Sunday, March 9, 2014

Fall down 8 times, rise 9

I've been struggling with making progress on this project lately. I have received a rejection letter from one agent, and haven't heard back from another. I've been more symptomatic lately, and when I'm dealing with my illness, I struggle with writer's block.

This project often feels like it is too much for me. Who am I to think I'm worthy of completing it? But I have been entrusted with people's personal stories, people who have been through unspeakable pain and want the opportunity to share their stories, and I cannot give up. I will finish this book, even if it takes years. I'll finish it, even if I have to self-publish it and then fail to sell any copies.

I read an article on traits that creative people often possess; you can find the article here:

This excerpt of the article really touched me:
"Doing creative work is often described as a process of failing repeatedly until you find something that sticks, and creatives -- at least the successful ones -- learn not to take failure so personally.
"Creatives fail and the really good ones fail often," Forbes contributor Steven Kotler wrote in a piece on Einstein's creative genius. "
This reassured me that failure-be it a rejection letter from an agent or two weeks of failing to pen a single word-is part of the process.
I am challenging myself to work on my writing for an hour every day. That includes work on this project, on the novel I'm working on (which I have abandoned just as severely as this project lately), research for both projects, correspondence with agents and interviewees, and updating this blog. Progress is progress, no matter how slow. A blizzard is composed of snowflakes.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Intros to first 3 chapters are written! And info on the mania chapter

This morning, I put the finishing touches on the introduction to my chapter on mania and hypomania. This is the third chapter intro that I've completed; the first two chapters were on onset and depression.

I've read through what I have written, and I think that I've done a decent job. I always subject my writing to a rigorous editing process, so I am not done yet. But I have a nice start.

If you're curious about what is going into the mania chapter, here is a rough outline:

-DSM criteria for mania
-difference in criteria of mania vs. hypomania
-definition of mania and hypomania as high energy states
  >characterized by euphoria or irritability, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, and impulsivity
-in-depth description of the above energetic symptoms
-euphoric vs. dysphoric hypomania and mania
-the blurred line between mania and hypomania

Here is a one-paragraph excerpt on the energy that accompanies mania:

Whether it lasts twenty minutes or a year, hypo/mania can be seen as a period of unusually high energy. Hypo/manic patients typically can get away with very little sleep, often only four hours or less a night. Some manic patients can go days without any sleep. If you have a hard time imagining how someone can survive on so little sleep, think back to a time when you were very excited about something happening the next day. Maybe you had a promising first date, or were starting a new job. It was hard to sleep, right? Your mind raced with excited thoughts about the new developments in your life. Then you woke up before your alarm went off, ready to start this glorious new day. Severe mania is like living in this state of excitement all the time; sleep is unnecessary and hard to get. 

Overall, the intro to the mania chapter is a little over 1,200 words. I will attach 2-3 actual patient stories dealing with mania to the end of the chapter. If you have graciously allowed me to interview you, you can expect the questions on mania to come very soon; I decided to write the introduction before the questions so that I would have a better sense of what questions I need to ask.

Thank you for reading, and I hope that you all have a marvelous day!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Book Proposal

I am currently working on a book proposal for this project. What is a book proposal, you ask?

According to Jane Friedman's website, a book proposal is "essentially...a business plan for your book".  After I finish the proposal, I will send it to agents, who will hopefully send it to publishers. The goal of the proposal is to convince the powers that be that my book should exist, and that I am the right person to write it.

A proposal consists of several parts:

-A general overview of the entire proposal

-the "target market" for the book. In this section, I have identified my target market as people affected by bipolar disorder and their loved ones. I have explained why these people would be interested in reading this book, especially in the weeks and months following diagnosis.

-Competitive Analysis: Here I discuss other books and websites on the topic of bipolar disorder, explaining the need for a book like Conversations Concerning our Condition.

-Author Biography: I talk about my credentials here, why I should be the one to write this book. I discuss my educational background and touch on my personal experience with bipolar disorder.

-Marketing and Promotional Plan: Here I discuss what I will do to help the book sell if it is published. I talk about this blog. I also describe my plan to donate copies of the book to mental health professionals, who can then recommend it to their bipolar patients.

-Chapter Outline: In this section, I discuss what each chapter will contain. As of right now, I plan to have ten chapters.

-Sample Chapters: I will include both the chapter on the onset of bipolar disorder and either the chapter on mania or depression with the proposal. These included chapters should give agents and publishers a better idea of this project and my writing style.

So that is the book proposal! It still needs a lot of work, but it is nice to have a plan.

I'm back!

After abandoning this project for nearly two years, I have enthusiastically returned to it. In the past year and a half, I have grown a lot as a person and as a writer. I have a much deeper understanding of who I am, both as a person with bipolar disorder and as a person, period. I have worked extensively on two novels. Practice writing fiction will help me with this project, even though this is a nonfictional work, as I am telling people's stories. I am reporting factual information, but I still need to do it in a way that is engaging, as a story teller.

