Hurricane Sandy sweeps publishing capital of the US

Sandy, now classified by the National Hurricane Center as as a post-tropical cyclone, made landfall the evening of Monday, October 29th, on the southern coast of New Jersey. The arrival of the cyclone has already been felt by several states on the east coast, in addition to areas of Canada. Numerous publishers and professionals in the publishing industry live in New York, and a number of the surrounding states facing severe weather conditions tonight. Booklife Now will be following the short and long term impact of Sandy on our industry.

The thoughts of the staff of Booklife Now are with everyone impacted by these events.

Obituary: Janet Berliner-Gluckman

We regret to inform our readers of the death of author Janet Berliner-Gluckman earlier today. Born in 1939 in South Africa to Thea Abraham-Berliner and Manfred Berliner, who fled Germany and the growing power of the Nazi party in 1936, she went on to become a Bram Stoker Award winning author (Children of the Dusk), and worked as an editor, writer and journalist during a career that spanned more than twenty years and multiple genres. May her memory and works be a blessing to all who miss her.

Dealing with Burn Out

As your career advances, the intensity and difficulty of your projects increase. Writing weekly columns, book series, performing the research for book proposals. There is a point where you may snap. You will want to chew a limb off to escape if necessary. Now, if we can pull our arms out of our mouths for a moment, there’s a way to escape. But to escape, we have to identity the problem.

Burn out. Those two words are dreaded by people. We’re writing, we’re supposed to love it, every second. No excuses. Sit down in that chair and write! The writing advice we’re generally fed is “tough love from your scary drill sergeant” or “follow your floaty muse to your happy place.” We don’t get burn out advice.

To start with: it happens.

It can happen to any writer, on any project, at any time. We exceed the energy—physical and emotional—that we have available. Life stress piles up, like suffocating invisible laundry. Magically, calendar days get closer to our deadline. Three months to finish the book? There was that one weekend we wrote 11K. The weekend we spent crying because it’s all we did, and it sucked. Because we were already starting to burn out!

Escape by straight out dumping a project often isn’t possible. There are financial and contractual obligations, our reputation and those of our creative partners, agents, editors, artists. In many cases, quitting a project isn’t an option. And that realization often triggers a wellspring of dark, sickening rage and depression. We feel robbed of agency, and forced beyond our abilities. The ways to cope with that are a little like advice about how to fall asleep: everyone will give you something different to try.

I’ve been burnt out and stuck for months inside projects. What I’m going to tell you is how I survive those moments in time without committing felonies or developing substance abuse habits.

First, I grid out everything left in the project. I make lots of little bullet lists with headers, post-it notes, calendar reminders. If I can find the will to at least stay on target with the bare minimum for the week, I avoid outright drowning.  It’s a step. But I never have just one writing commitment going on. So my calendar and my wall become this multi-coloured map of my existential career despair made manifest. So many articles for Y magazine, this work on the book for X publisher, these guest posts for Z website. Then travel, signings, events, and family obligations.

But then! The list of rewards.

If I can get through this laborious, burnt out period, I will be damned if I don’t reward myself along the way. Naps. A walk somewhere pleasant. Reading time related in no plausible way to any active project. Movie night. The sacred sin of take-out Chinese.  Getting the Hell out of my house. It’s easy, when so many of us are freelancers, to shackle ourselves to the desk.You may not be able to chew free of the project, but give yourself a break. If you don’t take a break, don’t reward yourself, find ways to replenish your energy—you may and often will have catastrophic results. Illness, inappropriate emotional outburst at loved ones, at people you work with. Depression and rage and incomplete work.

You are not the only person who suffers, when you are burnt out. So for yourself, for your creative partners and your loved ones: learn what your burn out warning signs are. Learn appropriate, healthy responses to it. Learn what your limit is for work you can take on.  And abide by that limit. Self-abuse as an artistic norm isn’t healthy, it’s a creepy myth.  Writing is demanding, brutal work when we do right by it. But we can’t keep writing without doing right by ourselves.

The project will end. If you take care of yourself, there will always be more of them in the future. Your career will still be there, as long as you are still here.

Past Endurance

I have been medicated for over a year now, to treat mental illness. I’ve been medicated in the past, but I said I was stronger than medication. I was better than that.  I was trying to write while enduring panic attacks, suicidal depression, generalized anxiety, manic highs and disorganized thoughts. Terrifying hallucinations.

I was coaching myself through a panic attack in a bathroom stall at the newspaper I was working at, when I decided I wanted to be able to actually eat lunch on my lunch break. Not hide in a bathroom stall having a panic attack. I had started to take honest, successful steps with my career. People were starting to hear my name. And I had fallen in love.

The way I saw it, my choices were to try treatment again, or keep losing the battle. If treatment was successful, I’d hold onto words, the love of my life, and actually start living. If I didn’t get treatment, I was going to drown. I didn’t have the mental or emotional bandwidth to keep going.  And you can only hide in a bathroom stall for so long.

That was in 2010. I’ve written through tapering off the pills that didn’t work, through starting new medications, and the awful adjustment periods. There are entire phases of projects that are just a coloured smear of memory. They got done, but goodness knows some bits are fuzzy. If you’re just starting medication, I can tell you that yeah, it’s not easy, but it’ll get easier.

Many of my peers, who are also your peers, are on medication. Slowly, some of them have started to be public about it. About being suicidally depressed. The blown deadlines. The litany of agony and self-medication many of us experienced for years. People I love and respect are medicated. They still struggle, but they use whatever resources they have to stay some measure of sane. And now that I have some small measure of success, and things I love and never want to lose…I emulate that. I do what it takes to stay healthy and sane. I am far from perfect or normal, but I don’t spend every single day panicked, and every morning regretting that I didn’t die in my sleep.

Sometimes success, even the start of it, crushes writers. I’ve lost friends to that moment, when their resources surpassed their ability to hold on.I nearly lost myself to that.  I was lucky enough to get treatment I needed before I could try a second time. The path back from that has not been easy.  I don’t think it is easy, for anyone. I still struggle, often daily, to write around the remnants of an illness the pills cannot cure, to keep fighting through what they call incomplete recovery from my mental illness. But every day I sit down to my laptop, pop the cap on the bottle next to it, and take the pills.

I don’t regret going back on medication. You couldn’t pay me to give up my life, or the things I’ve written, since clearing that hellish fog.