One of my “Lows” as an Author

Today I wanted to talk about something many artists–no matter what kind of art they practice–struggle with: lows.

We have them sometimes as often as we have “highs.” When I say “highs” I am talking about those moments where you feel on top of the world, like you’ve accomplished everything you’ve ever dreamed of, and when I talk about “lows” I am talking about those moments that often follow our “highs.”

For me, the lows that follow highs are the hardest, not because they are emotional but because they are difficult to understand. The day before, filled with a high, you feel confident and beyond excited. It’s almost paralyzing when a low hits you the next morning. I wanted to talk about the one that I struggle with the most in the hopes of helping other writers (or artists) understand they aren’t alone or strange to be confused about these highs and lows as I have felt before.

My hardest lows happen when I finish a book.

As many of you know, I finished Seconds Before Sunrise recently. Granted, I “finished” writing it in high school, but the finalized version is MUCH different than the original, not because my publisher has asked me to change it, but because I decided to change a lot. I’ve grown up a lot since I first wrote it, I’ve learned a lot about writing, so I practically rewrote the entire trilogy when it was signed with AEC Stellar Publishing, Inc. Therefore, I’m still experiencing the “high” of finishing it, followed by the “low” the day after.

The low comes from the realization that the novel is over. The creating is done. The adventure has settled, and it’s ready to be shared, but I’m no longer traveling within words, and it takes me a while to get into another novel afterwards, because it’s hard for me to let go of my previous work.

So what do I do to cope with it?

Previously, I’ve talked about going back, reflecting on my childhood or another time where my love for writing was a little more pure, naive to the changes that must be made when an artist grows into another stage of being an artist. And it helps. This is why I decided I wanted to share the piece of me that got me out of my recent “low.”

14 years old and reading as usual
14 years old and reading as usual

I was 14 when this photo was taken, which, roughly speaking, is when I started writing Seconds Before Sunrise. (Remember, I wrote Seconds Before Sunrise before Minutes Before Sunset.) I had yet to publish November Snow, and I was still dreaming of the day I could hold my published works in my hands. Perhaps this is why I held onto a “Personal Profile” my freshman English teacher had us fill out on my first day of high school so she could get to know us better. Below are the two answers that brought my author love out of that low: (excuse my handwriting; it hasn’t been right since I broke my left hand and had to switch to my right hand)

20131010_193544 20131010_193555

When I read further, I was asked what my greatest goal was, and I said “to publish a book.” The perfect gift for me would be “a Barnes & Noble gift card” and when I get older, I wanted to be “an author.” I also said my favorite quote was “An ambition is a dream with a V8 engine” said by my favorite singer, Elvis Presley. I realized my dream was my focus in this questionnaire that I’m sure no one expected me to keep as one of the most important documents I have today.

I talked about my dreams, and, at the time, I kept it to remind myself of my goals. Since this was August 18, 2005, I was completely oblivious that November Snow would be published two years later or that Minutes Before Sunset would be published in 2013.

Today, this paper still reminds me of my goals, which I think is beautiful thing. In a sense, my 14-year-old self can still cheer me on. Even more important, I am reminded that I can cheer myself on by believing in everything I’ve done throughout the years. I may have been scribbling down answers as fast as I could (because who likes to spend hours on homework) but I still knew what I desired most: to live my life pursuing what I love most–writing–and I did.

As I continue to follow this dream, I have added more goals to my writer’s dream. Back then, all I wanted was my published book in my hands. Today, I want to help other aspiring writers achieve the same dream, and I also want to encourage other people to follow their dreams, no matter what it is. I want to challenge archetypes and stereotypes in literature. I want to depicts characters young adults today can relate to, learn from, and grow with. And I’m doing this by having the goal of challenging myself. In order to do this, I have to believe in myself, even in my lows, and I do, which is something much easier to write than to actually do. But, nevertheless, I know I’m not alone in this and no artist is alone in this.

We’re going to have days we’re on top of the world, and we’re going to have nights where we’re not sure if we should continue pursuing our dreams the next morning. But we get up anyway, because we know we can’t stop, because we can’t stop passion. We can’t stop a dream.

The point of this post has became less about my “lows” as an author and more about how we can stay in that “high” by reminding ourselves of what matters: happiness. And I hope this helps others find a place where happiness already resides: in our dreaming hearts.


31 thoughts on “One of my “Lows” as an Author

  1. It sounds like you are working through it nicely, Shannon. I think I know about the low after a high, but I would not presume to offer advice, because I have not experienced the highs that you have. It is probably similar to getting a job that several people sought, or fathering a healthy baby, or even finishing a hard project for the church. I assume that we are more alike than different, with a sliding scale for accomplishments, according to our ability. I will pray for you though, that God, himself, might give you peace and direction in those low times. That will be better than anything I could offer. Blessings to you in general and for your recent accomplishment.

  2. Wow. What an insightful and encouraging post. I kept a few things from my elementary school years that remind me of my dreams too and reading this brought me to tears because I know that my 14-year old self would be proud of where I’m at today and would be cheering me on to go even further. I’ve come a long way in reaching a few of my goals – but I also have a long way to go to fulfill them to the fullest extent. This was just the encouragement I needed to keep on going. Thank you!

