Friday, October 17, 2014

Publishing: Why do we do this, again? #writing

Do you ever have those days when you wonder what possessed you to think publishing was a good idea? 

"Write a book," they said. 
“It'll be great!" they said. 
"You'll be rich and famous," they said.

They lied.

Courtesy of Pixabay

Like every struggling author, I ask myself that question...a lot. Every new release digs it out of its shallow grave and drops it back on my desk, worn and filthy. I know why I write, but that's not the question. Many writers never publish and for a long time I was one of them. I wrote for my own enjoyment and that of the few people who read my stories.

Publishing is a completely different creature that coats a pleasurable hobby in a fetid, viscous slime of drama, frustration, and crushing criticism. It takes the triumph of accomplishment in each finished book and grinds it under grubby feet, gouging it with wicked claws. 

Courtesy of Pixabay

It's shrouded in a mist of fantasy and romantic notions about being left alone in your tower to write, a check floating through the window on a gentle breeze to reward you. Well, princess, there is no tower and the breeze floating through the window carries nothing but the stench of a nearby wallow. 

If the days of being a successful and isolated recluse of an author ever really existed, they are long gone now. Like it or not, being an author demands regular interaction with people you might prefer to banish to the dungeon. At least, it does if you want your book to sell. It's not publish or perish anymore. It's market or perish...though that doesn't quite have the same ring. Like it or not, you have to face the masses and some in that crowd consider it their job to be harsh.

Many authors cling to hope that the next book will be the "breakout" novel and that dream keeps them chasing the dangling carrot, but what happens when that promise falls flat? What do you do when the "guaranteed" marketing techniques fail? What happens when you wake up already in the dumps to an email about a new review detailing how much the blogger loathed the story, berating you for your 'obvious' lack of talent? What happens when you reach that moment of staring at your computer, wondering why you ever thought you wanted to be published in the first place? The pay stinks. The hours are long. The stress is crushing. The reviews are depressing.

We've all been there. I land in that dungeon on a regular basis, when reality breaks another chunk off the lifelong dream of what I thought it would be like sitting in this chair, creating these stories. Reality is nothing like the dream because if I'd dreamed this, I never would have picked up that pen the first time I decided to mimic the illustrated books in the library. I would have skipped the craft courses and stopped challenging myself. I would have stuck with reading, in awe of the people willing to put up with this insanity.

Hitting the low spots, with your dreams under the grimy foot of the beast, is as much a part of publishing as the royalty checks. I don't know about you, but that understanding is part of what keeps me going. It's not just me feeling like I'm wasting time and money on a delusion. It's not just you feeling alone and doubting your talent. We all end up in this place regardless of the genre, when the dream flickers, throwing shadows around your tower, turning it to a dungeon, and tracking the icy feet of a cold wind along your skin. 

You could let the feeling push you into giving up. It has others. People drop out of publishing all the time. There's no shame in admitting you're not getting what you want out of a situation that pays far more in bragging rights than royalties. Sometimes the healthiest thing you can do is get up from the chair and walk away. If you're at that point, it's okay to admit it, own it, act on it. 

What if you're not? What if you're just frustrated, tired, and discouraged? Maybe what you need is a warm mocha or a hot cup of tea, a little time away from the publishing beast, and a different perspective. That's why having critique partners and a friend or two in the business is so valuable. They know how it feels and maybe they can see the potential you're blind to because the beast stomped on your rose-colored glasses. 

Maybe you need more than a day. Maybe you need to take the winter off and remember what it was like to tell stories for the pure joy of telling stories. Go out and live your life for a while. Take up tai chi. Go to a shooting range and take your frustrations out on a paper target (and count it as weapons research). Do something empowering and fulfilling, and when you’re finished, the horrid fetid beast might have shrunk back to a grubby little gargoyle, sitting quietly in the corner once again minding its own business.

Courtesy of Pixabay

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