I love writing and I love being an author. Once upon a time, when I was a young man in my twenties, I had romantic ideas of what being a published author would be like. I visualized sitting at a desk, looking out a window, inspirational folk music playing in the background, sipping coffee, and pouring my soul onto a blank page. I also visualized sitting in a foreign cafe, or maybe Greenwich Village, talking to other writers about writing and dissecting the world, or perhaps finding a remote cabin where my inspiration was the woods and path that led from my front door. I also pictured walking into bookstores and seeing my novels sitting on a shelf next to hundreds of other writers, waiting for that one reader to pick it up, turn it over and read the back of the book, maybe a picture of me staring back at them, offering hope from my smile. Much of this has come true.
However, there is another side to having your novels out in the world. There is now the pressure of promoting and selling your work, realizing it is a part of the process, but a sometimes ugly and frustrating part. There’s the blow to the gut when a not so positive review comes rolling in, and now those reviews are displayed for the world to see. It’s trying to figure out a way to bring awareness to your writing, and you find yourself so desperate for others to read your words, and that you suffer just a little when there’s a window of silence. When it feels like there is no one, absolutely no one, that is interested in your books or cares to understand them. There are other times when you feel like you are selling yourself out when sales do come in, as if you are a business, trying to profit off of what you have created. Readers are paying for your mind and soul. They are paying for your suffering, pain, and experiences.
Sometimes the worst part, the curse of being an author, is that it is all that you want to do. You find that all you care about anymore is getting each letter, every word that spills from your mind to your fingers, and then onto the page in front of you. There’s a sense of urgency to getting your thoughts down before they vanish, disappearing with the distractions of life. You see other writers making millions from their novels, offering them a living so they can now create at will, not worrying about bosses and business. You hear about these books and read many of them to see what the hype is about, and then wonder why something that has the title “Fifty Shades,” an incoherent drivel of a book, is doing so much better than your novels. Have readers become that shallow? You wonder if your subjects matter? You feel for your characters that you created, making them vulnerable, along with yourself, to bring awareness to subjects that impact us all. Then, you start to get it in your head that if the writing was good enough. If the stories engaged the reader, it would happen for you. You would be able to call yourself a full time author. You tell yourself that you must not be successful when people ask you about your royalties and then smirk because they know you just finished your regular work day. It seems as if people love to see your struggles instead of rooting for you. Therefore, you have failed. But have you?
Then, you wake up from your self-pity and tormenting your mind and confidence, and realize that you are an author. You have been successful because your writing has helped people feel less alone. Many have reached out and said your words helped them navigate death and depression, anxiety and panic, and maybe gave them hope. Your novels are reaching the people that need them, and they will reach more. Even if it is just one person who needed to read something you wrote and it helped them survive another day, it was worth it. You put the work in to write the novels and to publish them. You had the discipline and desire to do so, and did not just sit around and hope for the words to magically write themselves. You find your purpose and reason for writing in the first place, and it was never to please an oversaturated market.
Writing is a way to discover yourself. To bring more awareness to this human experiment, and to create scenes and characters that you wish you knew in real life. You create people that you need. It is a way to process life and our existence while here, walking this journey that so many of us stumble while taking, and thank goodness for that. To fall and learn how to pick yourself back up is one of the gifts of failure and suffering. Many times, writing is a way to work through all the bad shit that came your way. You can put all of your fears onto the page in front of you. The gift of writing is that you are able to learn how to love yourself through understanding who you truly are. You bear the burdens of the world and your own personal history, and then you make it all come to life, but you get to dictate the ending.
It is true, writing can also take you to the brink of your most inner thoughts, wondering how far you should cross over that threshold between the sane and insane. Your fingers will play with the keys on your computer and you will ask the questions: How much should I share? How far should I go? How many old, decayed, bones should I dig up and leave in the open field for all to see? Will they judge me?
I have answered those questions hundreds of times. The last one is always hardest for most writers. The fear of judgment and lack of discipline is what often stops them from writing their stories and novels. You will be judged! It is true because all art is judged. Art is interpreted by everyone differently and some will beg for you to give them the answers to your creation. However, I caution you to never tell them everything. Give them just a little taste of your reason and purpose. Let the reader sit and ponder what you meant. Perhaps, you don’t even know yourself because what went on the page came from somewhere deep where the monsters play.