CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Photo by Rich Evenhouse
It is now precisely two months since I released my debut novel, THE BETWEEN, after more than half a year of soul searching, research, and hard work to get a solid understanding of every step of the process.
I am proud of the work I did and the excellent work of those who helped me along the way. I have absolutely no regrets, nor were there any real surprises for me in the doing.
What I did not expect was the sadness.
If you ask my rational mind, everything is going according to plan. The book has sold nearly 150 copies, split just about evenly between paperback and eBook, is for sale at our local independent bookstore, is shelved at our town library, and is garnering lovely and positive reviews.
My emotional self is battling a strange mix of depression, anger, envy, and frustration.
And perhaps this is simply what every writer and artist copes with when he or she puts work out to the public marketplace. Each creative endeavor is part of ourselves, at least in some small way, so every act of publication is an act of risk and exposure.
I wish I could simply let this story exist in the world on its own merits, without feeling the vulnerability of connection with it. The truth is, that when days go by without a single sale, I feel like a failure. Conversely, when a positive review gets posted, I read it over and over again, wanting to dance with joy. Perhaps these extreme emotional reactions are also part and parcel of the creative mind. At least it seems to be so in my case.
To write fiction is to craft a series of peak emotional moments in the lives of your characters. No one wants to read '. . . and nothing happened.' And so my internal landscape seems to mirror the emotional landscape of my work. While this may help the act of creativity, I suspect this complicates the balance of my day to day living.
I'm in this strange space where while I am fiercely proud of my novel, proud of the work it took to bring it to full fruition, I'm also unhappy and having trouble focusing on new writing. It is hard to read blogposts and tweets from other writers celebrating their success.
I am not proud to admit I have this petty, envious side.
I could simply turn off the wifi and stop checking twitter, et al, work on my writing, but as much as I don't want to read about yet another book rocketing up the amazon charts, part of me must be a glutton for punishment.
This isn't a zero sum game. I know this. Someone else's success in no way diminishes my own. I know this too. I feel extraordinarily blessed with the support I have in my family and writing lives. And I also know how little control I have over anything but to work hard at my writing.
Know that I am not looking for sympathy or for protestations of my worth as a writer. It's just that when I started this blog, I promised myself I would be honest here, even if no one ever read my posts. I am being honest, first and foremost, with myself.
And still and all, if there were a time machine and I could go back in time 6 months, armed with everything I know today, I wouldn't change a thing.