As an unpublished author my dream during those few years between rough draft and publishing contract was to actually see my first novel in print, to share a story that was dear to my heart with the vast community of readers.
As an unpublished author what I didn’t consider was that when the time came to sending my work out into the world of literature some readers just might not feel the same enthusiasm for the story that I did. While some will enjoy reading my work, others might go as far as to not like the book at all. That a few of my last-minute edits might somehow go awry on their way to the final copy. That the cover might say nothing compelling about the story. That the finished product overall might come nowhere near living up to the dream.
That’s the problem with expectations, like a highly anticipated trip to Disney that turns out to be nothing more than long lines, sunburns and sore feet, so too can ones first experience with book publishing.
Now as a therapist, I am always quick to advise those who seek my counsel about the pitfalls of misguided expectations and generally I am good about reining in my own. But I suppose that when one is as emotionally invested in something as personal as a novel he, and in this case, she can lose all perspective and wind up gob smacked wondering what in the world happened to what she thought would clearly be a defining moment in her adult life. The Breathe 2am song says it best:
Its like I’m naked in front of a crowd cause these words are my diary screaming out loud
and I know that you’ll use them however you want to.
Releasing a novel is like giving everyone a front row seat to your soul and then standing back while perfect strangers and loved ones alike poke and prod through your most sensitive areas finding every little flaw, every inconsistency, every nuance, until you wonder why you thought to invite them in at all. It’s a one-way street between authors and readers. Readers, having the luxury of securing their idiosyncrasies safely behind a curtain of pretense that keeps intrusive onlookers at bay while being perfectly willing to enjoy the spoils of those who have the courage to put themselves out there in order to enlighten and entertain.
But then what choice do those born with creative minds have? The painter, sculptor, songwriter, novelist, all driven for whatever reason to create, to bare an intimate side that can be battered and bruised so discretely that it wounds without leaving evidence of a physical scar.
And still we trudge forward, create and create again.
Currently I’m working on the edits for my third novel, Count Down to Love. (The second novel comes out third. It’s confusing. Don’t ask why—just go with it.) As I’m going through, I can’t help but second-guess every phrase, every twist of the plot. Is it consistent? Too sappy? Too farfetched? Punctuated correctly? Transitioned properly? POV? Pacing? Tense? …? …? …?
For the love of Pete! It’s a novel not a medical journal. No one will die if, in a moment of reckless abandon, I sidestep, only slightly, into another character’s POV. Or, heaven forbid, have a character do something just because she did.
Another concept I struggle to help my therapy clients understand is that one should never give up his/her power of self-awareness to another. In other words, when we allow others to make us feel insecure, for whatever reason, we are essentially giving them the power— the right—to tell us how to feel, to determine our self-worth.
In the wee hours of this very morning while I was awake and barely tolerating the boisterous chorus of the spring birds outside my living room window, it occurred to me that I didn’t need to lose sleep over whether or not my next novel would measure up—if I would be able to hold my head high and say, “I wrote that.”
I write books because it’s fun, because I have stories knocking on my brain asking to be released. I can’t control whether or not anyone will like them. I don’t have final say as to the content or cover. I don’t have now, nor have I ever had, delusions of perfection. Read my stories and like them. Or don’t. I can’t say that disapproval won’t bother me but if someone doesn’t like the way I write, they can write their own damn book, or read someone else’s. Makes no never mind to me.
And so goes the bittersweet after taste of becoming published. Like sending a child off to college, the passing of the holiday season and the paradoxical flavor of dark chocolate, all we can do is take the good with the bad.
When all is said and done I feel I can rest assured that being a published author, as with every aspect of this life, is about balance, having learned that there is joy, and yes, growth, in each journey especially those that end most unexpectedly.