I finished a manuscript a couple of weeks back. I mean, I finished it until someone hands it back to me and says, “Fix all this messed up crap.” Fingers crossed, that person will be the editor who showered me with riches because she believes I’m the next Suzanne Collins. But even if it’s only my agent saying, “Well, I can’t sell it as is, but if you change these nine million things I might have a shot,” I will throw myself back into it.

Until then, I’m in withdrawal.

For some writers, the ideas come easy. Even for me, the ideas are the easy part. The trick is always figuring out which idea is worth weeks or months of effort crafting it from a nugget of possibility into an actual story. Still, I don’t get a lot of ideas. Not the way my mind works. I don’t necessarily have a new project waiting when a previous project is finished.

Yes, This Sidebar“But, Bill, you could self-publish.” Yes, I could. And, if no traditional publishing home is to be found for this project, there’s a high likelihood I will self-publish it. For now, I’m following this path for all kinds of reasons, none of which are a judgment for or against self-publishing, traditional publishing, or whatever new! exciting! publishing notion comes next. On the off chance someone decides to respond to this post, I hope it won’t been a screed about The Publishing Industry, because I find such talk tedious. Furthermore, if you quote Joe Konrath, I will probably delete your comment. Just so you know.

As it happens though, this time I do have a project waiting. Unfortunately, it’s book two to my previous manuscript’s book one. Since I don’t know if the book one will find a home, I hesitate to start working on its follow-up (though, see sidebar ⇒).

The other day, I listened to an episode of Star Talk Radio (a satellite radio program you can get as a podcast, and which I highly recommend) and it got me to thinking about how I am after I finish a manuscript. The topic of this particular episode was brain stuff. There were lots of entertaining and informative moments, but part of the discussion touched on the biochemistry of love and addiction, and the similarities betwixt the two. Stuff like how when you suffer a break-up your brain chemistry goes haywire in ways not like suffering heroin withdrawal. Similarly, when something important to us is taken away—books, video games, reproductive health care—we experience withdrawal like symptoms. I’m oversimplifying here, of course. Listen to Star Talk “The Space Between Your Ears” parts one and two for more, though even that will only touch upon the complexity.

Anyway, I realized I’m suffering withdrawal symptoms right now. These are expressing themselves in a number of ways, including disrupted sleep, feelings of ennui, and general crankiness. Or, as some observers have put it, “Bill, you are really being a dick right now.”

In other words, I’m Addicted to Writing.

At this point, I should wax poetically about the majesty of the written word, and how wholesome my writing addiction is. (Hey, at least it’s not meth, right?) And you might say, “Well, the solution to your insufferable dickliness is to get back on the writing horse!”

That would be oh so flippant, however. And it’s not like it’s so simple.

Because I cheated. This isn’t actually a post about writing and its aftermath at all. You see, I am working on something new. I’m not just sitting around moping and bitching. I’ve started a new Skin tale, a kind of cross-over which focuses on a bit of the backstory in my recently finished manuscript.

So if I’m addicted to writing yet also writing, why am I still in withdrawal? Because the brain is weird and complex, and there are all kinds of poorly understood interaction effects and vast swaths of brain function we don’t understand at all. Consider, I have a lot to feel good about right now, so why don’t I feel so good? Because my brain is kind of fucked up.

I realize this is America, where mental health isn’t a medical matter, but rather a Sign of Weakness. Even so, I have a sort of fucked up brain (and I am far from alone in this). Last fall, my brain suffered such a deep state of fucked up I went to the doctor, had blood tests, visited a therapist, and was prescribed medication. These things helped, and fortunately they were all covered by insurance, except for the “all” part.

As a self-employed person, I can’t actually afford health insurance, except for really overpriced “catastrophic care coverage”, which will pay for a fraction of the cost when Microsoft Word finally hacks off one of my limbs, but which covers exactly zero percent of Sign of Weakness, er, mental health care.

My autumn brain fuckage cost me $1,200. I can’t be sure what this spring situation would cost if I sought medical care for it, and I probably won’t find out since this is a Third World country America, where affordable, universal health care is against our time-honored values of hard work and self-reliance fascist-socialist freedom-hating mind control. I simply can’t afford another trip to the doctor to address this latest bout of Sign of Weakness.

So I’m doing the only rational thing open to me. I’m self-diagnosing. I’m thinking about Star Talk Radio, and the brain chemistry of love and withdrawal, and I’m hoping this shit will be fixed by me working on this new Skin story. Or, at least, that these Vitamin D tablets will do something, because I read on the internet that Vitamin D can help with Sign of Weakness. And if you can’t trust the internet, what can you trust?

In the meantime, I should warn you: I’m kind of a dick right now.