Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Practical dreams

I've seen a couple of blog posts lately that talk--brilliantly, sensibly, and with feeling--about some of the issues writers deal with post-publication.

First there's Jody Hedlund on the post-publication "identity crisis." A sample: "But I’ve also realized that the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the published author side. ... The hoopla never lasts very long. And I’m still just an ordinary person."

In her post, Jody refers to one by Elana Johnson on the post-publication reality check. A sample: "POSSESSION is not an important novel that is nominated for multiple--or any--awards, and it is not a Best Book of Anything.
I feel foolish for hoping for such things, or worse, expecting them.
And I feel foolish for allowing any of the above to make me feel anything but grateful and satisfied.
Because ... I wrote and published a novel."

Then there's Michelle Davidson Argyle's approach to handling reviews. "... I have to constantly remind myself that my writing is not up for negotiation from me. I've put it out into the world because I want to share it - and at that point, I have no control over that piece of art anymore."

I don't know about you, but for me, reality checks like these tend to be comforting. The bottom line is that publishing a book is like anything else--it brings new sources of pain along with new sources of joy. The reality is that most of us will write midlist books, and most of us will not win the Nobel Prize for literature, and most of us will not follow in Shakespeare's footsteps and still have people reading our work 400 years after we wrote it. Knowing all that ... would I encourage writers to dream smaller?

No, I would not.

I would encourage writers not to get their identity and self-esteem all bound up in the external success of a book. But I suspect everyone dreams big things for a book--even if only for a teeny tiny moment--and why not? We do our best and put our words out there, and then we have no control over what happens. Some of it will be disappointing. Some of it will be wonderful. Both are true, and even accepting the bitter with the sweet, I would not trade this life for any other.

On a different note of both inspiration and practicality, once again I'm joining the blog challenge to raise money for Heifer International, started by Nathan Bransford. Because of my schedule, my challenge will only run for about a day, so I'll donate $5 to Heifer Intl. for every commenter on this blog post (at either LiveJournal or Blogger) by 6 PM EST on Thursday, December 22. If you want even more money to go to Heifer, you can then hop over to Nathan's blog and comment there.
ETA:  My challenge now closed: 11 comments total on these posts = $55 for Heifer!


  1. Jennifer -- Congratulations on your newest novel. I ran across a nice review of it just this past week. Your support of Heifer International is inspirational. Ann Wachtler

  2. As an unpublished writer, it was a bit of a reality check when I started reading posts about what things were like after publication; I guess when you start out writing the general assumption is that it will all be wonderful after the goal of publication has been achieved.

  3. The honesty of those authors makes me feel better about my own writing, but also makes me feel bad because I think they're so amazing and want the whole experience to be nothing but perfect for all of them.

    Thank you for assisting with Heifer International. Happy Holidays!

  4. I would encourage writers not to get their identity and self-esteem all bound up in the external success of a book.

    Perfectly said, Jennifer! Thanks for the link to my post. It's a hard road, just as for any artist, I think. It's hard to sell your work and put it out there. I think it's silly that we expect a land of unicorns and cupcakes as soon as we're published. Very silly. But I think we expect it because there are success stories out there covered in sugar. We want it all, yet we don't see the bitterness beneath that sugar until we are there tasting it for ourselves. And we're all, like, Oh....

    But like you, I wouldn't trade any of this. Ever. I've wanted to write and sell novels since I was ten years old, and I'm finally living that dream, even if it has bitterness. It makes me appreciate the sugar all that much more when it comes along. :)

  5. As a reader, rather than I writer, I'd just like offer a few thoughts. For someone like me, who so treasures the written word, I often find myself ignoring the reviews and the hoopla. True, a glowing review sometimes leads me to discover a great new book, but oftentimes I've been led astray by those same reviews. Reading is a very personal experience and all different kinds of books speak to different people. I've loved books that have taken a public beating, so to speak, and I've been unable to finish books others have given the highest accolades. I treasure my own personal favorites, regardless of the status on the bestseller list or what others think of them. Trust me, I've read and loved plenty of best-sellers and commercially successful books, but I've also found plenty of novels I've enjoyed immensely while browsing the shelves of my favorite used bookstore, novels and authors I had never even heard of before entering the store that day. So, for any writer out there beating themselves up about a tough review or feeling sad their book did not reach "Harry Potter" status, remember every person that loved your book is glad you created it and sent it out into the world. And as readers, we owe a heartfelt thanks to all the writers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into the books we love so much. If writers didn't have the nerve and the passion to put themselves out there, we would never get a chance to be affected by their stories and their words. So thank you!

  6. First: thanks everyone who commented here!

    Ann - Thank you also for your nice words. :-)

    Golden Eagle - LOL, yes, we sometimes think of publication as the gateway to a magical world where all our troubles are over. And it does have plenty of magic, but there are new problems on the other side, too! It's worthwhile--just not perfect. :-)

    TL - Thank you. And there are rewards, too; *many* (if not all) wishes come true.

    Michelle - Yes, we all know the odds are long, but that marvelous things do happen, and we can't help hoping they will happen to us. But whether they do or not, the writing is still rewarding. Thanks for your post!

    Christine - How nice of you to write that! It's messages like yours that remind us that "success" has many definitions. :-) Thank you and happy reading!

  7. Yes, we can dream big, but still keep ourselves joyfully grounded in reality. ^_^ Thanks for the opportunity to share in your generous giving.

  8. Ooh, I missed the pledge time. So, so slow. But luckily I'm a word addict, so it wasn't a waste. :)

  9. Thanks, Angelina and Bryan!

    (And for those who would still like to comment for Heifer, follow the link to Nathan's blog to see which challenges are still live.)