Every once in a while (about every other day if I’m lucky, every other hour if I’m feeling particularly manic), I’m stricken with doubts about my writing and making it a BIG THING. A profession. A publicly viewed entity.
I’m told that’s normal. I’m told a great many people cycle between “I am a genius of total AWESOMENESS,” to “My writing is poo-poo. It isn’t even good enough to call ‘shit.'”
What if people don’t like it? What if I can’t hack it as a business? What if I spend gobs of money self-publishing and all I get is a massive debt that will only get paid off/forgiven by creditors when I die? What if the other parents and teachers at my kids school find out I wrote book X? Will they say “wow!” or will they say “you wrote that trash? I’m calling CPS!”
Mostly, I worry that my work isn’t good enough. Can I polish it more? Can I tweak this? Add that? Is my only fellow critter correct about this passage or should I chuck their commentary about it and move on to the next one?
Lurking on the selfpublish yahoo group adds another dimension of worry. Holy Shit! I have to calculate European VAT (Value Added Tax) to my prices for EACH AND EVER COUNTRY BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL DIFFERENT? What about 1099’s? Do I issue those to the guy I pay as an editor and my cover artist or do they cover that? No one seems to know and it’s a huge argument of yes you do/ no you don’t. How is this all going to change in 6 years when I’m ready to publish?
Can I wait 6 years? I have to wait because I have to save money because I can’t put my family in a huge debt hole when I publish that first book I’ve written. And the second, and the third, and the fourth that I’m working on now, and all the others that I’m slowly accumulating notes and research for as I create characters and scenes. But 45 is the deadline. 45 is when my kids will be 12 and the money I’ve saved should be enough to at least get that first book out without racking up a credit card debt. 45 is when I should have enough already written to publish regularly to compensate for how slowly I write.
And then there are the other yahoo groups I lurk on – the ones that occasionally have whole discussions about how 99.9% of all self-published work sucks and how there needs to be a clearinghouse of some kind, an officially recognized group that can put a kind of “industry approved” seal on the cover to let everyone know that SOMEONE read it and it isn’t crap. Don’t those people understand how subjective that is? Even J.R.R. Tolkien’s work Lord of the Rings was thoroughly and utterly THRASHED by a major critic writing for the New Yorker when it came out, and yet, regardless of whether or not you like it, everyone will agree that Lord of the Rings is a major foundation block in the modern history of fictional writing.
Do I have the armor to handle the ass-hats who trash my work? Am I strong enough to carry it? Will a self-publishing industry even still exist in 6 years? Will my kids hang their heads and mumble that Mom doesn’t have a job rather than say that Mom is a writer because they’re embarrassed about me? What about my in-laws and my parents? I’ve already been told by my parents that they can’t read my work because the occasional, mild sex scenes are too much for them to handle. Realizing that I know what sex is, that I may have actually DONE IT, is horrifying to them (I’m 39, married, with 2 kids – how could I NOT know what sex is in this day and age?). And my in-laws are even more conservative. Am I going to have to deal with my MIL taking me aside and saying that she’s ashamed to tell her friends about the things that I’ve written and published?
The funny thing is, despite all the doubts, it doesn’t occur to me to stop writing. It doesn’t occur to me to take up gardening or macrame or some other less risky, more socially acceptable activity. When I became pregnant with twins, I didn’t write for 5 years – I didn’t have the energy or the desire. And I felt dead inside. It wasn’t until my kids were 4 that I was able to start writing again, when I was able to sit down and look at a keyboard or a piece of paper with a pen in my hand and write something, anything.
I think my husband is afraid to see that happen to me again. I think that’s the real reason he encourages me to write. because corpses don’t make for good spouses.
Some writers talk about how they had to think long and hard about WHY they were writing when they hit a major crossroads in their publishing lives. They talk about traditional houses and editors slashing their work, about profits from self-publishing being woefully dismal, at best, they talk about not getting the recognition they feel they deserve.
What was it like for them BEFORE they started? Were they plagued by the same doubts as I am now?