Lady Sings the Blues – Cedar Sanderson

Lady Sings the Blues – Cedar Sanderson

 

There comes a time in every artists/author’s/person’s life when they get a case of the blues. I dealt with that the other day on the heels of A. finishing a novel and B. finding out I’d flunked an exam. But surely, you say, finishing a novel is a great achievement, one to be celebrated? Well, the problem is that with any big project, there’s a certain feeling that goes along with the finishing of it, turning it over to other more critical eyes for an assessment, and you left holding your breath hoping that it isn’t as horrible as it looked when you let go of it.

It is a lot, I told one of my friends when she expressed concern about my glumping in private, like post-partum. Here you have this wonderful new thing that you labored over for so long, trying to wait breathlessly until it was all done… and then reality hits. With a baby, that’s a balance of the wonders of snuggles and feeding, and the midnight feedings and lack of sleep and lack of energy, and OMG, am I an adequate parent? Not even shooting for good, am I good enough? And the mountain of diapers and laundry, and… I’ve been there, done that. Delivering a book has some of those sensations.

And, now that I have had four children, and this was my sixth book, I know that there are certain inevitable consequences to certain actions. One of those is that for several days, I will feel sore and slightly hungover after delivery. But on the other hand, all that experience has taught me that I don’t have to lay there and take it. There are things that can be done, both before and after, to ameliorate the effects of the blues. And I will be clear: I’ve been depressed, and this ain’t that. This rises to the level of mopery, not ‘can’t function’ and if you’re there, then you need to talk to a doc.

In no particular order, then, and keeping in mind you don’t have to do all of them, and some may not work for you, here are ideas for driving off the blues.

Eat right and exercise. I know, everyone says this. But everyone is right. Without the fuel you need, you’re going to feel bad. And even if you’re using this to help recover from childbirth, not just finishing a significant project like a book or a piece of art, the exercise applies. You just might have to take it slow at first. For me, I eat horribly when I’m in the endstage of a book or artwork. I eat whatever is fast and easy, and then wonder why I’m sluggish and foggy. Having someone to remind you to eat is good, if you’re on your own, consider setting alarms/timers to remind you of mealtimes. Eating regularly is important, too.

Exercise does so much good for the brain. I really can’t emphasize it enough especially for a writer. If you can get outside – and that was part of my problem with the book, the weather was dreadful – it has the dual benefit of getting you away from the computer and social media. Fresh air, endorphins, and maybe a companion you’ve been neglecting… all healthful to mind and body.

Some of the odder things I do include getting a book and climbing into bed with it, or the bathtub. I realize as a new mom, this one’s harder. On the other hand, one-handed works a whole lot better with an e-reader while you nurse. Again… experience. But this little escapism can be essential to stepping outside the mundane and irritating world for a while.

I put up a birdfeeder a couple of weeks ago, where I can see it from my office window. This gives me a lot of pleasure, and keeps me from staring at the computer screen for uninterrupted hours. It cost I think $5 for the feeder gadget and a suet block, and it’s better than TV.

Which is another thing. Don’t watch TV. I shut off cable years ago, and I don’t miss the talking heads one little bit. I still stay current on the news, with the internet, and I am not subjecting myself to the carefully-designed emotional manipulation of ‘news’ shows. I watch a little programming on Netflix and Amazon streaming, but I’m choosy about it.

I get off social media when I’m feeling blue. There is so much coming at me, and I can’t afford to have a public meltdown, for many reasons. I see it happen to others, and I’m sympathetic, but I don’t want to have a weak moment and do it myself. I will however talk to a trusted friend. Might not talk about the concerns at hand, but just talking can be helpful. As can writing a rant out into the word processor, saving it, and filing it under ‘venting.’ For some reason my brain wants me not to just close the file without saving, but whatever works for you.

