The Writing Part of Being a Writer

Something happens when you publish a book: You need to promote it. I’m not going to go into what your publisher does and doesn’t do for you, what they used to do as opposed to what they do now. Other smart publishing bloggers talk all about that. Let’s just say it’s a given: You write a book and if it gets published, you need to promote it, no matter how shy you are, no matter how uncomfortable you are talking yourself up in front of people. There. Done. Deal with it. (And if you’re shy, check out Shrinking Violet Promotions.)

I’m in a bit of a reprieve until 2011, when this new novel I’m so freaking excited about is due to come out. I feel like I went through some great publicity hazing experiences, so I’ll be even better next time. I had my first group book signing at Books of Wonder. I had my first solo signing. I did my first radio interview. I did my first Barnes & Noble reading. I did blog interviews and answered letters from readers. I got my picture taken. I survived my first Kirkus review. I got my first royalty statement. I saw my Amazon ranking. I saw my book in stores and in my own branch of the public library. I laughed, I cried, and now I feel like I know what to expect next time.

My skin has gotten thicker from all of it, and I’m grateful. I learn by doing, and I grow from every experience I have, as a person, as an author, and most significantly: as a writer.

I’m in a pocket of quiet. And, right now, I need this little pocket. No book festivals. No events. No Google Alerts. No obligations.

I need to do that thing that started all of this, the reason I’m in this in the first place: write.

All so I can be better next time.

But it’s funny how the writing becomes somehow tainted from the experience of having to promote myself in the past. I’ve started a new novel—YAY!—and I am poised to work on a very exciting project while I’m away next month—YOW!—and in the past my way of starting something new was to write silently to myself in my cave for months on end and only poke my head out after I’ve rewritten myself in circles enough to see I’m ready to give it air. Now, staring at my first pages, I’m already thinking: Will he like it? Will she like it? Will they like it enough to want it? Is it good enough / distinct enough / interesting enough? Does it have a big enough hook? Does it fit a trend? If it does, do I want it to? Will it stand on its own? Hello, will it SELL? And if it does, will it keep this name or get named something else? What will the publisher call it? What’s its label? What’s its genre? Where’s its spot on the shelf? What will reviewers say about this? What will readers say about that? Will anyone want to read it at all?

Questions, questions, questions.

In the face of trying to address all those questions, you can find yourself not writing anything.

So I’m wringing out my mind. Letting those concerns wash out of me, swirl down the drain, rinse after rinse after rinse, till I’m clean.

Out go the what-ifs and will-she-likes.

Out go the what-will-he-says.

Out go the panic of future submissions.

Out go the labels.

The names.

The critiques.

The rankings.

The stars and no stars.

The yeses and the nos.

Out they go; I’ll gather them back up later. But for now—for the rest of this month, and for next month—I’m just going to be a writer. The kind who puts words down on the page and doesn’t let them see daylight till later.

I’m trying to, anyway.

It feels like I’m back to that point before I was published.

The beginning.

Where it starts and where it ends: with the writing.

Every single one of us—no matter where we are in our careers or our dark caves—can be found here at one point or another.

Writing page 16 or page 216 or page 1.

So, hey there.

Hi.

I’ll be hanging here for a while.

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