My Book Deal Ruined My Life

“I found, when I quit The Times, that the biggest problem is loneliness,” Mr. Anderson admitted.

“Basically, I was giving myself panic attacks in the beginning,” said Ms. McLaren, who took a leave of absence from her column-writing job to move to an isolated farmhouse outside Toronto and write her novel in solitude. “As a newspaper writer, people were always walking over to your desk and being like, ‘Where is it? How’s it coming?’ All that was taken away—there’s no deadline.”

And then there’s the self-loathing.

“You’re not letting people read it as you write it. Nobody has ever read what you’re doing. It could be terrible. It could be brilliant. And you start to think, ‘Oh God, this is a complete piece of shit that couldn’t be published—nobody is going to read it.’ But then you have a sandwich and go, ‘I am a genius and I’m going to win the Booker Prize.’”

Rachel Sklar, 34, the media and special-projects editor for the Huffington Post, barricaded herself her in Lower East Side apartment to work on her book, Jew-ish: Who We Are, How We Got Here, and All the Ish in Between, a humorous “guidebook on being a contemporary Jew,” according to Ms. Sklar. “It’s not like you can pack all that into a pamphlet if you’re going to do it right. You can’t just wing a chapter on the Talmud.” (Originally due in mid-February, the book’s deadline has since been pushed twice—once to May and now to mid-September.)

Ms. Sklar took six weeks off from her blogging job to uniform herself in fuzzy sweatpants, tie her hair into a bun, surround herself in books from the library and, guzzle Diet Coke and immerse herself in Jewry.

“The stack of books kept me where I was. I wasn’t going out, I wasn’t shopping …. I berated myself and may have had a few meltdowns. Well, I definitely had a few meltdowns. But you know, a friend of mine came over at 1:30 [after] a movie premiere with a six-pack of Diet Coke and a box of cupcakes, and it was the greatest pick-me-up ever.”

“The interesting thing is that it’s kind of freeing when you have a real good excuse to tell people no,” said Anna Holmes, 33, the current managing editor of Jezebel, a Gawker-sponsored female-centric blog, and editor of Hell Hath No Fury: Women’s Letters from the End of the Affair. “But there was also that fear that the more I said no, at the end of the whole thing I wouldn’t have any friends left.”

Ms. Holmes stayed bundled in her apartment for about a year between 2001 and 2002, leaving her job as a writer at Glamour to cobble together the book.

“If you have an office job, at least it’s walking to and from the subway every day. When you sit in your house, you seriously gain weight,” Ms. Holmes said in a phone interview from her Long Island City apartment. “I’m eating my Greek yogurt and steamed vegetables—I’m trying to be good about what I’m eating. But I’m still like, ‘I’m getting really soft.’ My idea before the book came out was that I was going to diet, because I had gotten flabby, so that I’d look better to promote it. But that didn’t happen. I was quote unquote dieting for I think two weeks, but I just couldn’t do it.”

After all the months of writing, editing and wrangling permissions to reprint letters, Caroll & Graf released the book in August 2002. But the last thing Ms. Holmes wanted to do was celebrate the publication.

“I was really tired. I wasn’t so much physically tired, I was mentally tired. At the exact moment I was supposed to be promoting it, the last thing I wanted to do was talk about it. I had to get all excited about this thing that I had just given birth to. It was like postpartum depression…

“I had a hard time getting myself back into my quote-unquote normal life, because I actually started enjoying my [own] company so much and the solitude of it all. I didn’t even want to go out,” Ms. Holmes continued. “I still tend to kind of want to be at home and read and, you know, [become] a cat lady, with my cats.”