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Last year, you published two books. When they arrived, freshly minted from the press, covers pretty and sharp, your friends and family cheered. But you? Your emotions vaporized. All that was remained was an autumnal sadness and a sense of failure. If you’d been alone, it would have been worse.

This year, you sold another novel. And a short story to a prestigious noir series. Peeps online and close to you cheered. A blip of joy tapped through you, then retreated into the storm.

These are moments to celebrate. Good things. Reminders of accomplishments that will endure when you are dead. The gifts younger artists dream about and early pros still find sweet. But just now, seeing the covers, the physical embodiment of your imaginative and analytical efforts, what hangs around you is the dirty haze of despair.

Now, this is a pattern. And it’s not just the sharp edges of a cynic’s eye.

What must be done?


You made these things.

Often times, you made them when things were awful, when the depression toiled with your fight for survival.

Other times, you stopped making things completely, and that is just as good as not making them at all.

You are starting to see depths of a truth whose surface you skimmed, about artists and their art, about identity and success, about process and personality.

But there is no conclusion, no insight, no galvanized moment or battle cry.

There is only a gnawing sense that time is fleeting.

And a question to ask about love, for that is all that really matters.

Are you worthy of it now?

When you are silent?

When art is still?


And yet the tendrils remain.

Thanks, depression, for bleaching the color out of joy.

Shall we go another round?

Yes. Even if its only to get back here, this nothing time, when the weight of the mountain crushes the spirit like a jawbreaker in a vice. Even if you do nothing but endure until the time is right to strike. Rope-a-dope, like Marcus Aurelius and Muhammad Ali.

Hit the lights. Cue my theme song. Ring the bell.

Jason S. Ridler

Jason RidlerJason S. Ridler is a writer, historian, and actor. He is the author of The Brimstone Files, and his latest historical work Mavericks of War was called a “visceral read that is also an important piece of scholarship” by Pulitzer-Prize winner Richard Rhodes. He is a Teaching Fellow at Johns Hopkins University and teaches creative writing at Google, Youtube, and for private clients.

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