‘Tis the Cozy Season

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“Well, I’m back,” I say, quoting the immortal words of Samwise Gamgee–and after the hustle and bustle of finally getting Operation Lionhearted* out into the world, I can also say that it’s very good to be back. My novel’s launch day was a beautiful one, made even more wonderful by a surprise from my family that evening:

I had handbell rehearsal that evening–something I’ve finally been able to return to after my accident–but I had no idea that my mom and sisters had planned an entire “Book Birthday Feast.” When I got home, the house was strangely quiet, and as I stepped into the kitchen I found the table laid out with my mom’s fine china, a vase of flowers, and champagne glasses. I barely had time to let out a startled “Oh!” when my parents and siblings burst out of hiding and yelled “SURPRISE!!!”

I’m rarely so thoroughly surprised; I’m usually pretty alert to everything that’s going on in our house! But I was also very, very blessed by the fact that they’d celebrate like that with and for me. I might’ve even cried a bit. It was really special.

Last week was an adjustment period, though. I mailed out a couple of copies for two different giveaways (the one here on my blog, plus the one on Instagram that I did with several other indie authors), and I received a big box of author copies on Friday. I also kept very busy with helping my mom plant our autumn garden, baked an eggnog cake for my sister Katie’s 19th birthday (recipe here), and wrote the first draft of my next article for Cultivating.

But not having Operation Lionhearted* as a crucial part of my daily schedule was definitely a bit strange…and the odd combo of relief and sadness confirmed for me that it’s time to “check myself into Writer Rehab.”

I’ve done this once before: at the end of 2019, on the advice of a writing teacher I met at that writing conference I attended in Nashville. I was mentally exhausted after completing Operation Lionhearted‘s sixth draft, and I told him so. He recommended I take a break from trying to create a different, original novel and refill my creative well instead. I gladly took this advice, rested for about a month and a half…and right after Christmas, I saw The Rise of Skywalker and immediately started writing fanfiction like I was running out of time πŸ˜‰

No, those stories didn’t classify as “original novels”–but they got me writing again. Which is the whole point.

Fast forward to October 2021 and I’m once again a tired little peep. My writer friends tell me that feeling deflated after publishing a novel is very normal. But some of my non-writing priorities and obligations are also shifting and changing, and the busy holiday season is almost upon us…so I’m thinking the timing probably isn’t right for me to begin my next novel just yet. The ideas are there, but neither they nor I are quite ready.

(Of course, some movie or book could set my imagination on fire between now and Christmas. You never know.)

So what does Writer Rehab look like for me? It means…

  • Not pressuring myself to write anything fictional if I don’t have the mental energy for it…
  • …but also taking notes for anything that pops into my brain, whether it’s a character, a setting, or a scene.
  • READING, READING, READING. I’m working my way through re-reads of To Kill a Mockingbird* and The Silmarillion*. (Yeah, they’re very different–but one is character-driven and the other is full of the adventure and high beauty I love so much!)
  • Focusing on other projects: writing my Cultivating article, planning blog posts (including an important book review!) for the remainder of the year, working in our autumn garden, promoting Operation Lionhearted, and preparing for a part-time, remote job I can do right here at my writing desk.

‘Tis the cozy season, and I’m really leaning into it this year. The cold fronts are coming through every week or so at this point, and even though they leave my elbow aching and stiff, the fresh, crisp air they bring always leaves me invigorated. I’m far more likely to get excited about new beginnings and adventures in October and November than I am in the springtime. This year is no different, especially as I really am entering a slightly terrifying but truly exciting new period in my life.

What does your cozy season look like? Are you having fun with any new (or old) projects? Are you getting cooler weather yet? Let’s chat in the comments!

15 thoughts on “‘Tis the Cozy Season

  1. I’m sorry you’re feeling low after your novel released! I for one am thoroughly enjoying it. I am not usually that into sci Fi but this one has me captivated. I have stayed up later than I should a few nights in a row reading, and have enjoyed it much more than most of my recent reads. I’ve been shocked (in a delighted way) at the twists, covered in chills and even teared up which is rare for me! As someone who always wondered if people were just trying to make me feel better when they’d praise my writing (and in my case it was certainly charity praise because WOW my books were so full of issues lol!!) I hope I’m conveying to you how sincerely and genuinely I’m enjoying your story!! I hope you get some much deserved rest and rejuvenation ❀️

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    1. Awww, thank you so much, Victoria!!! I really appreciate all that encouragement; it means a lot to me, especially knowing that you’re enjoying the book so much! I wouldn’t say I’m *depressed*, per se, but I’m definitely adjusting and trying to figure out where to go and what to do next, y’know? Rest and rejuvenation, as you described it, seems to be what I really need right now–and hopefully by the time the holidays are done and dusted, I’ll be ready for my next adventure πŸ₯°

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  2. I can imagine how you must feel! It makes absolute sense after a project of that size. And I will keep an ear out for your next project for sure!

