Writing Hangovers and Post-Project Breakdowns

When this post by Steph Auteri popped up in my Feedly queue, my immediate reaction was: “Wait… Not everyone breaks down after finishing a project?”

The post-project breakdown is so common in my creative family that we’ve come up with workarounds. For example, when I was working on my master’s thesis my dad, who did his Ph.D. when I was in high school, gave me this fatherly advice: “Make sure you have another major project lined up that you can start afterwards or you will get depressed.”

Nearly 10 years later (oh god, 10 years?!) my writing career can be described, in the words of Tim Gunn, as “make it work” time. I’m writing, I’m pitching, I’m traveling, I’m planting seeds that I really hope will turn into something. And to do that every day I have to tune everything else out, including some of my feelings. But when you finish an assignment or a project you pitched pans out, those emotions tend to catch up.

On the other end of the spectrum is what I call the writing hangover—the emotional and intellectual dead zone that follows intensive writing. I used to always go “into lockdown” for like 12 hours instead of writing drafts even if it meant being completely brain dead the next day.

This was no biggie in college when I’d pull all-nighters to power through term papers I was supposed to have started months prior. I could just sleep through classes the next day. I’m a bit ADHD so once I found my stride, I didn’t want to stop and the pressure of a deadline ensured I wouldn’t get distracted.

As a freelancer, though, I’ve had to retrain myself to space work and write in drafts, or I can’t function the next day, which just isn’t an option anymore.

Do you go into lockdown with your projects and how do you cope with the fallout?

Photo by Drew Coffman

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3 comments on “Writing Hangovers and Post-Project Breakdowns
  1. Anonymous says:

    Ummm… my own advice not withstanding, after lockdown I try to do something that is in no way related to my own writing projects. I OD on DVD box sets of something or another, visit my horses, watch sports or even… ugh. Grade papers.

  2. Ruth Terry says:

    I need some horses. I just finished my Cameroon article after completing over-researching and spending like 20 hours on it. And I have another story due Friday. Oh. That’s tomorrow.

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I'm a smart, sassy, globally-mobile freelance writer, content creator, brand journalist and nonprofit storyteller. The world is my office. Email me to find out more.
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