I will also seek out a ‘funny’ site. I’ve got a few that will usually have me rolling on the floor before too long. LOLCats, that sort of thing… There, I fixed It! Is highly amusing to me for some reason. Because my humor tends to ‘black’ I also really enjoy the things I learn from my patients thread, although I don’t go often any more, it’s slowed down over the years.

But mostly, I know this too will pass. I hug my loved ones and warn them of what’s happening. As a mother, it took a lot longer to recover and settle back into a routine than it does after a book. But the warmth oozes back into life, and life does go on. The beta readers don’t hate the book. The babies grow up to be smart, adorable, and surprisingly ept little people when you aren’t looking. And because I’m a writer, I start the whole process again!

 

87 responses to “Lady Sings the Blues – Cedar Sanderson

  1. Something I forgot to put in the post… I try to clean up my clutter, too, when I’m getting the blues. I spent some time shoveling off my desk during the blue day. It really helps, and helps to make a list and refocus on what needs doing still.

  2. For some reason (grin) your comments on finishing a novel remind me of MR. EARBRASS (http://www.cs.rutgers.edu/~village/295/unstrung-harp.pdf)

  3. The one advantage of keeping projects running in parallel is that switching at the end as quickly as possible helps blunt the sensation.

    Not sure if it compensates for the disadvantages, but — try telling the muse that!

  4. Surely the best solution to finishing a novel is to start writing the sequel. My general criticism of most authors is that they do not write books as fast as I can read them 🙂

    • The transition can be rough, even if you do as much to smooth it out as you can.

      • I am reminded of Zelazny’s second Amber series. The first 4 books ended as if he had gotten in the word length of the next installment and published.
        What I would certainly call a ‘rough’ transition.

        • I’d go further than that. The first Amber series, and virtually everything else I’ve read by him grabs me by the throat and keeps me turning pages, even after twenty readings.

          I no longer own any of the second Amber series. It seemed he was filling the pages with filler, and you might have to turn several pages to find the story again. My take on it anyway.

          • You are being nice about the several pages. I am thinking of the monochrome ‘reality under shadows’ and choosing between Order and Chaos. As I remember, it was about 1/3 of a book, and seemed to serve no purpose whatsoever.

    • This particular book hasn’t got a sequel – it’s the finale of a trilogy. On the other hand, I’m beginning preliminary research on the next book. And as for writing as fast as folks can read… not going to happen!

      • Yeah, not all books have sequels. One of the surest formulas for trouble is to forget C. S. Lewis’s wise words: “There are only two times at which you can stop a thing: one is before everyone is tired of it, the other is after!”

        • Yep – I have seen far too many series that petered out, jumped the shark, or both. So this one is done. I may revisit the world, the characters, but the next book up is totally different. Gives me a break, for one thing.

          • A few weeks ago I wrote the last chapter of the last book of a series where only the first two books exist. Hopefully that will prevent it from becoming one of the undead.

          • I once asked an author if he was going to follow up a trilogy; he said no, he’d started it too long ago and couldn’t regain that though process. I’m overdue to reread it.

          • Yeah, I’d really rather be left wanting more than left going, “Well…THAT should have ended three books earlier.”

            • Amen to that. The last several Pern books really had that awful feeling for me.

              The last couple of Darkover books also have the feeling that the posthumous collaborator is looking for a point at which to bring it to a final conclusion and say good-bye.

              • I’m concerned that Honor Harrington is getting to that point as well. I know it has for some folks, but I’m not quite there.

                • I think Honor herself has 1-2 more books left, which take her through the Mesan Alignment War. After that, the Honorverse could probably support some additional books, but Honor would be a cameo at most.

                  • And that’s not a bad thing.

                    I’ve always been a fan of how Raymond Fiest did the Krondor books. A few books with one set of characters, then the next series has new characters with the previous stars as supporting characters or cameos. It added a realism to the world I really enjoyed.

  5. c4c

  6. I think, too, an author can get tired of the characters themselves if a series go on too long and doesn’t treat them as well as he should. It is a good thing to step away from a world once in a while.

