He felt now that he was not simply close to her, but that he did not know where he ended and she began. ~Leo Tolstoy

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

It's Okay to Cry

Let's face it, publishing a book can really suck. I'm not limiting this statement to self-publishing; I'm sure that trad publishing has its moments of complete suckage, because ultimately it's not the final product nor the vehicle by which the book is birthed that can be painful, it's the entire process.

(Probably what I'm saying could apply to all forms of art but YMMV.)

Writing is a solitary endeavor. I don't know who said that first or in which precise order and word choice but the gist is the same. It's a lonely thing, to live within a laptop's screen and craft a world, and people it with characters who do, experience, and feel more than you do while you write them. And that's...okay. You expect that part to be lonely; in fact it probably should be. Best Writer's Group Ever member or not, you don't write by committee (or you shouldn't! Feedback is great up until the moment you subconsciously let your group write your story for you).  I get up at 5a.m. several times per week in order to achieve that solitude. But what I didn't realize is that the solitude extends beyond the initial butt-in-chair work.

You're on your own. Period.

That's not a self-pitying statement, by the way, despite the fact it smacked of that as I wrote it. It's just fact. And as with all facts, you can either choose to ignore it, deny it, fight it, or accept it. Over the course of publishing my first book, I've come face to face with it, and have chosen accept it. But until then, it's been a little bumpy.

Ignore It

You have a writer's group. You have beta-readers. You have your spouse, your friends, your mom, supporting you. You feel like you go into the process with an army at your back. Not necessarily (except for your mom) Because life. Because every one is writing their own stories and living their own dramas and they don't always conform to your schedule. You're left prodding, gently nudging, biting nails and sending tepid emails, trying not to sound like a beggar, wondering why on earth your masterpiece isn't Priority One in the lives of every person you've met, or ever made eye-contact with.

(Full disclosure, I almost deleted that above paragraph. For obvious reasons)

Secondly--and here's where the solitude really comes back--no one, and I mean NO ONE, understands what your art means to you like you do. No one. One careless comment--or god forbid, NO comments--and you can be sucked down in the vortex of bruised ego hell, a place that you find thoroughly ridiculous, even as you're dwelling in it. (It's like checking-in to a fleabag hotel and saying "This sucks...I'll only stay here a week. Or ten.")

You can have the most supportive, smartest, dedicated friends in the world (like I do) and it will never feel like enough. Never. Only you will know what it took to not only craft your baby, but to drop kick it into the world with the hopes and prayers it becomes the most popular kid in school, and not be tormented at recess or--worse--ignored completely. Only you--and other writers--know this, but other writers are too busy fretting over their own babies to worry about yours. The circle of solitude goes on, like the circle of life but without the uplifting African music and baby animals.

Deny, deny, deny...

This is where that endless hunger for feedback becomes needy. Instead of pleasantly ignoring the truth of your solitude, you deny it and start to DEMAND that the world acknowledge your work. Sometimes this pays off. You have to market the ever-loving fuck out of a book to get just a fraction of the world's eyeballs to find it. But the sales surge after a successful ad run flattens like a wave at low tide, and suddenly you're wondering what the hell everyone's problem is. How much money do I have to spend to make my 35 cents off a 99-cent book that took me a over a year to write?

Don't get me wrong; this isn't rational. The world owes you payback in direct proportion to the amount of hard work you give out. (E.L. James and the dude who raised $55K on a kickstarter for potato salad being the exception). It's a big world. You gotta do a lot of work and you do it alone.

Fight It

"Fighting it" is a machismo phrase for complaining. It's starting self-pitying, passive-aggressive Facebook posts and then deleting them--thank god--before hitting "post". It's blowing up at friends over something marginally related because that's easier than admitting that no one cares as much as you do.

And not to put to fine a point on it, people who love you DO care, just never as much as you. They don't, they never will, and they shouldn't have to, so stop fighting it.

Lastly, acceptance.
Ah, feels good, no?


It feels like the trudging goes on, the butt is in the chair, the next book written, or painting painted, or song practiced in the bedroom again and again. Because that is the ONLY thing you can do with your art. While only you will even know how much it means to you, it does mean something--quite a lot hopefully, and that makes all the other bullshit worth it. Keep doing it. Alone. Persevere. Never give up, never surrender.

But it's okay to cry a little bit along the way.

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