I have to admit something. It has to do with this whole post-publishing of my novel thing. You know, what I mean? Yes, the trying to sell the book thing. So, here is my confession: I actually feel alone. I feel more alone than I can remember, perhaps with the exception of working on my PhD dissertation. I never felt alone while I wrote the book. The characters were a fabulous company. But now that the book is out there, I am lonely!
In addition, I am waiting for my judgment. Will people like my book? Will they tell their friends? Will they leave a review? Will my book join thousands of hundreds of books in the never-never land all because I failed to grab the readers’ attention? Let’s suppose the book is actually good (which I won’t know if I don’t reach the readers, right?). But let’s just suppose it for the time being. Then, according to the numerous “experts” on the web, there are about a hundred other things I should be doing. If I am, and am still not succeeding, then it’s this luck thing – or lack of it, I guess. There is nothing you can do about it….
So what do I do? I do my research. I choose what feels right. For example, I read that rules are out, and all the sage advice may no longer apply. The only rule from now on may be to find out what works for you. I like that. It speaks to my indie core. So, I am promoting my novel through Indie promotional services, applying for interviews, spotlights, and a myriad other things. I am doing a book review swap at Goodreads. I am building a social network, a community, which oddly enough I never thought I’d be doing. I am not really a social butterfly. I like sitting in a coffee house sipping tea with friends, not liking them on Fb. But I am on Twitter now and amazing things happen there, like the Indie Pride Day, which was really cool. I’ve also joined the newly formed Lightbox Author Club, which is shaping up nicely. Socializing like that is the only time I actually don’t feel so alone in this whole thing.
But there is something else lurking in the shadow. It goes by the name of the Imposter syndrome. I remember well, I was just beginning my academic career, when I found out that there was a term for what I felt. This fear that someone will soon find out that you are not good at what you do, that they’ll finally see you for the impostor that you are. The truth is I was good, and it took leaving the world of academia to see this was the case.
I don’t know if I am good at writing. But I LOVE writing. Regardless of whether I sell my books, I am an author. I write. I am working on my second novel. I keep showing up for my date with the empty page. I adore the empty page, which speaks to me sweetly, luring me into its embrace until it is filled with writing. I am independent. Still, I want to sell my books. I want them to be read. And the task of getting the readers’ attention seems particularly daunting. What’s more, everybody else seems to be busy trying to sell his or her book. Who will “succeed” and who will “fail”?
And there it is – the word FAIL. I finally get to the crux of the matter. Will I be a failure? My heart stops for a moment even as I simply write this word. Perhaps my book is awful. All right. I can probably handle that because I can do something about it. Perhaps the next book will be better. I’ll make sure it is better. But let’s assume my novel is good, and it never reaches the readers? Anxiety sets in.
I love the image, or a metaphor if you will, of emotions running through us like a river. River passes through. So do emotions. At times, the river is fast, murky, at other times it is clear and slow, yet at other times it is fast and clear. Our emotions come and go. They travel through us, these roaring waters of anger, the turbid waters of fear, the placid waters of serenity. When they are here, it is as if they will never leave. The whole word is made of the water that seems to be engulfing us, swallowing us. But the water moves on and so do our feelings.
I have shared the image of the river of emotions with my seven-year old son and he totally digs it. “Watch out, crazy storm is coming, a foaming wave of anger!” Watch it closely. What does it look like? What does it feel like exactly? Where in your body? What color? What sound?
It passes and is gone.
The same goes for the fear of failure and the anxiety that I am not good enough – not good enough of a writer, not good enough of a promoter of my book, or what if…. I am holding my breath, as childhood rears its more ugly head, and I ask the question of the moment: What if… I am not cool enough?
And then here is this. I recently got an email from a primary school friend. I haven’t heard from her in a long time. I wrote back telling her about my novel. She emailed that she wasn’t at all surprised that I wrote and published a novel, that I always wrote beautifully and knew how to express myself. I was speechless. Who would have thought?
We are always less alone than we think. And most of our fear is based on some concocted story – in our heads only, however. Luckily for me the crazy storm has passed, the river flows serenely. For the time being at least.
So long. I have work to do. Books to write. People to chat to.