  3. What a great post! I just experienced a high for myself. When I was in high school my English teacher told me that when I get published, she wanted the first copy. I’ve held onto that for about 13 years and yesterday I sent out the published book for her. I was so excited: this was the moment I had been waiting for my whole life! After I sent it I felt strange. It was over…What if she didn’t like it? What if she was terribly offended by the writing? What if she spit on it and threw it in the garbage? These lows can really get a grip on you. I had to remind myself that even if what was written wasn’t her kind of literature, I had held up my end of the deal and that at the end of the day I’m writing for me, not for anyone else. It’s like you said, I had to think back to when I was 11 years old and decided I wanted to write, how exhilarating, new, and wonderful it was to get lost in your own fantasy.

    1. That is such a great story! Thank you for sharing this. I think it’s beautiful how you came through with your side of the deal so many years later. I’m sure that teacher was touched that you kept them in your mind and writer’s heart.

  4. When I read something like this I realise that I am not alone. I am plagued by depression and find it incredibly hard to even function at times. Likewise, when I am not feeling down, the contrast is so startling that even ordinary moods seem like a high.

    Right now, my frame of mind is oscillating from one day to the next: I never know when I wake up whether I’ll be enthusiastic or apathetic. This is quite frustrating, to say the least.

    I smiled to myself when I read about your lows after completing a novel. I have had those exact feelings. I am a single parent and almost never go out other than to collect my daughter from school or to take her somewhere. I live like a hermit at all other times. The characters that I write about become my imaginary friends. For me, then, ending a book is like losing my closest companions. I almost mourn their loss.

    I think that this is one of the reasons that I skip editing and publishing in favour of writing something new…I want to make some new friends!

    Thank you for being so open and honest. I look forward to hearing more from you.

  5. I love that you share this with such honesty. I am working with one of my high school students on her book. She’s written the first draft, and instead of having her complete my traditional research paper, I’m having her edit chapters and write a book proposal. Can you possibly either get back to me or write a post about how to get that “book deal”? She would love it, and I would too!!

    1. Good for your student! To get a deal, I’d need more information to be able to help her. Genre, word count, synopsis, and what kind of publishing she’s looking at: traditional, small press, self-publish. There are a lot of options out there. Hope this helps.

  6. Your post is very timely for me. I really enjoyed reading it because I identified with much of what you say. I published my novel less than a month ago and my emotions have been swinging all over the place. I am envious of my husband who is still immersed in the writing of his novel because I remember the bliss of writing with no agenda, no deadline,when the world didn’t even know about my labour of love that was taking up all of my waking (and sometimes sleeping) thoughts. Without meaning to be maudlin, I believe there will be nothing like that feeling again, at least not in a sustained way.Attaining your dream beings a whole set of new demands and challenges. Thanks for putting it into words for me 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you found solace in it as that was my purpose of sharing my personal experiences. I don’t know if this will help, but I also struggle sometimes with the deadline aspect. In order to deal with it, I might take a day to write something new, just for me, something that isn’t on a deadline or has the expectations to be read, and it brings back that time where there was only love and no pressure to bring it down.

  7. “another time where my love for writing was a little more pure, naive to the changes that must be made when an artist grows into another stage of being an artist.” it’s hard but it’s the right thing to do. Im happy that you’ve been living the dream. you’re an inspiration 🙂

  8. I think it’s harder for creative people. We seem to feel things more deeply. It is sad when a book is finished, but I’m not sure I’ve ever felt too low about it as I am happy with how things have ended and know that even if it is finished on paper, it will never be finished in my head because the characters will live on and on.

    1. That’s very true! I actually had a funny conversation with a good friend of mine about what I believe happens to my characters after the book is finished. He asks why I don’t include it in an epilogue, and I explained that I want the reader to be left with their imagination running, because, to me, that’s what stories become: an adventure into the reader’s imagination rather than the writer. You’re right. They always live on.

  9. Great post! I was amazed how bummed I was when I completed my first novel. Here I thought I’d be thrilled but – WRONG! When I asked other writers they admitted the same thing happened to them. I felt completely uninspired. My serious lack of inspiration lasted a much longer than I wanted. But, finally, I’m writing my second novel. This time it’s very different. My first was a story I’d had since I was 15 (sound familiar?), and this new one is completely original. Much more of a challenge. So, I’m going slowly, working on character development, action pacing, and keeping in mind who my target audience is. It’s a challenge I can handle and, since I fell in love with my two main characters, I just have to tell their story!

  10. Thanks for this post Shannon. These kind of honest and helpful posts are perfect for your aim of sharing your knowledge with other writers. Gentle and persuasive inspiration, this! 🙂

  11. I know what got me started writing and I’m always interested in learning how authors got started on this path. I think it’s wonderful that you knew at such a young age and you have the “proof” to remind you whenever you’re in doubt.

    Thanks for sharing the highs and lows of your book journey; I can definitely relate. Even though I always have another project ready to go, when I finish one, it’s like I’m sending it off to college or something. So sad.

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