May has always been a crazy month for me. It’s my birthday, my daughter’s birthday (plus other extended family members’ birthdays), Mother’s Day, and the end of the school year. Craziness. Add a book release, two book signings, a surprise launch-party with an unexpected visit from my mom, and a speaking engagement with fifty lovely sixth graders, and what you’ve got is one tired author/wife/mommy who’s sort of over herself.
Please don’t think I’m complaining. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ve smiled more smiles, thanked more people, and cried more happy tears this month than any other time of my life (including when I had my children, because let’s face it – hundreds of people from all over the world weren’t contacting me to congratulate me at that time, lol). But us introverts can only take so much celebration of our lives and accomplishments before we get embarrassed and want to turn the spotlight onto someone else, hence my reason for shying away from blogging this month, although I did start posts only to delete them. Well, now my birthday is over, the launch buzz has calmed down, and I’m planning my daughter’s girly-girl 6th birthday party. Life is good. Except for one thing. One BIG missing element.
I haven’t written in more than three months.
Crazy, right? Since I’m supposedly a “writer” and all?
I’m also a very emotional person, and I need to be sort of relaxed and stable in order to be creative. I had no idea that my life-long dream of being published would come with such insecurity. I worried about what extended family members and acquaintances would think of my book, and what general readers would think. I worried about whether I was generating enough buzz around my book, or too much buzz, which can be a total turnoff. I often felt like I was flying blind in unchartered territory. Unsure. Alone, despite my network of rockstar supporting friends.
You see, three months ago I handed over my sequel to the publisher, and it’s been under consideration since. I was afraid to make any adjustments to that manuscript, even though I knew it needed work. I knew the folks at Harper were waiting for Sweet Evil to pub so they could see how it would do. In some ways I’ve been stuck in a weird limbo. I should have been revising or starting on book three, but instead I got a mental block of gargantuan epic horribleness for a variety of reasons.
I knew there would be bad reviews. I once heard there’s a rule of thirds: 1/3 will love it, 1/3 will hate it, 1/3 will feel so-so. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t read reviews, but it’s hard to be active in the blogosphere and on Twitter without coming across them. There was that moment, that awful moment, where I unexpectedly came across an ARC review that took the wind right out of my sails (although the breeze was hit-or-miss at that point anyhow). I’m sure all authors have that review. The one where the reader finds something ugly that wasn’t meant to be there–(I’m not talking about errors, although there are those as well, ugh)–I’m talking about some slithering element that was never in your heart when you wrote it, but the reader comes to that conclusion about your motives as a writer nonetheless. And it’s heartbreaking. And you cannot respond. You cannot defend. You cannot tell them that your heart was filled with love when you wrote it, and that they’re wrong, because of course they aren’t wrong. (Let me clarify: she was incorrect in her assumption that I was sneakily trying to send a judgmental message, but not wrong to have written a review with her honest thoughts.) Readers take different things from stories, regardless of whether it was the author’s intention or not. It’s not wrong or right. That’s the beauty of books.
So, after all is said and done, I have a choice. Let the gargantuan block continue to stunt my productivity, or move forward–past it all–through it all? The truth is, I miss Anna and Kai and all the gang. I’ve missed them like crazy and I love them. Not everybody gets them. Not everybody gets me. But some do. Actually, a lot do. And it’s pretty amazing. There’s something magical about writing that first book. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s your secret, or there’s virtually no pressure, or that nobody’s had a chance to say anything bad about it yet. Whatever the reason, the magic doesn’t come as naturally for subsequent books after publication. You have to dig a little deeper to find that trickle of magic. You have to put up thick blinders to block out the magic-killing noise of reviews and demands.
When people in interviews ask me what advice I can give to aspiring writers, I always say the same thing. Write what’s on your heart. Don’t write what you think someone else wants or doesn’t want.
Well, damn. I think it’s about time to take my own advice.
So if I’m quiet in the online world now, it’s no longer because I’m in hiding for one reason or another. It’s because I’m writing. Halleluia.
Thank you all for your love and support.