Knocking the Post-Publication Doldrums Down to Size: A HippoCamp 2021 Recap 

by Dorothy Rice

This post is part of a HippoCamp 2021 recap series, with guest blog posts written by HippoCamp attendees. Learn more about our conference for creative nonfiction writers.

lara lillibridge and amy fish presenting in conference room

Lara Lillibridge and Amy Fish co-presenting about staying out of the post-publication doldrums. Photo by Lina Seijo for Hippocampus Magazine.

This session on the post-publication doldrums really struck a nerve with me. More than one, maybe even my last nerve. With Covid-19, political unrest, cataclysmic weather, melting ice caps, systemic racism, and more, the past eighteen months have been challenging, stressful and, for many, life altering, even life ending. In this swirling morass of uncertainty, Lara and Amy’s session was a generous, calming balm for all writers, whether they had published recently or not.

For me (GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK, June 2019) the ideas and encouragement they offered were directly on point. Am I frustrated that all of my 2020 in-person book events were cancelled? Check. Am I disappointed that absent events, selling books, finding readers, is a tough slog? Check. Do I wish my small (um, micro) press would promote my #LittleBlackBook? Check. Do I feel guilty for feeling this way when many of my writer friends consider me lucky for having published a book at all? Yep.

First you should know this; Lara and Amy are amazing people. Not that I claim to know them well, but I can tell. I believed they had walked this road themselves and acquired some coping strategies and plain-old philosophy about life and the slippery ways of the creative process and that they wanted to share, to help, to be a resource. I heard that you can’t force it, that it’s okay not to be ready, or able, to crank out that next book or essay. Also, that there are myriad ways we can use our creativity, our gifts of time and talent, to help others, and by helping others, help ourselves. We can:

  • Teach
  • Take classes
  • Promote other writers
  • Work on your literary citizenship
  • Volunteer
  • Draw, paint, work with clay
  • Finish something—that old essay or middle-grade novel—anything!

There’s an “important side note” at the end of their suggested reading list (it’s a good list; check it out):

This is your official permission to read whatever makes you happy. Especially when the doldrums hit. If you’re into post-modernist furniture catalogues or true crime paperbacks please indulge. First of all, you never know where inspiration is going to come from and second, your first responsibility is to look after yourself.

Permission granted. Permission taken. Thank you!

Me? In my spare time, I’m sorting boxes of old photographs (remember when photos were printed on glossy paper and delivered in paper packets instead of stored on your phone?), hacking away at an overgrown garden and figuring out ways to use up a bumper crop of cucumbers (they’re great in smoothies—mild, refreshing flavor, plus all that liquid). Inspiration might spring from any of these pursuits. You can’t tell it where, when or how to happen. Just trust that it will. Until then, don’t be too hard on yourself. Review someone else’s book, check out Rebecca Fish Ewan’s “Doodling for Writers,” or any of the other books on the suggested reading list.

This wasn’t in the session (I don’t think), but it always helps me get over myself to remember that I chose to be a writer, that no one is making me do this. Some wise person (a writer I imagine) wrote those words. I can’t remember who. Maybe you know? When I get all mopey and whiny about my lost muse and what not, I know it’s time to swallow a big, fat reality pill with my morning coffee.

Thank you Lara and Amy for providing a safe space and lots of helpful, doable suggestions for knocking the post-publication doldrums down to size. Take that doldrums!

Dorothy RiceDorothy Rice is the author of the memoirs, GRAY IS THE NEW BLACK (Otis Books, June 2019) and THE RELUCTANT ARTIST (Shanti Arts, 2015) and the editor of the anthology TWENTY TWENTY—43 Stories From A Year Like No Other. After raising five children and retiring from a career managing statewide environmental protection programs, Rice earned an MFA in Creative Writing from UC Riverside, Palm Desert, at 60. Dorothy co-directs the literary series Stories on Stage Sacramento, conducts creative writing workshop for 916 Ink, a youth literacy nonprofit, is the new managing editor of Under the Gum Tree.

Share a Comment