Monday, May 14, 2012

the dirty secret about being an author

When I was growing up, I never dreamed of writing a book, much less publishing one. I had no idea what I wanted to do as a career-- only that I wanted to be comfortable. I didn't want to worry.

For a long time, I thought my life's dream was to run the arts center where I grew up, but that didn't happen because I didn't want it badly enough to fight for it. I worked other jobs, just pushing paper to make money. And then I had babies. And then I started writing.

When I started my first book, I thought, "I just want to finish a book. That's enough."

It wasn't.

When I started writing my second book, I thought, "I just want to write a better book. That's enough."

It wasn't.

When I started querying agents, I thought, "I just want to get some requests, maybe some positive feedback. That's enough."

It wasn't.

When I found representation, I thought, "I just want to sell a book. That's enough."

It wasn't.


When I scored a three book deal from an amazing Big Six publishing house, I thought, "I just want to see my book in print. That's enough."

It wasn't.

The dirty secret is that ever since I started writing, nothing I've done has felt like enough. 

I have written more books, some of which have died quietly, some of which haven't sold, some of which are awaiting revision. I have done interviews and guest blogs, and I've been so fortunate to receive fantastic reviews. I've been invited to several conferences. I should be more than satisfied.

But I'm not.

I still feel like I should be doing more, writing more, selling more. I have never been so hungry, so filled with energy. I have never been so anxious to do well, to do better. I have never been ruled by such ambition and anxiety.

And in some ways, it's awesome. In other ways, it's terrifying.

So much of publishing is completely random. Your ranking on Amazon, where your book is placed in bookstores, whether or not someone in high places happens to pick up your book and read the back cover. There is no formula for victory. I have days where I look at my sales and have a mini panic-attack, thinking, OMIGOD, I NEED TO SELL MORE BOOKS OR I AM GOING TO FAIL, even though there is no clear route to selling books and no clear way to know you've failed until it's far too late. I've never had a job with such mystifying, arbitrary rules for success.

I used to think that I would see my book in a bookstore and think, "Well, I did that, and it's done. Awesome."

Instead, I see my book on the shelf and wonder why no one has bought that copy yet.

It's maddening. It's fantastic. I have never felt so alive, so vital. And I can't imagine doing anything else.

So maybe that's the dirty secret. It will never be enough... and I wouldn't want it to be.

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4 comments:

Rosie Pova said...

Maybe that doesn't necessarily apply to every author, but knowing myself, I suspect that's axactly how I would feel... and I'm looking forward to founding out I was right.

Rosie said...

Correction to my previous post: 'finding out.' Note to self: Do NOT comment on blogs when sleepy/tired!

Lexi H said...

Sounds like on hell of a ride =)

chariskalee said...

I imagine I would too be on the eternal quest for more. How awesome to be living your dreams.