I have recently graduated, earning a degree in biology and psychology. In the past year and a half, I have taken several classes that will help me write this book. These include courses in adolescent psychology, psychology of emotion, and neural epigenetics. I will be working full time in a neurobiology research lab that I have been with for two years, starting in mid-January. I also aim to spend 2-3 hours daily on the book. I am currently working on a book proposal. More on that in the next post!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Evolution of a Name and an Explanation

I probably should explain the (admittedly somewhat confusing) title of this blog. This will require me to discuss the evolution of the book's title. As of right now, I plan to call the book Conversations Concerning our Condition: What Bipolar is Really Like.

The day that I decided to write a book, I was fairly high on life. Higher than I had been in a long, long while. So, I naturally decided to ask my hypomania why she had been gone for so long. (Please don't ask me why hypomania is a woman). She gave me some bogus response, something about being too busy bothering other people to pay me much mind. Of course, I didn't buy it. I wanted to really know why I had not received my normally annual spring hypomania this year.

Well, the answer to that riddle probably involves my medication, which sadly works better against my highs than it does my lows. But it doesn't matter. The point was that I was attempting to talk to my bipolar disorder. Which got me to thinking, if bipolar disorder could engage us in conversation, what could we learn from it?

I cannot converse directly with bipolar disorder, but I can analyze my own experiences, and I can collect other people's stories. The day that I decided to write the book, I realized that this was the next best thing. Since talking with bipolar disorder is such an intriguing idea, I decided to title the book Conversations With our Illness: What Bipolar is Really Like.

A few days passed, and that title started to sound ridiculous to me. Conversations with our illness? As exciting as it would be to talk to bipolar disorder, I will never be able to do that. I decided to re-title the project Conversations Concerning our Illness: What Bipolar is Really Like.  I then realized that I could make the title even more alliterative by changing "illness" to "condition".  Thus, Conversations Concerning our Condition.

When I started this blog, I momentarily forgot that we were speaking about bipolar rather than directly with it and accidentally named it "Conversations with our Condition". This was after I had decided to use the word "condition".

So, there is a reason why the blog has such a strange title. I hope that you all will forgive me for it. It does have it's own kind of odd charm though, right....? ;)

If you are so inclined, let me know what you think of the book's current prospective title. Is the alliteration cute, or is it annoying?  Does anyone have any alternative suggestions? Thanks!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Welcome to the Conversation!

Hello; my name is Sara.  Welcome to my blog, Conversations with our Condition. Here you will find documentation of a journey that is just about to begin. This summer, I will write a book, and I will share my progress via this blog.

I'm sure that you have plenty of questions at this point. Who am I? What is the topic of my book? Why am I writing it? What makes me think that I am qualified to write it?

I am a rising college junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I am studying neurobiology and psychology, and I hope to ultimately attend medical school to become a psychiatrist. The human mind, in health and disease, fascinates me (but especially in disease).

Given this information, it shouldn't be too surprising that the book will focus on bipolar disorder, a common mental illness that afflicts between 1-6% of the population, depending on how it is defined. Bipolar is a disease of highs and lows, called manias and depressions. I have a special interest in bipolar disorder because I deal with it myself. Which brings up the topic of my qualifications...I am not yet a psychiatrist. I have not even finished undergrad. What makes me think that I can write an informed, credible book on bipolar disorder?

I have lived with this illness for nearly 9 years, since I was 12. I know what it is like to descend into deep depressions, and I've flown through thrilling hypomanias. I am not an expert on bipolar disorder. I am, however,  an expert on my own experience. This experience alone does not qualify me to write a book on bipolar, but I believe that it is a start.

I enjoy learning new things, and my experience has lead me to extensively research this disorder. After my diagnosis a year ago, I have read personal websites, self-help books and scientific research articles in an attempt to understand this condition. I have also participated in an online forum for bipolar individuals (the bipolar forum at, an excellent resource), still seeking a greater understanding of bipolar disorder. I felt (and still feel) that I cannot learn enough about this disorder.

It was during this research quest that I realized that something was missing from the bookshelves of libraries and stores. I learned a lot about this illness simply by experiencing it and discussing it with other people who struggle with bipolar, but this type of knowledge could not be gleaned from traditional books on bipolar. That was when the idea of writing a book of my own first entered my head.

Like all books on bipolar, my book will clearly explain the phenomenon, will define depression and hypomania, will describe what is and what isn't seen in this disorder. But, it will do all of this through the stories and experiences of those who live with the illness. If I am successful, people who read my book will know more than just what bipolar disorder is. They will know what it is like to have it.

I cannot complete this project on my own. In order to portray bipolar disorder accurately, I will need wide variety of perspectives. I am currently looking for people to interview, so if you have bipolar please consider being a part of the project. If you are interested, e-mail me at: If you know people who have bipolar disorder, or who would be interested in this project, please feel free to direct them to this blog! Thanks.