So, I wrote up an entire post for today, then decided not to post it. It’s full of whining and insecurities. Completely irrational insecurities. I went back and forth, telling myself that this blog is about the reality of being a working writer, and insecurity is a big part of that. Moreover, I think it’s important to tell people that being a NYT bestselling writer doesn’t make those insecurities go away. In some ways, it may amplify them — high expectations mean spectacular ways to fail. I really want people to know that landing on the NYT list doesn’t solve all your problems. It’s nice, it opens doors, but it’s not a finish line.
Early on in my career, I frequented a listserve for writers. I had only sold a few short stories at the time, but that still made me one of the most published writers on this particular list. One day I posted a heartfelt warning, discussing how hard the business was and continued to be. I don’t even remember exactly what the topic was that instigated this. But one of the responses I got back was, “What do you have to complain about, you’re published.” Yes, people really do say that. My posting to that list slowed way down after that, since I felt like a lot of what I was saying was coming across as over-privileged whining.
That’s partly why I decided not to post my original rant. Because it was kind of a whining freakout. I’ll try to say the same thing, but more objectively, with less emotion:
I’m worried about the new Kitty book. It’s gotten good professional reviews but Amazon reviewers don’t seem to like it. Or rather, they like it but not as much as previous books. I’m trying to tell myself that this doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, it means I’ve generated very high expectations, which is good, except that eventually I’m bound to disappoint someone. And as my friends keep telling me, I’m always worried about the current book. I go through this every single time — same fears, same worries, everything. I forget how bad it is, every single time, until it hits me again. So, there’s no reason to worry, right?
Really, I shouldn’t read reviews at all, but I’ve said that before, and I yet keep reading them.
Here’s one of the other realities of being a NYT bestselling writer: the anxiety of wondering what happens when I’m not anymore. I mean, I’ll never not be. That’s just how the marketing works. “NYT bestselling writer” will be in my obituary. But what happens if the next Kitty book doesn’t hit the list? Does it mean I’m done? It’s that problem of expectation again. My definitions of success and failure have changed. How strange is that?
I’m trying to remember that my anxiety is normal. What I really need to keep in mind: there are things I can control, and things I can’t control. How people respond to the book, whether it ends up on the list, are things I can’t control. All I can do is try to deal with my anxiety in a sane manner (Wine? Knitting?) and move on. I think I wrote a good book, and I’m trying to make the next one good. That’s all I can do at this point.