The Author Doldrums – three things to do if you’re facing them

Ancient Sailboat

So, you’ve just released your first book. You had a fairly successful blog tour, a fabulous release party, and your publisher is fairly pleased with your first month’s sales.

But you’re feeling a kind of post-partum. Your ‘baby’ is out in the world now, getting praise or scorn, depending on the day. It’s out there. You’re out there. Now what?

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I wanted to do after the blog tour was over was curl up in fetal position and hide. Yes, it may seem like wallowing, but I needed a bit of time to regroup. (Speaking of wallowing, I have a dear friend who’s got a book coming out on “Constructive Wallowing”. Visit her blog for more info. )

I read my reviews on Goodreads, I stayed active on twitter and facebook. But after the blog tour, I didn’t have it in me to keep going, write new blog posts, or network, which is what I knew I needed to do. I needed a rest.

In ancient times, there was an area near the equator where the winds were calm. Sailors used to dread going there, because they would drift for days or even weeks until the winds picked up. I first heard of them in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

All in a hot and copper sky,
The bloody Sun, at noon,
‘Right up above the mast did stand,
No bigger than the Moon.

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, no breath no motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean. (1)

As a writer, the doldrums can be a time for regrouping and for letting your mind reset and your creativity return. But staying too long can lead to depression or inactivity.

Three top things to do while facing the doldrums:

1. Work on your next book: there’s no way this can be emphasized enough. You’re a writer, so you need to keep writing. If you’re having “down time” use it to dream up something else. Don’t let the doldrums become writer’s block. You have to get into the mindset that no matter what this first book sells, your next book will help it sell better. It will either reach a different audience, or make it possible for your existing readers to read more of your work.

2. Don’t listen to your critics. Turn off Goodreads if you have to. Do not visit the pages or blogs that criticize your work. Every single book out there is criticized. If your work hasn’t been, it’s simply not getting out there. It took me a few weeks to stop reading negative reviews, but it took me months to realize I’d internalized the negative comments, worrying that my next book would only disappoint. Worse, I began to believe the unkind things people said. It can drive you crazy and make you stop believing in yourself and your work. Once that happens, you’re lost. And the truth is, harsh critics don’t write books. They may want to write, but they can’t. That’s why they criticize. I like to think that anyone who’s written a work of fiction and had it published has learned a certain amount of tact. They won’t publicly say unkind things about other authors, because they know what goes around comes around.

3. Take some time away from social media. I know of one author who has a one day a week media free day, where she spends the day reading books, visiting with family and friends and going outside to enjoy nature. All of these things will replenish your soul. I know it’s important to be connected and be out there, but sometimes too much social media is simply too much. It can also be depressing to see all the books out there being promoted that aren’t your own. This leads to the temptation to repeat the dreaded “Buy my book” tweet. While it’s fine to do that once in awhile, if it becomes obsessive, your followers will simply leave.


Those are my three top things to do after a book comes out, to get over the post-release blahs. I’d love some advice too. Authors, what are your ways of dealing with the doldrums or post-release blahs?


3 thoughts on “The Author Doldrums – three things to do if you’re facing them

  1. Owen Stairs says:

    Tricky from “Tricky Kid”, “I’m naked and famous.” When you create a piece of personal art, and put it out there, it’s a lot like walking down the street in the buff. You can’t create anything decent without exposing yourself, and it’s a humbling, terrifying process.

    Lisa, you’ve been so brave to have come this far, but if you are going to continue down this road, you will have to summon all your courage and confidence again, and just say, “Fuck ’em, I’m doing this because I love it, and I’m good at it.”

    It’s so easy to be a critic. It takes real courage to create something and leave it out there for the critics to tear it apart. Because it really isn’t even “your baby” they are attacking, it’s you yourself. And the only way you will survive that is with a self confidence so rock solid, that it could be mistaken for arrogance.

    You are better at what you do than your critics are. You are right to point that out. Most of them aren’t fit to carry your intellectual luggage…

  2. Tina Gilbertson says:

    Great post, Lisa, and thanks for the plug for Constructive Wallowing. I liked your suggestions, especially the one about taking a break from social media (“Outside”? “Nature”? What are these strange things you speak of?).

    I believe there is such a thing as a well-earned rest.

    When I allow myself to drift in the doldrums after a period of productivity, I trust that the rest itself is productive, even though it never feels that way. The productive juices always begin to flow again at some point. I try not to force it unless I absolutely have to.

    Writing books and getting them published and having them out there takes physical, emotional and mental energy. Once you’re tapped out, the only thing to do is be kind to yourself while your reserves fill up again.

    … And take a moment to pat yourself on the back for accomplishing something that most people will never do.

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