Tuesday, September 27, 2016

I’m so happy for you! Don’t mind the green, it’s a seaweed wrap

Sometimes, in my youth, I imagined that one day, all of my dreams would come true, and I would get a sort of ticker tape parade where everyone honored me and my accomplishments. As I got older, the confetti parade morphed into the book deal and the signing with an agent and all the trappings of success in publishing. Obviously, this is all some sort of dream. It’s not like confetti launches when you sign a contract (how cool would that be?).

To make things somewhat worse, right after signing, not only is there no confetti parade, there are no great lights blinking over your head to let everyone around you suddenly know that you’re a signed writer and your really, real book will be out in the world (soon—okay, soon by some very lengthy scales). There’s nothing to see, and for many writers, there won’t be a thing to even hold in your hand for a year, so it doesn’t feel real.

And then, to make it worse, all around people are having what looks like the Confetti parade. They have the Signed With AWESOME AGENT posts; the I SIGNED A 6Figure Contract; The MY BOOK LANDED ON THE NYT Bestseller list. Oh, it’s exhausting sometimes to hold your little candle of success up in the world so noisy and filled with blowtorches of success—and wishing your little candle was more like a Hollywood special effect. But it isn’t (well, not yet you tell yourself, but there’s this feeling that it might never come true). And then after being inundated by all this noise, all this bluster threatening to blow out your little candle of success, there comes One More Person with GREAT News.

Oh, dear folks, I will tell you jealousy is an emotion you are not supposed to have. It’s not supposed to exist. I’m supposed to be a gracious and magnanimous person. And I am—most of the time. Right after I signed, I suffered from this emotion I’m not supposed to feel. I’d been taught that jealousy is bad. I’m supposed to ignore it. I’m supposed to be able to “just get over it.” So there it is, jealousy in all its hideous—shameful—presence. And the book that lands on the bestseller list is a fan fic of a fan fic, widely panned by critics as the worst stinking pile of poo ever, and it’s selling 100,000 copies a day.


And I’m jealous of that pile of poo, an unenviable position to begin with, but the very act of being jealous is also shameful. AAAAGH!!!

There is only one response: grin and bear it. If I can’t manage that, then I’ve got to find a way to at least make sure that there is no evidence I ever suffered from that shameful emotion. So it’s time to crawl into a hole, or become a smiling automaton.

This is what society has dictated, and, if you’ve been watching social media, any other responses are absolutely skewered in the public view. So writers with contracts drop out of the race. They hide. They take the shameful emotion and hide the fact that they ever had it. Because we aren’t supposed to be jealous—we’re supposed to be happy.

I know, it’s not very original, but it’s the truth, sometimes, the emotions are hard to deal with. And if you're wondering, this might be among the reasons a writer drops off the radar.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Congratulations! You’ve signed a contract! Welcome to Imposterville, Population 1

Pretty much the first set of feelings I had as a “really, real” writer was imposter syndrome. I felt like a fake. Worse I felt like the acquisitions editor was “just being nice.”

This is laughable.

It’s not that acquisitions editors sit around drinking scotch and smoking cigars—I mean, that’s a lovely pastime, but sometimes there’s real work to be done—but they certainly aren’t the evil overlords looking to destroy the world and crush the hopes and dreams of writers. Well, not today at least. So yeah, the idea that the person trying to acquire my book was just being nice rather than being a professional trying to convince me to sign a contract is, in retrospect, kind of na├»ve.

But there it is, I felt like I’d somehow bamboozled my way through the gate. Largely, this was because I didn’t know what to expect or that there were even people in the world who might like my book. I had over 200 letters telling me that my books weren’t what people were looking for, that in this crowded market, they weren’t likely to stand out, and that the premise seemed engaging but the actual book was in the unenviable position of not having been fallen in love with (It’s okay, poor book, there’s a special lobster for your too).

So I thought I was a fake. And if I’m a fake, so is the contract.

That’s right, I deluded myself into believing that the whole book getting published thing wouldn’t happen, and that all of this was just a big joke. Lucky for all parties involved, I decided that I wouldn’t be the first to break and call it a joke, and that I would follow all of my contractual obligations leading up to the release of my book. In my head, it became some sort of complicated game of chicken.

You might ask why it was that I was so convinced of this was fake. There are some precedents in my life where I’d been led along like something was real and had the rug ripped out from under me, but for the most part, those were little events—right up until it was a thing I’d been working on for a decade. When that fell through, I sort of lost faith in the Universe. (Sorry Universe, it’s me not you? No wait, that time it was you.)

But I had to look at myself and accept a few things: I had some signs of classic depression, and more than a little bit of clinical anxiety. Depression and anxiety were the ones telling me that my writing had sucked and that my work wasn’t worth anyone’s time and effort. All those rejection letters had just given my anxiety the words it needed to really hunker down and make some logical sense. My anxiety and depression had convinced me that other people, the ones saying nice things about my book—the ones offering me contracts for my book!—were lying about liking it.

