A few days ago I stumbled upon a review of my first novel, Angel, which I had not seen before.
I hadn’t re-read Angel in a while, and I decided to listen to Shea Taylor’s audio version while I took my daily walks.
Since then I have been feeling the same sense of wistful loneliness that I did when the book was initially finished; the characters’ stories were complete, and my relationship with them was finished. I fell in love with those characters in a rare way, and the sense of a beautiful, fleeting moment that the book conveys also applies to its author.
This wistfulness leads to some other moods. I wish that the story could have been shared with more people, not for the ego driven reasons that you might expect (although they are there, certainly), but because the more people who read and review the book, the more they are kept alive.
This musing leads, inevitably, into another thought: a sense of futility about writing. I’ve been doing this for a long time, and eventually that sense of anticipation that “this will be the one” that gets attention, sells well, makes money– whatever– gets muted. All the advice about establishing a social media platform and going out there to promote, promote, promote, well, it can only do so much. There are still a limited number of readers in the world, and a seemingly unlimited number of books. A few weeks ago I posted the Facebook status “There are few things harder to do in the world than sell a book,” and most of my writer friends posted some variant on “Amen.”
Eventually you just lower your expectations about your work making a splash. Understanding, as in that well-worn phrase, the insanity of doing the same thing and expecting a different result, it can be hard to find motivation to write another word. It can even seem downright masochistic and unhealthy to push that boulder up the hill again. I was musing on this, as all writers do from time to time. It wasn’t long, however, before I found liberation in the futility.
I have been working on a new novel, and worrying over whether the structure of the story as I saw it would be the kind of thing that would appeal to publishers. Every writer is constrained to be who she is. I have come to realize that my sensibilities about what makes a compelling story, how it should go, where it should end, are not always what is expected. So, I thought, if you can assume that it will be an uphill climb to get it published, that after that it will be an uphill battle to persuade anyone to read it, then why worry? It’s going to be hard no matter what you do, so why not write what you write? It’s a happy thought. A good one for breaking writer’s block.
That said, if you did want to buy one of my books, I wouldn’t object either.