Thursday, August 14, 2008

Fear of Success

A few years ago, I had a great day in San Antonio with two writer friends, talking books and writing, and how do you cram writing into a jam-packed day - all that stuff that writers share and complain about, when they're not eating cakes to celebrate each other's successes (well, it was San Antonio so we ate burritos instead). One of the things we looked at was an exercise in a writing book about what do you anticipate and fear most about achieving your writing dreams. In other words, when you have plenty of books published and are (maybe) making a living from your writing, what will you be happy about and what do you think the down sides are going to be.

It was very interesting, not least because each of us had entirely different ideas on the subject. The exercise, by the way, is in Word Work by Bruce Holland Rogers. He calls it Pig Will and Pig Won't, and as you can guess, I have just found all my notes from that day, which got me thinking. We talked about what it might be like to be J.K. Rowling, who now can't go to the supermarket in peace. But she is the exception. However, as a successful writer, there are other things to fear. Like being signed up for a two or three book contract and not being able to deliver. Or writing a second novel after a very successful first, and it gets terrible reviews and your publisher hates you.

I often hear people say, "Oh, when you get published, all your problems are over." No, you just get a different set of problems! But one thing that no one talks about much is the fear of getting published. As long as you are writing only for you, you can do whatever you like. You can walk around all day in your PJs or trackie pants, you can ignore your personal grooming, you can let your fear of public speaking rule the roost and never have to confront it. You can choose to write, or not to write. Nobody is waiting for your book. Nobody cares except you.

But once you send it out, and it gets accepted, the rules change. You need to be presentable, you need to grit your teeth and work with an editor, you need to do publicity stuff - and these days, you can't kid yourself you can get away with being a recluse or a grunge eccentric. It's in your contract that you do publicity and they expect you to do it well. So there's a lot of pay-off in just writing and rewriting your book, year after year, believing that one day it will be ready. One day you'll be ready. Just not yet.

1 comment:

Kristi Holl said...

Oh, yes, yes, YES!!!! I remember that day in San Antonio, and I think I still fear the same things I did then. Only now I can add fear of aging before a TV camera. Ha ha. I'm glad I first got published before the Internet got underway or much was expected beyond speaking in schools and some speeches to librarians. Ahh, for the days of being a grunge eccentric!