    • The other thing is that requires either no character development or increasing plausible stretches to make the characters change.

    • I go tired of some of the characters before I finished my first book, and was sorely tempted to have the villain prevail and put their heads up on pikes.

  7. Nothing is so relaxing as a trip to the range. The smell of burnt gun powder, the sound of gunfire, the recoil massaging your sore muscles, the ring of bullets impacting steel (if you have steel targets), and little pieces of paper floating away from the holes in your targets. Sigh. I feel happier and more relaxed just thinking about it…

  8. “And as for writing as fast as folks can read… not going to happen!”

    I finished Vulcan’s Kittens yesterday and downloaded and read The God’s Wolfling all because I am waiting for Dragon Noir. 🙂

    Also, my middle finger to the SJW crowd. I am a old white male and I related to Linn just fine.

  9. Frankly, I’m disappointed to learn that you are cheered up by cat porn. It just shows the degradation of the feline race is still celebrated among the privileged.

    😉

    • Well, there’s always the one with the drunk squirrel. Or the GI freeing the rat that fell in the trashcan in the barracks…only to have a bird swing in and snatch it up seconds after being released.

  10. Agree with Sam and Csp- 63 and don’t give a rats ass about the SJWs. Re the writing, I’m working on the third in what is probably going to end up as a four book series. My ‘cure’ for the blues is a range day too! The zen of shooting clears my mind and makes me focus on the whole front sight, press process… 🙂

  11. That whole “I did it, now what?” feeling can be pretty rough. I can’t say I’ve finished a novel or given birth (I’m a dude, I got my kids the easy way.) but lord knows I’ve looked the end of the semester in the face a few times with 80+ pages due the same week. Probably the hardest “It’s over” moment for me has been walking away from the closing ceremonies at the Breast Cancer 3 Day.

    The solution is to do what I do, I think: Whatever you need to do to get your mind off of “OMG, it’s over.” For me that usually involved a crying kiddo and/or forty hour work weeks plus school. The main thing is that you WILL get through it. It’s just going to take time.

  12. Sunday morning the day before Memorial Day, every year for the last 11 or 12 years, I experience this feeling. I’m one of the chief range officers for the Bianchi Cup National Action Pistol Championships. The main match runs Wednesday through Friday the week before Memorial Day, with shoot-offs and showing off on Saturday followed by the Banquet Saturday night. So Sunday morning is…bittersweet and melancholy. It’s a combination of, “YAY! It’s over! I need to go back to work so I can rest up from the vacation.” and, “Man, this sucks. It’s going to be a whole freaking year until I get to see all my friends from around the world again.” Being able to disengage my brain and enjoy the scenery on the three hour drive home helps me recover most of the way. The rest of it just has to fade as life goes on over the following weeks.

  13. Mine if I ask what the course is? Does it help when I mention that I once got a 26 on an inorganic chemistry exam–I dropped the course!

    • I’ve taken science classes where 26 was a passing grade. . . .

      • The Other Sean

        Curve?

        I once took the first-ever offering of Physical Anthropology course entitled Primate Locomotion. It was a 600-level course but they’d misclassified it as 300-level (fixed after that first time), and after the results of the first exam had been posted, the class was down to half its initial size due to the number of people who’d done really poorly or outright flunked. The professor offered some awesome extra-credit options to help out, but apparently the math, physics, and reasoning involved in the subject was just too much effort for some people. (Particularly if they were expecting 300-level work.)

        I thought it was fairly easy, although it required a decent understanding of basic physics (lever systems, rotational motion, stress/strain), basic algebra and trigonometry skills, and the ability to map those to biological realm and the other way. Many of my classmates apparently disagreed, as the class was down to about 35% its starting size by the end of the quarter.

      • TINS: The hardest course I took in grad school was Ecosystem Biology. After the first exam, the profs set the curve. Why? Because every course in that dept. had to match the bell curve precisely. There were some interesting calculations done to ensure that, apparently. I didn’t object, because I managed to keep my 4.0. But h-ll, I was scared of flunking, curve or no curve. I spent four weeks out of every six studying for the next exam.

