Murder and Delusions of Grandeur
Sometimes when I’m hypomanic, I write. I think that my writing is terrific. This does not always prove to be the case.
I wrote a murder mystery for literally years on and off. I put heart, soul, and sweat into it. I kept revising. I had a bulletin board with index cards of plot points that I moved around, trying to find the best sequence and flow. At last, one day I declared it finished.
I sent a query and a sample to over 100 agents and publishers. I waited. I kept a list of everyone I contacted about my novel, and I marked them off the list when they rejected me. None of them bit except the you-pay-us types that I had accidentally included and scorned. My prospect list was long, so this went on for months.
No doubt I was hypomanic when I decided the novel was done, and when I sent those queries. I wasn’t even deflated when I started getting rejections back. Out of 100 queries, I thought, surely there would be some takers. Maybe there would even be a bidding war for the publishing rights. I started doing research for the sequel and even started writing it.
As I waited, I basked in thoughts of success. I would be a guest at mystery conventions. I would do a book tour. I even imagined that I would receive the Edgar Award (mystery’s Oscar) for Best First Novel. I pictured myself receiving the email telling me that I was nominated and the phone call informing me that I had won.
Of course, I eventually came down when one of the rejections actually told me why my manuscript was being rejected and what was wrong with it. Faced with that reality, I had to admit that I had deluded myself. I had needed to rework the novel a lot more before submitting it. I had needed to workshop it with fellow writers, preferably those who knew something about mysteries. (I had sent the first few chapters to some volunteer beta readers, but they had made comments only on small details, not the structure, pacing, or characters.) I realized at last that I had submitted a manuscript that had a great prologue, but that everything after that needed serious work. Despite the time and effort I had put into it, it just wasn’t good enough. And that was the reality.
That was the longest spell of hypomania I’ve ever had – about a year. Of course, I was doing other things while I wrote and while I waited. I had some depression and some mixed states, but not about my mystery novel. I was exhilarated with that.
What I had were delusions of grandeur. I imagined the success without putting in enough work to achieve it. Despite the evidence of all the rejections, I persisted in believing that I had produced something wonderful and worthy. I anticipated plaudits and acknowledgment of my writing prowess and remarkable achievement. My hypomania was giving me messages that I was great, just as my depression had always given me messages that I was nothing. And I was deluded. I believed the hypomanic messages.
I have abandoned that manuscript and taken up other projects. I have also abandoned my research and writing for a sequel. I still have problems recognizing the actual merits of my writing, or lack thereof. I try to keep my expectations in check. I have some successes and some failures, though none nearly as monumental as the mystery. I live with my limitations instead of flying with my fantasies. Have I lowered my horizons? Well, yes. But I like to think that now, at least most of the time, I view the horizon where it really is.
I did love the exuberant feelings that I experienced. They gave my life a sense of meaning. If I learned anything from the experience, it was that I couldn’t, or at least shouldn’t, pin my sense of personal worth on something that isn’t real.
Of course, when I’m in the grip of hypomania, it’s hard to realize that.
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