If I ever become Queen of the World I shall require the following boxed disclaimer be posted above the “how to publish” advice on every site:
Warning: becoming a published author may suck all the joy out of writing. Proceed with caution. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. This too shall pass.
I don’t know if the barrage of cliches would work, but I’m forever glad I was given such a warning so I’m paying it forward. Forewarned is forearmed.
Once the first story hits the wide world, life changes forever. The irrevocable shift in identity from writer to author comes with big responsibilities attached, and learning to juggle all the new balls takes adjustment. The learning curve is especially steep for independent authors. To mix a few more metaphors into this stew, it takes a village to raise a book-baby, but many indies head into the adventure as armies of one.
I knew what to expect as much as anyone can be prepared for a new phase of life, but the experience still staggered me for two years. I clung to the following lifeline: it’s normal to be overwhelmed by major life changes. Know that and take solace in solidarity–you are not the first, you are not alone– but also know that knowing is only half the battle.
The good news is there’s no wrong way get through the adjustment. The bad news is there’s no one right way, and there’s no timetable. There’s more to the process than “giving it time,” but making the mistakes that lead to your right way does take time. Being me, I like to waste time wondering why does this happen? So for today’s digression here’s my thinking on why publishing causes so much disruptive angst.
Before I published, my words and I were huddled together in a lonely bunker. I spent my time with my words. Alone. Publishing was the creative equivalent of stepping from that isolated defense zone into a constant assault of mental and emotional flack. The attacks never stop. From the dull tedium of promotion scheduling & social media maintenance to the distracting excitement of creative authoring tasks (editing, cover design, formatting etc) maintenance of published books can take over every waking minute. Feeding the post-publication machine leaves little energy for working on new material, but neglecting published books to concentrate on creating leads to a different kind of guilt.
It’s a no-win situation for the author. The only way to win is to refuse the battle. Crawl back into the bunker as often as possible. Creativity thrives on quiet and focus. My time and my enthusiasm are fragile, defenseless non-combatants. Post-publication I fight to defend my inspiration from floating clouds of distraction shrapnel. (Even this blog can be its enemy. Navel-gazing is easy. Fiction is hard.)
All these authoring battles will leave new authors with little time or energy for creating. In many cases, even the original enthusiasm for the act of writing itself gets destroyed.
I was spared that last part because I had no love of writing to lose. At best I tolerate the process of forcing my thoughts into a linear progression of static letters. (True confession. 3 published novels, 2 more completed but waiting their turn and a bag full of finished novellas on the side, and not a single one is the product of joy.)
(Digression to the digression If you wonder why I spend so many thousands of hours engaged in an activity I loathe, I will answer: the stories in my head can’t be finished or shared without resorting to prose. I love the end result, and I don’t hate the process of making it. just like I don’t hate weeding. I like a tidy garden. I like a finished story.)
To return to the point: the writing gig will NOT be easier once the publishing happens. Give up the dangerous hope of “when it’s done, it’s done,” and realize that birthing a book-baby means being its parent forever afterwards.
So. Brace yourself for the worst: once you enter the public arena through the door marked PUBLISHED, your creativity will never be the same. It will become different and probably it will be better, but don’t expect the change to be easy. You’ll have to fight to find a new balance.
Here’s my list of ways to keep my groove as groovy as possible. (Nothing works universally or permanently.) As advice it’s worth exactly as much as you’re paying for it:
- Be kind to yourself.
- Try out different new productive habits until you find a good fit for the new normal.
- Fight distraction and forgive yourself lapses.
- Remember: change is disruptive. Even happy changes.
- Remember: no storm lasts forever. The newness will pass.
- If you don’t like your post-pub equilibirum, you can ALWAYS rock the boat again.
And there you have it. Here endeth the pontification.
Plus a reminder that I have a sale coming up.
Would you like to support it without paying a cent? You can!
Here are the sale deets: July 25-31 Amazon.com Kindle Exclusive. Get three of my five Restoration e-books for a TOTAL of 99 cents. Such a deal. Tell all your friends.
…and the story behind the post:
A writer asked a Facebook group for advice after publishing a first novel. They missed the fun they’d once had, wondered if anyone else ever felt that way and if so, did anyone know how they could recover their joy? They conveniently identified all the usual suspects from bad reviews and concerns about the sequel living up to book one, to the time-sucks of promotion and social media maintenance. When my comment got all wordy and figurative, I decided it would do better here as a full-blown pretentious lecture. Or helpful inspiration with a bit of humor and personal perspective. Whichever.