall, I felt proud of it again.

I don’t know listening rather than rereading made such a difference. Maybe the credit is due to my narrator, Laura Bannister. Maybe hearing the words in her voice, rather than the one that reads aloud in my head when my eyes move over text, allowed me to appreciate it from a different and fresh perspective—as if the story was no longer my own, for I am certainly my worst critic. At any rate, I’m glad I decided to give it a listen.

I’m now listening to Scribbling the Eternal. Being so immersed in Orly’s thoughts as I listen, continually gives me new ideas and I scramble to jot them down on my reMarkable tablet. I hope this doesn’t sound egotistical, but as I write the final book, I may listen to the audiobooks over and over again, as it keeps me engaged, keeps Orly’s voice alive, and keeps the wheels of my imagination turning.

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For months I had been in stuck in a deep depression that frustrated my therapists, but I knew I just needed to wait out. At the end of October, I felt myself coming out of it, and was relieved. But for the past couple weeks, I think I’ve been in denial—thinking I wasn’t depressed yet again, but I am. And I’m despondent and angry that the respite was so brief. I’m seeing my therapists regularly and it helps, but it’s hard to even get out of bed. Yesterday, I slept for seventeen hours. I’m trying to write, but it’s hard. I have force myself to sit down to write despite how much I love writing Orly. The writing sessions are never long, but they do make me feel a little better—like the whole day wasn’t a waste. Depression is exhausting. It feels like such a struggle that I can only hope I’m able to finish this book. Right now, the pages are few, and the end so far.

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This afternoon, I approved the paperback version of Scribbling the Eternal. Within seventy-two hours it will be available on Amazon. My psychiatrist refilled my Klonopin prescription.

This evening, I experienced one of the worst things about being a writer—hating your own work. I thought of something that may have been inconsistent between The Scribbled Victims and Scribbling the Eternal, so I read some of Chapters Eighteen through Twenty of The Scribbled Victims. Fortunately, what I was looking for was consistent between the two books, but the much of the writing looked foreign to me as it had been so long since I had written it. I saw so many spots I would write differently today, and that hurt because I love Yelena and Orly, and their story together so much.

This has always been the case with me. I can be happy with something I’ve written shortly after finishing it, but after some time passes, I’m no longer satisfied with what I was once happy with. Maybe that shows I’ve grown as a writer, but it’s still unpleasant to feel such disappointment. Because of this, I generally avoid rereading my work. Right now, I feel very proud of Scribbling the Eternal, but know that months from now I won’t love it as much.

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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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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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