Wow, this past week has been exciting. After some three years (give or take) of writing, I can now say I’m a bona fide published author. Woohoo! The moment I downloaded a copy of my book onto my Kindle and my mother downloaded hers onto her Nook, I started to shake. Then I cried like a baby on my husband’s shoulder, while my dad looked on in bemused wonder.
I was unprepared for the emotions I’d experience at the live “birth” of this baby. I’d always wondered why authors likened a book to a baby, but having just gone through the experience, I now completely understand. Having toiled away in relative quiet; writing, reading, editing, re-writing, submissions, rejections, more editing, more reading, and about three more rounds of editing, I’ve come to realize just what kind of dedication it takes to becoming a published writer. It’s no easy task, and not for the faint of heart.
Kind of like with pregnancy, you grow the “book baby” within you, close to your heart. No one can see or hear it yet, but you know it’s there. Then you announce to the world you are writing a book, and the responses run the gammit from “Wow, that’s incredible!”, to “Oh really…”. Like a pregnant mom, you protectively cross your arms over your growing child and tell yourself it doesn’t matter if your book is a huge commercial success, is beautiful, well-received, or brilliant. It doesn’t matter. It’s yours – all yours.
As release day looms, you begin to anticipate all kinds of terrible things, like; it’s a terrible story, it’s not well-written, people will hate it, it’ll be full of all kinds of flaws that everyone will see. But you love your child, so you do everything you can to prepare for the birth – the release date. You cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s, hoping to get it as perfect as you can, while still agonizing about how it will be received by the public at large.
As you go through all of these stages, you are terrified you’ve missed something. In fact, there is no such thing as a perfect book. Almost every book written has some flaws, a missed punctuation here, an oddly placed word there, some bit of awkward phrasing you didn’t catch during the gazillion times it’s been edited by you, your editor and whoever else you’ve had aid you. Just before the release, you realize you’ve done everything you possibly can, and you know your child will not be perfect. As in people, it simply can’t be. You breathe and you try to accept that this “baby” will be whatever it is meant to be.
Oh, but then there is the birth – the date of public release. Suddenly after all the stress, strain and pain, it is out in the world for all to see. Every thought you’ve put down on paper is there. Good, bad or indifferent, anyone who picks it up and reads it now knows whether it’s a good story, a mediocre story, or a bad one. All the flaws are revealed. But as you gaze upon the written words on a mechanical device or paper bundle for the first time, your heart melts. It is done. It is beautiful. So you cry, you shake with emotion, and you let those who’ve stood by your side wrap you in their arms of love and share in the excitement.
The first day or two are euphoric. You are thrilled, proud and want to show it to everyone. You want to give it the best life you possibly can. So what do you, the author/parent do? You begin promoting the hell out of it. You tell perfect strangers, family, friends, anyone, that your baby deserves a fighting chance. You start pouring over the book’s ranking on the on-line sales sites, unsure of what they mean. Your family and friends start asking things like, “so how’s it going?” or, “how are sales today?”
You become somewhat defensive. Sales? Who cares about sales? Who cares if it currently ranks in the hundreds of thousands on Amazon because few people still know about it. Oh, you care. You care because you want your baby to succeed. You care because your “baby” is a reflection of you. You created it, so it is intrinsically a part of you. It is only day four of it’s life, yet you want it to be a star among stars, shining brighter than all the other millions of stars out there.
Then, if you are reasonable, you begin to breathe again and realize that you can only do the very best you can. As Richard Mabry states in his guest blog on Rachelle Gardner’s blog site, “should you open the champagne when the number is small and look for the bottle of antidepressants when the number rises? Nope. Just keep writing.”. You want to give your new “baby” the best possible start in life you are able to provide it, and you will continue to do so, but you must also resume other aspects of your life. Your spouse, family and friends are standing by patiently (or not) waiting for you to rejoin the rest of society. You start to loosen the iron grip you had on statistics, rankings and reviews, and begin to focus on simply raising your “child” and enjoying the journey.
Then, you get another book idea-and start the whole cycle over again. So now I understand. Writing a book and getting it published is about more than just putting words to the proverbial page. It is about faith, love, perseverance, and the need to tell the stories that inhabit your mind. It is very much like parenting and life. In fact, it brings to mind the Serenity poem, which reads, “God, grant me the serenity to change the things I can, to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”.