Clearly, they weren’t. The book got published—much to my surprise—and now there are a bunch of copies out in the world. And it’s sort of amazing and wonderful, and more than anything, I’m glad I decided to follow along and jump through the hoops to get my book published, because, I like my book. I never expected to be in a place to admit that I love my own books, but I do, and that one in particular.

So pretty much this goes down as a learn from my fail. I wasted a ton of head space and time thinking they were going to pull the plug. And pulling the plug does happen in Publishing, NONE of the signs were there. Literally none.

I’ve talked to a ton of writers and this isn’t an isolated incident. Mine might have been stronger than many, (mine might have been actually a weak case all things considered, I just like to build mountains out of mole hills) but it’s not an isolated feeling. Imposter syndrome is real, and it will warp your mind.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Arrow of Time Points in a Circle

I’ve noticed something in my time in the Bloggosphere: I’ll be following a writer, they’ve just signed with their agent, they’ve just released their first book into the world, and then crickets. They were all over the place, and then, suddenly, dramatically, they’re gone. The blogging records are really good right up until release day. When I was querying madly and trying to figure myself and my own writing out, I always wondered why that was. Why did they get to that spot and stop? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to ramp it up?

And to be truthful, some writers get to that point and they did ramp it up—with promotions for their book. They completely stopped writing about all the things I’d gone to their blog for: writing tips and how to, and the like.

I get it. You publish a book, and it’s time to sell the book. I get that. I really do. But the thing I was always curious about were the thoughts writers had after releasing a book.

And then I looked back at my own blog and saw EXACTLY the same thing. *Sigh*

Turns out, I’m not all that special. Turns out, I’m just like all the other writers. Turns out, I have many of the same insecurities and fears as all the others. Turns out that when things got rough, I abandoned my blog because as writers, we’re supposed to happy and supportive and exciting. Turns out, it’s easier to go silent than it is to process the feels while you’re in a place that many other writers are envious of.

With writing, there are some things you’re allowed to shout from the rooftops, and there are things you’re supposed to hide (terms of contracts, for instance). So I’m going to start a series of blog posts that I intend to go from now through the start of NaNoWriMo (you are getting ready, right?) to cover some of the things that don’t get talked about as much (largely because they’re boring).

What they will be: A look at writing; what’s changed about writing since publication; a look at some of the challenges after publishing that don’t get talked about a lot; ways to cope; thoughts on strategy; learn from my fail; and quite a bit of Just Keep Swimming (sorry, it’s the nature of the beast).

What it won’t be: Woe is me, look at how my success ruined my life (because it didn’t, but there are definitely feels, and those feels are very real elephants come to trample you and your muse).

This’ll be a weekly engagement (should I say weakly, my blogging hasn’t been that good lately), and I’ll intersperse some other posts (reviews, costume related, fangirl moments—you do know Flash season 3 airs in October, right?).

If there’s anything specific you’d like me to talk about, send me an email, comment here, hit me up on Facebook, carrier pigeon—I’m easy to contact, and I want this series to be a resource for people going through the process. I know that parts of this topic exist in the blogosphere, but they were often stories about “when I was a young writer” and not nearly that much about the way publishing is now (and publishing changes faster than a model during fashion week—but it’s all the same which is paradoxical and complicated). 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Squash like grape!

It’s the first Wednesday of the month, and that means: Insecure Writer’s Support Group!

This month, my particular insecurity is oddly specific. I’m worried that I’m writing the wrong book.

As you may or may not know, I’ve been working on a sequel. This is fun, terrifying, and, strangely, sloooooow. I’m starting to think that the reason it’s so slow is because I’m not convinced I’m working on the right project.

See, I interrupted a book to work on this project. A shiny book. A book that was starting to really grow on me, but then I realized the better business decision to make, would be to make sure that we have another book in the race. So I set aside the thing that had the momentum and now I’m moving as fast as molasses at Christmas. In fact, it was so slow, that for a while there I wasn’t managing any words at all. But then things got a little better, but still not great.

And all the while, I keep thinking about the book I left behind. Did I ruin it by leaving it? Will the magic still be there when I finally finish this other project? And did I leave behind the magic to write something kind of crummy? Ah the doubts gnaw like remoras.

But, I’ve made a choice and I’ve picked my side of the road. For those of your who maybe didn't grow up watching the Karate Kid, Mr. Myagi famously stated to the MC that he either had to go all in or stay out of Karate all together. If he wobbled in the middle, he'd be squashed like a grape. So I'm all in, and there’s only one way out. I keep trying to remind myself of that saying: If you have to walk through hell, don’t stroll. Back to work for me. 

And don’t forget to visit all the cohosts, C. Lee McKenzie,Rachel Pattison, Elizabeth Seckman, Stephanie Faris, Lori L MacLaughlin, and Elsie Amata, and hop on NinjaCaptain Alex’s Linky and visit some other blogs