Years ago, before I got into book publishing the first time (working for Toronto’s book elite) I suffered several romantic and erroneous notions about the enterprise. I didn’t think there’d be so many useless sales meetings with thieving idiots. I didn’t know some bookstore owners could be so rude to sales reps. I certainly didn’t know some book publicists could be so self-important or that so many publishers could be so dense. The thing about venality is, no matter the profession, the douchebag distribution is spread pretty evenly. We’re all humans with all the awful and wonderful variables that entails.
Later, as a writer, I hoped there’d be long periods of solitude followed by parties with fun, literate people. I wanted witty repartee and cocktails. Unqualified adoration was also on the fantasy menu. I wish the writing and publishing community was like that. If that ever existed, it was probably sprinkled among the ex-pats in Paris, with a drunk-too-early-in-the-evening Hemingway being mean to Fitzgerald in the corner. But then I’d have to listen to Gertrude Stein. (To read her is irritating, but if you listen to her recordings, it’s much funnier than it’s supposed to be.)
In reality, there aren’t so many bon mots flying around. Wit is one of the things fiction is for. That’s why life doesn’t rise to the heights of Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue, damn it.
Now, years later, publishing still isn’t what I hoped for at twenty.
I published Season Two just last night! You’d think I’d be high, right? The gap between expectations and reality can be a deep hole and I’ve fallen in. As Queen sang, “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all, and I want it now.” I’m being a baby about variables I don’t control. Inside a book, I control everything. Outside the book? Not so much.
Today I got upset about the costs and flaming hoops I have to jump through to start another business to try to pay the bills. I felt a stab of irritation when someone referred to Season One as a nice “mini-novel”: 106,000 words and years in the making, casually dismissed with a stranger’s shrug. “Mini.” Hmph! And the person who enjoyed This Plague of Days but acted like I was asking for charity for charging $3.99? If I charged any less, I wouldn’t be the one asking for charity, would I? My life and aspirations and hours of entertainment, worth less than couch change.
Here’s the feeling of entitlement no writer should ever admit (but we all think): I just want to write.
It’s the whine inside every writer, but there it is dragged out and ugly in sunlight, hoping for points for honesty. For two years, writing, publishing and podcasting are all I’ve done. These have been two of the best years of my life. Funny that I’m starting to get some traction with This Plague of Days now, just before returning to the other work. My story arc might have turned out happier if it had been shorter, with a faster rise. There are no overnight successes, but we all cry for one, hoping to be the outlier who somehow gets picked up and carried in pop culture’s pocket to a sunlit writing nook where all the world asks of us is, “More words, please!”
I know what this is. I’ve been here before. I felt the same way after publishing Bigger Than Jesus and Higher Than Jesus and Murders Among Dead Trees and Self-help for Stoners. This is a touch of postpartum depression.
The years, months and days leading up to publishing a book? All braingasms all the time!
I’m better in fiction, hiding behind my keyboard, than I am in this world. In the real world, I pretend to be an extrovert. Only while writing am I most myself. Writing stimulates the synapses in ways nothing else can. To see and make connections, to juggle language, to slip a joke in amidst horror like a twist to the blade slid between ribs? Each fun creation, moment to moment, delivers braingasms. I’m in the brain tickle business. When I say that, people assume I’m talking about tickling readers’ brains. (I do, but me first!)
At play in another world, nobody needs cocktail parties, big publishers and expensive book launches for validation. More readers and happy reviews are validation. Writing is about the dopamine drip your brain gets when you’re creating. It’s about giggling over the joke you’re sure only a few readers will get and keeping it in the text anyway, a special easter egg, hidden just for them to find.
In acts of creation we emulate the best any God could offer. Writing makes me high. In the reading, I hope to make you high, too. I want to be your mind candy, Candy Man.
There is only one solution to my happy brain drug deficiency.
I see word and people connections everywhere. Everything I take in goes into the neural playscape of the mind’s amusement park. Each factoid goes to the manufacture of the drug. The answer to my postpartum depression is to have another baby. I don’t need a massive book launch. I need to write.
Looking around, I see my personal post-apocalypse everywhere. Looking up, I find This Plague of Days has appeared in the warm light at the lip of the hole. Season Three is my ladder out of this dark place.
The two most powerful words are, “Begin again.” And so…
- Hemingway’s Hunger (rachelhopecleves.com)
- Hemingway’s First Letter to F. Scott Fitzgerald (theofficialforum.net)
- What to Read on Your Commute: The Best of Gertrude Stein (thedailymuse.com)
- Vanity Fair Is Still Paying for Rejecting Hemingway in 1924 (theatlanticwire.com)
- Gertrude Stein (barrickmuseum.wordpress.com)
- What is Publishing Like in Ireland? (beckhart.wordpress.com)
- Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein (autobiographiestoread.wordpress.com)
- Early Hemingway short story published at last (theguardian.com)
- Hemingway’s Rejected Early Work Is Fit To Print After All (wnyc.org)
- 21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors (thoughtcatalog.com)