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On feeling deflated when the writing is done

You finished the first full draft of your manuscript and now you…just…can’t imagine ever getting out of this chair.

“It’s like deflating—like an old party balloon that’s gone kinda floopy,” says writer and book coach Vicky Quinn Fraser. 

Squinty-eyed cat draped over a brown wicker chair. Photo by Phox via Pexels.

You worked so hard for so long to get your book done and now it’s out in the world and you’re…kind of floundering around, unexpectedly sad.

“Dopamine crashes is how I’ve heard them described. [Or] post project depression,” notes brain and play expert Jocelyn Brady.

White man falling off an automated bucking bison. Photo by Isaw Company via Pexels.

When I was a professional dancer and choreographer, I used to feel this way after every performance run of a new piece. My company poured so many hours, so much creative energy, and so much literal sweat into building a world in movement and inviting people into that world. 

We basked in the energy of an audience once, twice, maybe five times. And then it was done. We had a video, but nothing to hold except a program and some costumes. I felt a serious post-show depression.

Not everyone gets these blues, for but those of us who do, is there any way to avoid them? Perhaps we can:

  • Acknowledge and appreciate our accomplishment. It took something to do what we did. Own that. Toast to its completion.
  • Jot down ideas for what’s next before the current project ends (though it can be hard to find the time or energy to dream about the next thing in the middle of this one).
  • If we keep an ongoing notebook or Notion file of ideas as they occur to us, for weeks, years—maybe you have one of these already?—we can sift through it to pique our interest when we’re ready to emerge from this down time.
  • Focus on what feels restful, celebratory, or nourishing. Reading for pleasure, walking through the neighborhood or in the woods, having coffee with a friend, napping on the couch with a cat, having a drink with dinner because we’re not going to have to roll right into revisions after the kids are in bed….
  • “I try all sorts of different things to undeflate, and one that consistently helps to journal about it—things that went well, things that I could improve, things that I loved,” offers Vicky. “Then plan the next thing!” 

Or…stick with me here…perhaps we shouldn’t actually avoid this deflation period. What if we use the ideas above not as total evasion, but as a way to make the blues feel less disastrously final, or last less long?

After all, the creative cycle is a cycle. We have fallow periods. We have tremendous highs, and we also have self-doubt and anticlimax and anticipation and fear. We have the grief of letting something go. It’s all part of the work.

What do you do when you’re a deflated party balloon, or to avoid that feeling? Comment below or send me an email to let me know.

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