        • I hate that form of “curve.” It presupposes a sufficient sample size, and no class within a reasonable limit is going to be big enough to get a significant statistical sample. I much prefer a “curve” where the top score sets the A, as long as that is a reasonable top score.

          Hardest class I ever took was what should have been a second semester college physics course, general topics—but the professor believed in depth as well as breadth and we raced through EM, optics, and relativity at top speed. I don’t think there was a single exam period that did not have 99% of the class still in their seats at the end, and he was fond of questions like “You have a sphere of variable charge according to this equation, surrounded by a sphere of fixed charge out to here, and you have point V. Find the charge at that point.”

          I actually pulled a B in that class, through the dint of much hard effort and the professor’s grading style. He gave a certain percentage for in-class quizzes, for instance, where half of the value was putting your name on the paper and turning it in (so he wouldn’t have to waste time with a roll call.) He had a certain percentage for homework. And his overall tactic was to have your points reflect your minimum grade—if he saw improvement over the semester, he would bump your final grade up because you’d obviously been learning. I can’t imagine how else I would have gotten a B. I liked the class but was in a panic the whole time because I had scholarships on the line*.

          Incidentally, I got the thought experiments on relativity correct, like the twin question (when one is at a relativistic speed and they see one another, what do they see?) I credit much exposure to science fiction for that one.

          *If I had lost the scholarships, I would have had to drop out of college. That was pretty panic-inducing.

          • IIRC we started with 120 or so (this was the up-or-out course for two departments) and ended with 80. I was the only grad student.

        • Easy way for a teacher to practically guarantee a good bell curve on a test:
          Multiple choice. 80% of the questions should be so easy that anyone passing in the hallway knows the answer. The remaining 20% should be incredibly obscure references to some text that was provided as required reading, but never covered in class. Any student should be able to get an 85% by random chance alone, a lovely tapering curve will go up to 100%.

          • I once took a course where the professor did not curve. He normally started with 100 students, ended with 20, and flunked half. He gave us a sheet to work out our grades on, points for each thing.

            There were rumors that his grades had been handed back to him with the order that he could not flunk that many students.

            Well, he blew it my year. The first test was a nice bell curve peaking in the mid 70s. The second was a nice bell curve peaking on 50, and he handed it back the day after the drop deadline. (That was the one I took with the flu. I was one of two students who got over 100 on it.)

            Well, I used the sheet and walked into the final happy to know that if I got a zero, I still got a D. I could get a C with a 25, and a B with a 75, and could not get an A.

            I got an A. I suspect I could have added to the rumors.

            • I took Geology to finish out my general studies requirements. My professor used to work for the USGS in the field, and actually taught at…Harvard, before returning to the town he was born in to get away from the stupidity of the Ivy League. Last day of class he asked me to stay a moment after. He asked me to not show up to the final – after he’d curved the grade for the class, I could take a zero on the final and still get a high B. So if I would stay home and not ruin the curve for everybody else, I could have my A. I didn’t buy the book for the class until after the final – I offered one of the girls $5 more than the bookstore was offering so I could read the parts we hadn’t covered in class.

            • All these comments on grading on a curve get my stomach *riled* up — and the problem isn’t you, it’s me. I don’t even know what all these kinds of curves are, but in the 1970s, as a middle-aged college student, I stirred up a “hornet’s nest” in a public health class for several reasons: 1) Two or three of the girls, who were a generation younger than I, didn’t like me (I decided that was because they hated their mothers. Anything I said, they would contradict). 2) During the mid-term exam, a bunch of them made a point of sitting as close to me as they could (large class; small room; and those horrible wooden desk-chairs). And whispered in my direction: “What’s number seven?” “What’s the answer to number twelve?” while I selfishly kept my paper completely hidden. 3) The grades were given out on a field trip to the public waste facility, I think. How appropriate! I didn’t even know until then that we were being graded on a curve, but there were a lot of thunder-bearing faces turned my way, and unprintable comments. I have no memory of what my score was, but there was a cluster probably a dozen or so points below me. I got the only A. I heard one man say rather pettishly, “I would have gotten an A if it wasn’t for her!” (So would a bunch of other people.) My thought was, I WORKED for my grade –why give it away? Should I have gone and hidden in a cornfield instead of taking the exam? (Wrong time of year — the corn had been harvested.)

