A Cure for a Case of the Mondays: Thoughts on Writing & Life

Even if you’ve never seen the movie Office Space, you’ve probably seen a meme with corporate drones hanging around soulless cubicles and whining about the beginning of the workweek. “Looks like someone’s got a case of the Mondays,” chides a coworker, just as the main character, Peter, is about to lose his mind.

As I’m writing this, it’s a beautiful Tuesday in early June, which means that yesterday, of course, was Monday. I have to admit with some embarrassment that during the early days of shelter-in-place, I found it a challenge to keep track of which day it was. If I only had a paper calendar to go by, or even etching tally marks onto the wall à la prison cell cliché, I would’ve lost track ages ago (thankfully, my smartphone and my husband keep me well-informed). My friend told me that this happens to many people in retirement, but hopefully that’s a long way off.

A few years ago, Pre-Pandemic A.D., I decided to leave my corporate job to focus on my newborn for a while (I wrote more about that life-changing decision here, and how it influenced my author journey.) I wasn’t sure when I’d return to the office, but I was certain those days weren’t over. In between naptime and playtime, I dabbled with writing – creative nonfiction, poetry, and short stories – nothing serious, all just for fun, and all just for my own outlet and creative pleasure. Fast-forward to early 2020, and I’m back on the job market when *poof*, the market simply disappears. What do I do? Nose to the grindstone, I write.

I write because I love it. I write because it is like breathing. I write because my life depends on it. I write everyday at any and every hour. It is my full-time job, and it is my full-time love. I wrote until inklings on the page gestated into fully-formed and beautiful creatures, their DNA made of tens of thousands of words: a novella, then another, then a novel, all work I’m proud of, and long to share with other hearts and minds. I am a writer, no matter what the job market tells me.

For months, I worked on my first full-length novel, SOPHIA WARREN’S PRIZE-WINNING ROSES. The story follows retired teacher and (not quite) recovered gambler Phyllis Hobhouse, who married the love of her life, Stanley, and is facing life without him after five decades together. Phyllis takes solace in caring for the rose Stanley gifted her – though she has no idea how to keep anything green alive, much less persnickety roses. When she’s not enriching her soil with hummus instead of ‘humus’, she’s recounting cherished memories: her teenage romance with Stanley, all the way from their meet-cute while hiding in the boys’ bathroom to their climactic love confession over a game of Strip Monopoly. Phyllis is about to hang up her trowel when she discovers her former best friend, Sophia Warren, is the reigning Queen of Roses in The National Rose Association (the fictional other NRA) – a competitive rose growing society. With nothing but time on her hands, Phyllis rekindles her grudge and aims to dethrone ‘Queen’ Sophia and capture the title for herself. Will Phyllis repair her relationship with her frienemy, or will she and her mysterious new bestie Selina resort to murder to win? If this sounds interesting to you, I invite you to read an excerpt from my novel here, and drop me a line on social to let me know what you think.

After I completed the manuscript for SOPHIA WARREN’S PRIZE-WINNING ROSES, I began researching the road to publishing. There are so many ways to share your literary work with the world, but I knew that I wanted the support and experience of those in the book industry to help me achieve the best version of my work, and to share my work with others. About a month ago, the wonderful and hard-working Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency agreed to partner with me as my literary agent, and yesterday, a Monday, she and intern Megan Rolapp submitted my manuscript to publishing editors for review. As I told Julie and Megan in response to the news, “my head feels like a balloon!”

Having a manuscript out on submission is yet another step on the road to publishing, and it’s sobering to remember that this still does not guarantee that your work will be published. In this regard, one of Anne Lamott’s beautiful quotes from her book, Bird by Bird, brings repeated comfort:

While meant to apply to the writing process, I believe that Anne’s wisdom can also apply to the publication process, as with so many other things in life. Many cultures remind us of this as well, from poco a poco in Spanish to شوي شوي (shway shway) in Arabic, phrases which aim to remind us to take life step by step.

Still feeling ‘balloon-headed’, yesterday someone told me, by way of farewell, “Ugh, enjoy the rest of your Monday. Just think, we’re one step closer to Friday!” This caught me by surprise – and no, not because I didn’t know which day it was! After I politely commiserated with them, it made me realize that I no longer internalize Monday as the beginning of the workweek slog. In fact, my entire relationship with time has evolved over the last few years, starting with my near-death experience and continuing to morph through motherhood and as a writer.

Now, when I wake up in the morning, I don’t dwell on counting the days until the weekend. Instead, I think about the next chapter I’m working on – what truths will my characters discover, and how will the plot move forward toward a satisfying end? Writing that out just now, I realize how that’s also a beautiful metaphor for life.

By the end of Office Space, the main character has found the cure for what ails him, his so-called ‘case of the Mondays.’ I won’t spoil the ending for you, in case you haven’t seen it yet (what are you waiting for?), but I think you’ve figured out by now that the protagonist finds a vocation that fulfills him, body and soul. If you, dear reader, are someone who still suffers from a case of the Mondays (or Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc.), I encourage you to do something about it. Maybe it’s just a small shift in your perspective, or maybe it’s a total career change. Either way, I want to remind you that what you do – both inside and outside the workplace – has value, and that each day of your precious life is an opportunity for something wonderful.

With appreciation,

Katie R. Yen

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