I wish I was the type of person that could let things just roll off my back. I wish I was care free and easy going, and took each day in stride. But, I’m not.
I am overly dramatic, obsessive, and constantly worrying about every tiny detail. I can create problems for my problems. Seriously, being me is exhausting at times.
So when I decided I wanted to be a writer –for real– my problems began to tangle themselves together into one giant problem: the road to publication.
Oh how many times are you sitting around with friends, family or coworkers and someone sprouts out the words, “I could write a book!” Really? Can you? I would love to see you try.
I have written three complete novels, and have begun about a dozen more. This was not something that I did after a few glasses of wine or a vent fest with my friends. I did it because if I didn’t get these characters and their stories out on paper it would eat away at me. I was losing sleep over the dialogue in my head. I was no longer showering alone, because my characters were handing me the soap and telling me their side of the story. It was hard to concentrate on highway driving because I was mentally present at a birth or a funeral. I wrote the book because I had to, and writing down the words released the beast. Completing a chapter was completely euphoric and I was at my happiest when I had satiated all literary desires.
After years of writing the stories I transitioned into the role of author. I needed to send my books out into the world and see how they stood against “real” authors.
Well, the road to publication is not an easy one at all. In fact it’s dark, cold and very lonely. One thing you need in this business (and I do hate that art is now business) is thick skin. I’m talking dragon scales, chain mail, nothing can penetrate you kinda thick.
Rejection letters hurt. Form rejections suck, and no answer at all is the worst. Waiting in the tunnel of hope for an email that will never come.. shudders.
Then there is what happened to me:
I got an offer! After careful research, I signed! I worked my ass off on edits for months! My book was published!
Three weeks later the publishing house closed. True story.
Now, because it is VERY difficult to sell a book that was previously published, I decided to go indie with this trilogy. Which brings me to my latest anxiety: Reviews.
We all need reviews. They help sell our books, but they can also be the sword that knocks us right out of the competition.
I knew when I chose the devil as my main character that I was walking on thin ice. Some people would love my take, while others might be highly offended. It was a gamble, but I have never written stories because I felt “that is what people would want to buy.” I wrote stories that I wanted to read. I try to take old tales and make them new, make people think, and if at all possible, make them smile.
When my reviews first started to appear, I peeked through my fingers afraid of the results. The results were GOOD. I couldn’t believe how good. So good in fact that when I got a few terrible reviews, I wasn’t prepared for how it would make me feel. Well let me tell you… it hurt. Knife in gut, anxiety driven shaky hands kind of hurt.
That’s the thing about writers, artists, musicians and actors. We put ourselves out there and allow ourselves to be judged. How many professions can say they do that? Do you give a rating to the secretary at your child’s school? To the cashier at the supermarket? To the mailman or crossing guard? We can’t just get up and go to work like everyone else. Our work is displayed, hopefully for your enjoyment, but it also leaves us very vulnerable to criticism and verbal lashings.
What reviewers fail to consider is that a writer does not agonize over their story. They agonize over every word in every sentence of that story. A book isn’t written overnight, it is written and rewritten. It is the writer’s literary child. It is something we created out of love.
And that is what writing is. A labor of love, a long tedious journey that has more bumps, twists and turns than you can imagine.
But to hold that book in your hand… that printed copy that began as a thought and blossomed into an adventure…
There are no words for that.