    (PS I have read double the books this year that I normally do (50 books was my previous record). Just for fun, I was hoping that book #100 would be special somehow since that number is a milestone in my reading life. I will probably finish your book tonight and that will make it book #100 on my 2021 book list 🀩)

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    1. 100 BOOKS?! Wow. I was feeling good about meeting my Goodreads Challenge of 25 books πŸ˜‚ But I’m very honored that Operation Lionhearted will be your hundredth title!

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      1. (I read a lot of middle grade which racks up the numbers fast πŸ˜†) I finished your book this morning and loved it!! Bravo Maribeth! I will absolutely be reading anything you write in the future.

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  3. First, Congratulations! You’ve earned it.

    But I can’t join you. EVERYTHING in my life takes the tiny bit of energy I have every day – and makes it so hard to get to the writing, so that is my refuge, even when it’s hard. The idea of taking a break – when I finally get back to where some of my time and energy again belongs to me – is anathema.

    But I’m within sight of the end of the second book in my mainstream trilogy, and then comes all the publishing stuff – easier for me to just do than to explain – and all I want is to get there. I feel as if I’m tempting fate if I deliberately stop, and time goes by too fast at my age, and so much of it is wasted without my consent.

    You’re young – enjoy. You’re mobile – take advantage of what you can.

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    1. I can understand that sense of urgency: I feel like I’ve been in that same boat all year, especially after my accident when I was just desperate to return to some semblance of normalcy–not to mention stay on track with my planned publishing schedule! How I was still able to publish on the day I’d chosen last year, even though everything got pushed back a couple of months so I could focus on my physical recovery, is still a bit miraculous to me.

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  4. How sweet and supportive of your family! That’s lovely!

    I agree that not forcing yourself to write anything after such a massive project is wise — but if you want to do it, and feel like you need to do it, by all means, write until your arms fall off.

    The slump after a massive project is totally normal. I’d call it post-book depression. It’s when you are so tired after having worked so long on something that you can’t imagine writing anything else yet, but there’s also this massive gap in your head because… that book doesn’t occupy it anymore. The characters aren’t talking to you, you’re not trying to figure out how to make it all more cohesive, or reworking the climax. It’s quiet.

    And I hate that kind of inner mental silence. I’m an extrovert. Give me something to do!! I must be writing, otherwise I get short-tempered with everyone in my life. My patience wears thin until I find my new friends (characters). The period between finishing writing a novel (and publishing it) and searching for a new story is full of depression and frustration. I come alive once a story clicks with me and takes me away from the world. Until then, I feel listless, angry, bored. I have this constant, pressing sense of time being short, and all I really want to do with mine is write books. I have to remind myself to give my brain a rest.

    Not that I do. As soon as I swear up and down to take a month off, an idea gets handed to me on a silver platter and there I am, clattering away at my keyboard again, happy as a clam.

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    1. “The slump”–YES, that’s the perfect way to describe how I’ve felt! I’ve been able to fill my usual writing time very well thus far, so it isn’t as though I’m sitting idle at all. And I’ll be honest, I actually *do* have a fanfiction idea (lo and behold, it’s NOT Star Wars for once! πŸ˜‚). Daydreaming, brainstorming, and putting together little character files this week has helped fill that mental silence you’re talking about. But I’m still a bit listless, and still fighting a pervasive sense of guilt over dreaming about a fanfic instead of an original novel. Allowing myself to rest is as much a discipline as following a schedule is.

      But yeah, like I said (and it sounds like you’ve done this, too), an idea could present itself on a silver platter and I’d be helpless to resist it πŸ˜‚

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      1. The slump follows “YAY I GOT MY BOOK DONE!” and shortly comes before “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE??? I AM SO DEPRESSED!”

        People who don’t write all the time really fail to understand how much mental energy it requires, and how when it’s “gone” (finished) … your brain is like ????!.

        The only thing that saves me from a slump is being too busy doing other things to feel it, but it still hits me at the first quiet time I get. I think it’s normal to feel a little down when you’re done with a project. But then the listless wander through life searching desperately for a new idea starts. πŸ˜‰

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  5. It’s so interesting, isn’t it, that post-publishing slump? I was just exhausted when I finally published! But it’s totally worth it – your reader here attests to it. πŸ™‚ So glad I got a chance to read Operation Lionhearted.

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