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Well, I hated “grading on the curve”.

                If I did “D” work on a test, I’d rather get the “D” than get an “A” only because I did better on the test than my class-mates.

                It’s if I “earned” a D, I should get a “D”.

                That may be crazy of me but who said I’m not crazy. [Very Big Grin]

              • When I was in college, there was a group of students who complained about part-time students “busting the curve”, with the arguments being that, since they were part-time, they had lots more time to study than the full-time students.

                Then one of the “curve busters” responded to the article in the school paper, saying that of course she was part time – she had a full time job and was raising a family. That’s all she had time for, and most of the rest of them were in similar circumstances. IIRC, she ended her letter with something to the effect of, “If these other students weren’t out partying all the time, maybe they could get their studying done, too.”

    • The flunked exam is Genetics. Organic Chemistry is rough, this semester, but not that scary since I did manage a C in it last semester :/ There are times I ask myself just why I chose to push for the STEM, when I could have had a 4.0 in say, business school, or English.

      • Because you’d have to live with the degree?

      • Because STEM has more job opportunities? Also the pool of STEM grads is smaller than the pool of business and english majors?

      • Think about why you’re have trouble with this course. When I flunked my first physics test, it was due to needing more math _first_. I dropped the course, then took it the following year, after a year of calculus.

        • I don’t think it’s lack of foundation. I’m waiting to see the exam (we had a snow day last week and missed this class), but I know already that he likes ‘trick’ questions, and he hadn’t handed back some of the homework but the same questions were on the exam.

      • I changed away from STEM because I realized (after a semester and a half, I’m slow sometimes) that while I could *do* it, I wasn’t enjoying it. And we’re not even talking about “do a job you dislike.” It was “do this job and burn out in two years.”

        The funniest part was all the people who had been telling me for a couple of years that they didn’t see me as an engineer. Because I’m actually an artist in my soul. (NB: The descriptor “artist” carries no guarantee of quality. It’s more of a viewpoint and an ability to recognize quality and skill when I see it.)(And as an artist raised by a science major and an engineer, I can actually trace the source of my being Odd.)

        • You’re slow? YOU’re slow? I worked as a translator for two years before I realized that while I was very good at it, I hated doing it and it was making me into a rabid female dog.

        • I think I’m going to really like it. My major will be Forensic Science and Investigation with a minor (a few credits shy of dual major, but I’m dropping that goal in favor of escaping a year early) in microbiology. I love the hands-on. I hate the jumping-through-hoops for the professors. Some profs are fantastic, good teachers, and worth learning from. Others are exercises in frustration. I have the artist thing going on already…

  14. I used to read that “things I learn from my patients” for some good laughs… SOCMOB

  15. This essay brought a laugh of recognition. Some years ago I wrote a non-fiction book. It summarized the literature on selecting research projects. I pored over all kinds of obscure journals, and bugged my tech library to get reprints of articles not on their shelves. I missed a deadline, but finally got the thing done. My reaction at that point was, after all that work, will anyone really want it? I mentioned that to a writer friend, Her reply was, “Joe, what you’ve got is the post-partum blues.” Well, the book is still in print and still paying occasional royalties. One high point came when I was a visiting professor in Turkey. As part of my academic research, I visited several industrial research labs around Istanbul. When I walked into the office of the director of one of the labs, there was a copy of my book on his desk. So, post-partum blues or not, the book was worth the effort.