If you get my newsletters, you saw that February was a big month for me. I finished the first draft of the second book in my new, unreleased, adult fantasy series. That’s huge! But now I’m back on the revising train for the first book, getting it in the best shape possible for all you incredible booknerds, and in doing so, it brings about this incredible excitement, this rush of creative energy, but also a dark, crippling fear about what comes next. The things that come next aren’t things I can control, but that fear and panic is blinding compared to all the good stuff. I realized recently that I am, in fact, not a unique snowflake when it comes to these emotional extremes. Most creators experience something similar. So, allow me to bring you in on this crazy, crazy train of ours because I HAVE to work this out of my system, too, in order to get back on track.
So here’s the real talk about what it’s like to write something, but not just write it and shove it in a file on your computer to never see the light of day, but writing something you WANT the world to see. You go through this intense back and forth between wanting, desperately wanting, everyone to read it and love it. That’s the goal, right? To produce something that the whole world devours and sings your praises. That’s the day dream, and night dream, and the thing that we all want but don’t talk about because we feel like we have no right to desire something so big. But along with that need to be a massive success, whether for our own ego or financial reasons, you’re opening yourself up to a lot of negativity because the reality is: not everyone will like what you do, and those negative reviews will feel bigger than all the good ones. Which sucks. But I haven’t met anyone where that reality isn’t true for them as well. You want everyone in the world to read and share your work, whatever that is, but you also don’t want ANYONE to see what you made because that’s the moment you lose control. You can’t control how others will feel about this thing you birthed into being. Someone may love it. Someone may hate it. And that’s their right to feel however they want about your work, their feelings are not wrong, whatever they may be (unless they attack you as a person, that shit’s not cool or acceptable, ever). Sometimes, for some people, that fear is enough to never let their creative spark see the light of day. Which is sad, too. I have this fear and I’m pushing through it, so I encourage you to do the same!
It can, unfortunately, be very easy to look at all these famous artists and authors, or just creators that you admire and see their finished product and compare yourself or your first draft to them and their work. Don’t do that. You only see the polished version of what they want you to see, not all the sacrifices they made before you got to see the finished product. But it is easy to look at their process and get down on yourself because the way they create isn’t how you create, and they are famous so clearly their way is superior to yours… I know, I do it too. But it’s wrong and I have to remind myself of that constantly. What works for them may only work for them, and that’s great! But that doesn’t mean your process is any less valid. Especially if your end result is the same: you created a piece of art you are proud of.
Despite being so new in my career, I am happy with the things my book series has taught me about publishing and the craft of writing. I’m excited to apply those things to my new series and learn from where I was three years ago to today, because that’s ultimately what I can control. I am a better writer than I was when I first started, and I will be a better writer in 10 years than I am today. I am constantly growing and my craft is maturing and refining as I go and learn more and more. That doesn’t make the early work shitty, it just means that you (and me) take our work seriously and always want to do better. There will be no peak. No moment of “this is it, this is the best I can do. I am at the top.” Because the top is a mountain that, even if you reach, the next book still has to reach that peak, too. It’s moving and changing and that makes it exciting! And only part of that is in my control, and so those are the parts I am striving to focus more on rather than that crippling fear, and I encourage you to do the same.
Be passionate about the things you can control. Write your truth and make the best book you can. Make it just as beautiful on the outside as the inside with your cover art. Research and edit and polish your work until you are in love with it, the characters, the world you’ve made, all of that. Stress that stuff. Because even with the biggest marketing budget in the world you can’t control how many people do or don’t purchase your work. You can’t control how they feel about what you produced. But their negative (or positive!) feelings or opinions don’t take away from the hard work you put into this piece of art. It doesn’t erase the hours you spent agonizing over proper comma placement or the 18 revisions you requested for your cover art to get it just right. Just as their feelings are valid, whatever they may be, the reality of what you did behind the scenes to bring this piece of work to life is just as valid and wonderful, so stay passionate about it and take the leap with me on getting your creative passion out there! It’s worth being seen! I don’t know if you needed this reminder, or this level of encouragement today, but since I have to constantly remind myself of things like this, I figured it may be worth talking about. Thanks for coming to my TED Talk ;)