Yeah. Neil Gaiman ( @neilhimself ) made me cry today. My husband sent me a link to the video of a commencement speech that Gaiman gave recently. Didn’t think twice about clicking it. Love Gaiman. Recently re-read American Gods and it made me want to write gritty (for a little while anyway…I can’t really sustain true gritty…it just isn’t me. My gritty usually comes out vaguely funny. Severed hands in Gucci bags. That kind of thing.) Anyway…
Everything he said really hit me, right in that writerly place inside me, that empty space I fill with stories. And I needed to hear it because lately I’ve just wanted to give up. Oh, I don’t mean give up writing. I’ll always be a writer. Even if I never write down another word, I’ll always be a writer. Those stories go on in my head all the time, whether or not they make it onto paper. I worked corporate jobs for years and I was writer then too. It’s not something you can turn off. At least, I can’t.
No, I’ve been ready to give up all the other stuff. I keep hearing It doesn’t matter how well you write or that you’ve got some fans. If you don’t sell more, what’s the point? And Why do you spend your time on this if you don’t get much for it? Or the You’re obviously not doing it right or more people would be buying your books. No one knows who you are.
Yeah, all that stuff.
And the thing is, there’s truth in all that. I haven’t sold a flaming boatload of books. I likely never will. Most people don’t. Hardly anyone has heard of me. Maybe a hundred thousand people total after three books? I have no idea. Definitely not millions. I don’t make a living at this writing thing. I have a husband who makes a living. I came into publishing on the downswing, when everything is changing and no one knows what’s going to happen or how to surf the wave.
Technically, I suppose you could call me a full-time mother who writes part-time. I try really hard at this whole self-promotion thing (because it doesn’t matter anymore if you’re traditionally published or not — you’ve got to do your own promotion) but it doesn’t come naturally to me (nearly 5000 Twitter followers notwithstanding). I’m much better at talking about other people than myself. I can’t take a compliment to save my life. I don’t ever feel like I deserve it. If you want to tell me how bad I suck, well then, that burrows it’s nasty way into my head and stays. I’m sure Freud would have loved me and I’m equally sure I would have popped him one on the nose. I am still totally blown away that the School Library Journal, Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly and yes, even the dreaded Kirkus all like Cat Girl‘s Day Off. Amazed that readers want to have Skype chats with me. That I get actual honest-to-goodness fan mail. Totally. Blown. Away.
The thing that hit me the hardest, I think, is when Gaiman talked about the advice that Stephen King had given him. After his first big success, King told him, basically, That’s great. Now go enjoy it.
That’s a simple thing, isn’t it? Goodness knows I enjoy writing. I love stories. I love that feeling you get when you have that brilliant flash of an idea and a plot point resolves itself…when you write yourself OUT of that corner you’d written yourself into…when you breath life into a character and they get up and walk around and do things.
But lately all I’ve been doing is grasping at straws. Reading all the advice that says do this or do that and for heaven’s sake, don’t do that. This blog post, incidentally, would almost definitely be on that list (sorry…you can always stop reading here and read my next post instead where I’ll endeavor to be incredibly cheerful and engaging and whatnot).
I’ve been reading about how Snooki is always going to kick my ass. Reading 5 Surefire Ways to Get on the Radio. 10 Things You Should Never Blog About (which mostly boils down to a) no one cares what you had for lunch and b) no one wants to hear you kvetch and c) don’t be real; be super-cool). Then there’s 6 Things You Are Doing Wrong Right Now. And The Right Way to Sell Your Book. The Right Way to Use Twitter. The Wrong Way to Use Facebook.
Lemme tell you something. I don’t enjoy any of that.
I’ve been doing it though. Because I do want to sell books. While only in my wildest daydreams do I dream of being the next J. K. Rowling or Stephen King or, heck, Neil Gaiman, I have had the mild-mannered dream of making enough from writing to justify the time I spend doing it. Because I did that corporate thing and boy, did I ever hate it. Can’t tell you how much more money I made that way since the only math I do nowadays is playing D&D twice a month, but it was oodles more.
And I’ll keep doing that stuff (insert subliminal message here: buy my books, buy my books) and trying to find new ways to Get the Word Out because I still have that dream. But I’m going to try and hold on to why I’m doing this to begin with. To get back to the part where I enjoy having a new book launch (yay, Cat Girl!) instead of just worrying and fretting and despairing about it. Because even if this dream of mine doesn’t work out and I find I need to dust off my C.V. after The Max is in school full time and get a “real” job again, I’ll always be a writer. Even if another word never goes down on paper again.