Writing can be an isolating business…
A friend posted this blog yesterday, and it really made me think.
I’m an introvert, which is something many writers share. There may a connection between the creative imagination and the way the brain works that leads us in that direction who know?
But as humans we need social experience and contact. When I started writing Leah I didn’t tell a soul – not even my Husband or Parents, yet my Mom had always told me even as a little girl that I should write.
Why? Fear – of being ridiculed, of having expectations laid at my door that would stifle the creativity and cause too my pressure. Those that know me in the professional world would be surprised at that – I work hard, and thrive under a certain type of pressure, but that is just it – that is work. Writing is part of me, and a part that very few people get to see.
When I won my publishing contract I finally found the nerve to tell those closest to me, I’d told my husband after writing 25,000 words, to explain that it wasn’t really my paid job that was keeping me at the computer at all hours. I told my parents and my sister when I won the competition, and they were delighted for me, and on the day Leah finally came out I “went public” including in the dreaded playground where my daughter goes to school…
My family were hugely supportive, my cousins ordered copies online and read it, my parents, both of them, read and claim to love it, despite it being YA/NA. One of my daughters friends is probably my biggest fan, having read it now NINE times – despite only being 9. My husband however has never read it, and probably never will. He hates anything connected to the Paranormal, so I guess I need to excuse him, but yes it still hurts, and makes me find it difficult to justify another expense on something writing related. Our nephew even wrote a brilliant piece of music, named “Leah” for use exclusively to market the book – the introduction is now part of the book trailer, which you can find on my website.
So, what right do I have to empathise and associate with Tricia’s comments? There are people who have never once mentioned to me about the book, no congratulations or even acknowledgment of this achievement. If I heard that a friend, family member or even colleague had just achieved something, I would offer my honest congratulations – achievement is a wonderful thing, and we are all different, so regardless of what it is, if it is something they worked hard to do, it deserves congratulations! I associate with Tricia’s comments though because I now dread having to admit that Book Two isn’t ready to be released yet, and it is so difficult to explain why I struggle to write at the moment, when Leah came so easily. That’s sharing too much of myself, and what’s going on with me for comfort.
You see, amongst friends there has been a change, rather than the usual catching up conversation you have – in my experience there are now two questions that people start a conversation with the “why are you still working, surely you got paid a huge amount now your a published author” type of question, and the inevitable “when is the next one coming out”. People will avoid me because they don’t quite know what to say, they find it “funny” that I write Fantasy, and see it as immature and easy (!). Others avoid me because writing is also their own dream, and jealousy is driving a wedge between us.
To an introvert who values her few friends and her family deeply, anything that drives a wedge, or is the cause of ridicule, or just puts pressure on what was a good relationship, is likely to cause further withdrawal, leading to further isolation. Many of my friends are online, and have been made during the writing journey, and can completely associate with the experiences I’ve had, yet even to these I’ve struggled to be able to explain, and therefore start to withdraw from.
One of the things that really struck a chord with me though in Tricia’s piece here was the expectations that go with it. In general, people only really hear about the multi million sellers, or the author that got a six figure advance. Those stories are so far and few, that’s why they are news, but the perception is that this is the norm. Therefore, if you are published and not living that lifestyle then you must be a failure.
As many of you will know, there was no huge advance – or advance of any kind. Statisticians claim that 95% of published books receive no advance, so I am in very good company there. Leah was published by a small independent publisher who, to this day, has never paid me a penny (or cent) of what I am owed. Yet, I know how many paperbacks family bought – my Mum proudly ordered and posted to aunts and uncles to start with! I also know from rankings that the ebook sold too, so I should have earned something by now. As Tricia says, when there is no visible payoff to all the work that goes into writing and marketing that novel, people begin to question, and resent the time dedicated to it.
Leah is no longer under contract to that company. We parted ways at the end of 2013, and it is now being released elsewhere, however the experience has left me feeling used, and cynical about the whole thing, which is a death knell to creativity.
But, I wrote a book that was considered good enough to win a competition for a publishing contract – and that people have since bought and enjoyed. I have people genuinely ask me when they can read the next one, which means that something must be right in the first one, doesn’t it?
So why do I feel as though I’m letting people down? As though I’m the failure? Not one single member of my family or closest friends has said it to me, although there have been the “it needs to wait until next month, or a few months” comments when I want to buy something, but there is a voice in the back of my head repeating it like a stuck tape, and that is destructive.
We are our own hardest taskmaster and critic – that is certainly true of me anyway, but I have love and support from those closest to me, most of the time anyway, and my heart and love goes to those who are struggling along this path without it.