This post isn’t about me, specifically, but about what I’ve seen many author friends go through. It’s an exploration of what many of us authors have seen happen during our journey. Some of it relates to directly to me, of course, but happily, I’m not going hermit, so yay! In the end, I’m so happy for my experiences, for the friends I’ve made, for the ones who stick around no matter what, and for what lies ahead of me.
#1 – When an author is published, they become attached to a product. Something that is supposed to make money. This is, of course, problematic.
#2 – When an author is attached to a product, that product has to be marketed if it’s going to be considered monetarily successful (and yes, most authors want to be monetarily successful because that means they can keep writing books and make a living at it). This means the publisher, whoever that may be, has to market the book, but so does the author. This means the author ends up networking online. This means the author creates relationships with people, sometimes even close-knit friendships.
#3 – When an author creates relationships and close-knit friendships, these can often interfere with relationships and close-knit friendships outside of the online sphere – otherwise known as “the real world” or some other silly phrase.
#4 – The worst thing possible happens. This “real world” begins to clash with the online world. The author begins to think of people in their life as “writing friends” and “real world friends.” Sometimes they are both. Family begins to notice that this author only talks about her books online. Uncle so-and-so starts to complain that Miss Important Author is apparently too important to like or even read his posts anymore. And Real Life Friend Sally starts to feel left out too. And all those Book Fans are starting to get annoyed that Miss Important Author is talking about her poodle’s diet when all they are really interested in is her Books. Keeping all this separate, all these friends and family and readers seems seriously impossible. They all overlap, but are different at the same time. And no matter what Miss Important Author does, someone gets offended or upset.
#5 – Miss Important Author does not see herself as Important. At all. In fact, she’s starting to feel like a Big Jerk. This is because this product she is tied to makes her money, and it puts her into this world where people are watching her all the time, what she says on her blog, how she presents herself. And as she becomes more and more busy with marketing and writing more and more books and trying to take care of her family and just keep her house clean, people she used to talk to online all the time before she got all Important and Published slip into the background. Friends start to think she doesn’t care anymore, when in reality, she just needs more time and energy to keep up with this ever-mounting pile of things (and a lot of it isn’t just book-and-writing stuff – it’s other stuff, like funerals and babies and birthdays and, you know, life), and what if those twenty years of freaking hard work she has put into this career come crashing down around her and FAIL and it was all for nothing and in the end she is left with a bunch of people who think she just left them in the dust of her sparkling career that popped up out of nowhere? When in reality it wasn’t really sparkling at all … and it definitely didn’t pop up out of nowhere – it is a lifelong work in progress – but people don’t see all that – they just see sparkling career because, well, that’s part of marketing a product. It’s supposed to look all sparkling and successful. You’re supposed to be proud and always happy, but if you are, then some people secretly hate you because they want what you supposedly have, and if only they knew that there is no greener grass. It’s all just … grass … and we’re all standing on the same thing.
#6 – Miss Important Author is told by several people in her life that her writing career has changed her and they don’t like it. They don’t like that she is Miss Important Author now, even if she doesn’t see herself that way. They don’t like it. And they leave. Sometimes with dramatic exits, and even worse, with quiet, sad exits that break her heart. They are the people who will probably never read these words, and will probably never understand that Miss Important Author’s Real Self is hidden beneath about a thousand layers of insecurity and fear that this writing career – these products now, have piled on top of her – a thousand layers that come off looking like Ego and Importance and Busy-ness, when it’s all really just scrambling to stay afloat, her hands reaching for anyone who will hold on while she figures it all out. Luckily, some do hold on. Forever. And it is the only way she has survived so long.
#7 – Miss Important Author is not Miss Important Anything, really. She is just a person with feelings, and she doesn’t want to be tied to a product, but that’s the nature of publishing, so there’s no way around it. She is not a product. She is not All Important no matter what all that marketing and staying afloat might make her seem. She is just a person like anybody. Any writer. Breathing. Telling stories. Reaching out no matter how much it hurts.