I could also call this “About Last Week.”
Rational Brain knew book release day would be an emotional swamp. Rational Brain remembered, through the haze of concentration and the rising excitement of seeing my projects go live, that after the test flight usually comes the crash. Rational Brain laid in supplies for hibernation and made sure the den was clean and cozy. Rational Brain cleared the calendar of all emotionally-draining obligations.
Rational Brain knows it’s absolutely not appropriate to sit down and start singing the worm song while watching TV. But I prepared for that contingency, because it’s only wise to prepare for a storm when the radar shows one heading straight at me. Experience is a good teacher.
And sure enough, frustration and aggravated unhappiness are what I felt all last week. Just like the last time I released a story. And the time before that. The experience has been wretched, every single time. Within 24 hours after posting a new piece of writing online, I am sure that I will never, ever find a readership that includes people who don’t pity-purchase copies to “support” me. I am certain that the reason no one I don’t know reads my stories is that my writing is awful.
I know that’s an irrational conclusion to draw, I know emotional letdown is normal, but the rational explanation of oh, that’s a normal feeling is so danged unsatisfying that it makes me want to scream and kick like Verruca Salt.
I want to be happy when I complete projects that consumed my attention for hours, days, even weeks at a time over the last year. (Has it been that long since I started writing Joining in the Round? Yes, it has. Huh.) I wanted that happy this time. And I was happy, for about 12 hours. Then I turned as mopey as a kid left unpicked when the class chose sides for a kickball game. Like clockwork, I went from elated to disgusted with my work–in less than one day, after making one announcement on one social media platform, no less. Ridiculous, yes. Expecting any kind of response from that kind of “release” is much like expecting a wishing well wish to bring me a winning lottery ticket. I KNOW THIS. I don’t expect acclaim, public attention or hell, even much in the way of sales. It doesn’t matter.
Rational Brain keeps me fed and housed, it ensures that I stay moderately employed, and (so far) it’s prevented legal trouble. It does a lot, but it isn’t in charge. Toddler brain is the one that rules the mental roost. Toddler brain wants more than instant gratification. Toddler brain wants lots of gratification instantly, even when Rational Brain knows it’s illogical.
When it comes to achieving professional success in a creative field, I do All the Things Wrong. (That’s a whole ‘nother blog post.) For now, suffice to say that I chose this course, I know I’m choosing obscurity. Since I don’t expect much, it would be nice to skip the misery that descends after the well-deserved high of saying, “Done. Finis. It lives. Fly and be free!” It would be nice to have a way to appease Toddler Brain. That’s all I’m saying.
Someday I hope to release a title and get enough immediate, positive response that mentioning it to others feels like sharing happy news instead of harassment. Someday, I would like to skip the part where I go from excited to embarrassed so fast it gives me whiplash.
How much response would be enough? I’ve given the matter some thought, as it happens, and the answer is this: sales to strangers. At least one a week, of any of my titles. That’s what it would take. I’ve considered myself, and my work, and that is what does it for me. That’s my personal litmus test for success.
There are some who would tell me that as soon as I reach one goal, my needs will change, that no success is ever enough. To them, I say, “Do you even know a toddler?” I know some people are never satisfied, but my toddler-brain is pretty easy to please. I’ve never craved fame, and I don’t want money for money’s sake. Toddler brain wants lots of gratification right now, but it’s not a sophisticated kind of want. Toddler brain does not need blockbuster success. It never will. It will be just as happy with every little plushie toy and a binkie as it would be with a mansion.
That won’t change. Some things don’t, not from the time we’re born to the day we return to the earth. Anyone who knows me at all knows that I enjoy material comforts but not enough to commit myself to gaining them. I’ll be happy with affirmation. Acclaim would be a bonus, I won’t lie, but affirmation is the sucker after the shot.
I’m slowly accepting that when Rational Brain crashes and leaves Toddler Brain in charge, I need to go ahead and cry. I am blessed with many patient friends kind enough to hand me suckers and hold my hand through the rebound tantrums. I cannot adequately express my gratitude, but I’m learning to trust in that safety net. It isn’t easy, but I’m learning.
All I can do is keep writing.