It’s been two and a half months since my last blog post. In it, I announced I had finished the first full draft of Scribbles of the Empress and sent the final pages to my beta readers. As I revise heavily as I write, I believed my period of rewrites would be brief—two months—once I received feedback on the last chapters. At the end of May, I took a week off work to really push hard to complete my rewrites. I had originally booked an AirBnb in Portland for solitude and vegan food, but after flying to Colorado at the beginning of May for a work conference, I was too stressed to travel again and so I canceled it. Instead, I planned to rent a desk in a communal office during the week. I wrote there on Monday and Tuesday and got a lot of good work done. Daily parking cost more than the desk and the whole thing felt expensive, so on Wednesday, I decided I would write at Starbucks. The lobby to my usual Starbucks happened to be closed that morning, so I went to my second Starbucks, where to my surprise, an Instagram crush walked in for her morning coffee. I had problems concentrating in public, which is unusual. Maybe it only felt that way after the level of concentration I had while writing at that office. I would have gone back to the office for Thursday and Friday, despite the cost, but chose that Starbucks instead hoping my crush would come in again. She didn’t. But by Sunday, I did what I set out to do with my time off—I finished my rewrites.

Three of my beta readers are reading the entire manuscript as a whole now. Previously, they’d only ever seen it in batches, and that was over a span of thirty-three months. I’m still waiting to hear back from them. I know two of them have been busy with family commitments and the third can’t start reading until the NBA championships are over. I don’t expect anything major to come back, so I hope my next round of revisions will be minimal. I was hoping to give pages to my sister for editing by July 1, but now I think that’ll be delayed.

I’ve been talking to my psychologist about what to do now that the manuscript is pretty much out of my hands. I’ve decided not to jump into writing something new immediately. I’m going to turn my attention to trying to learn how to promote my work. I’ve been making an effort on Instagram, creating images on Canva that incorporates quotes from the new book. I’m also starting to look into TikTok because it seems like people can build large followings quite quickly. I had a stroke of luck last week when a magazine learned of my upcoming book release and asked for an interview. But beyond promotion, I told my psychologist that I want to do something, other than reading, with all this free time I have now. I even said I wanted to do something fun. So I’m thinking about taking Japanese language lessons, painting, and learning how to swim, among other things.

Instagram Image
One of my Canva creations for Instagram

My day job is really bringing me down though. I feel it’s actually affected my health as my blood pressure has recently increased and I’m now taking beta blockers as a result. I didn’t even go to the office today or yesterday because I felt too depressed about it. Yesterday, I worked from home, but today, I only replied to emails in the morning. I wish I could quit, but if I can’t support myself by being an author, I don’t know what other kind of job I’d be willing to do that paid enough. On top of this, I’m still feeling sad with letting go of Orly, now that her trilogy is complete. She’s been my constant companion since 2014. My days feel emptier without her.

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I was pulled down a whirlpool and ended up in a really dark place around May 19 and stayed there for over a week. My depression got really bad and I struggled with persistent thoughts of suicide. I told my psychologist these thoughts were the worst they’ve been since I’ve been her patient. I actually felt worried because I didn’t feel in control of myself. I believe this was result of the failed rereading of my book that I attempted on May 8, where I went back to the beginning of the book and felt nothing but disconnected from Orly and her story. I had never felt disconnected from Orly before and I panicked over it, worrying that everything we had written was shit. Stuck in this terrible place, I decided to just put it down and step away from it, hoping to return once my mood improved.

Thirty-four days have passed since I last looked at my new book. I feel like I’ve mostly come out of the depression and am in a better place now. Fourteen days ago I began thinking I might try rereading again, but I was so afraid that I would still feel disconnected and end up back at the bottom of that whirlpool that out of fear I put it off. My psychiatrist suggested not going back to Chapter One, instead going back only to Chapter Fifteen as I had been more recently immersed in that section of the book. I thought that was insightful and considered it, but ultimately I decided against it, because I know I need to go back to the beginning to assess what I have as whole so that I can begin to write new sentences, continuing where I had left off.

A picture from Starbucks
A barista wrote on the bag containing my oatmeal, thanking me for the donuts.

Yesterday, which was Friday 06/01/2021, I saved a new version of the manuscript and marked the file title with 06.12.21 in an attempt to encourage myself to try rereading today. Now that pandemic restrictions are beginning to relax, I decided to try my reread at Starbucks store 20537, which had been a second home to me while writing Scribbling the Eternal. I had not written there since the pandemic began. I woke up early so I could pick up donuts for the baristas and get a table before they were all taken, as only half the tables are available in order to promote social distancing. It became clear to me quickly that I had grown rusty at writing in public as I found it difficult to ignore the people who came and went and not hear the music being piped in over what I heard through my headphones—two songs by Mazzy Star and three by MXMS on repeat.

Despite the distractions, I remained in my seat and began to reread. I struggled to connect to my own words and I was afraid of what the consequences of that might be. Here and there I would connect and feel like I was reclaiming my hold on my story, but then some passages later, I would feel my grip upon it slip. I stopped many times, but forced my way to the end of the first chapter. I then packed up my things and left Starbucks. I headed home where I would continue in solitude, hoping that might change things. As I read, again the connection came and went. My worry increased. I took a Klonopin and later another.

I made it to the end of Chapter Three, feeling half engaged and half empty. It was an improvement from my reread in May, but it’s not enough to feel good. Not wanting to wait to see if my mood plunges, I’m going to try to keep going, in whatever increments I can and just hope to build some momentum and find my way back to when Orly and I were in this together.  

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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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