Part of the mythology surrounding writing involves the endgame: some day, not so many years from now, we’ll wake (around noon, perhaps 1 on a Sunday) from a pleasant dream of sympathetic Muses and adoring publicists, rise from our silk-sheeted bed and lazily wander to our marble-tiled bathroom. A nice long bath later, we’ll descend to our breakfast of lightly poached eggs, smoked salmon and fluffy Belgian waffles, carefully prepared by Chef Francois or Jacques or Pierre, and after an hour long repast, will make our way to the reclining chair by the pool outside, where, with a long sigh of contentment, will open our $4,000 laptop and write our three pages for the day. With a break for a nap.
Now I’ll admit that most of us get over the, uh, creative license of this dream pretty quickly (and besides, details may vary–I like my eggs scrambled, for one thing). But the allure of the full time writing life remains strong, even without the waffles. And some writers do get the brass ring, even if most of them have to write in more than just their particular specialties to get by. But even the most successful ones don’t fully give in to the belief they’ve arrived; Paul Hendrickson once claimed that “the terror of the blank screen never goes away.”
I bring all of this up because (as you might have heard if you’ve spent any time on this site 😉 ) The Third Sign is due out next month, and I’m in the midst of getting some promotional stuff ready–setting up readings and signings, sending out postcards, that sort of thing. (And by the way, doing some promotion is good–making it a career isn’t. We’re writers, and writing needs to be the focus…since the best way to promote a first book is to write a better second one!) Somewhere between entering a reading on my schedule and making sure my author copies were being shipped to the right address, the reality began to set in–after a long, long time, this is actually going to happen. The book is going to be bought, read, (I hope) recommended, shortlisted for the Hugo *cough*. Sorry, let my imagination get away with me a bit there. But you get the idea: the book is going to be published. Really.
Which means I should be seriously pumped up, right? I’ve arrived, haven’t I?
So why don’t I feel that way?
Don’t get me wrong: I am excited…increasingly more so as the time gets closer, and as other opportunities begin to present themselves. I’m excited to see the finished product, looking forward to the conferences and readings…I’m even getting into the idea of looking at Amazon sales rankings (once in a while). But there’s always that nagging voice in the back of my head asking if I really have made it. It’s only my first novel, after all; sure I sold this one, but what about the other ones? What if this doesn’t sell at all? What if everyone hates it? What if they’re all going to laugh at me? (Okay, this isn’t an Adam Sandler routine, but still.)
Maybe the Stephen Kings and J.K. Rowlings of the world don’t feel like this, but I’ll bet that for most writers, no amount of success ever fully gets rid of that nagging doubt. Even a healthy self-confidence can’t override our sense that there’s more to do, more to accomplish, more to write…that we haven’t really “made it” yet. Part of this probably stems from the constant stream of rejections most of us get before getting that first blessed sale, but it’s also part of the drive that keeps us going–can we write this scene better, present that character more completely, develop this idea more fully? Without the fear of failure, there’s no particular drive for success–so perhaps it’s a good thing after all. Perhaps the terror of the blank screen is a healthy one.
But still, I’m holding out for the silk-sheeted beds and fluffy waffles. Even a terrified go-getter could use a nap once in a while.