————————– Part I of my arse kicking is Here —
Until my first book was released. Now, understanding comes. But, you say, you did write more—you have the second book out and another one to come in the fall. Well, yes. Because I stomped over my fears. Because Bellebooks loves my work—just because you have a book published, doesn’t mean your next book is an automatic thing. Because I put down my head and did the work and didn’t listen to the negative voices (much) that raged in my pea-head.
An artist and I were in a conversation about not letting the negativity get in the way of creativity. I told her something like—we have to have the dark and the light in our work, but we have to make sure the dark is not someone else’s shadow. A lot of what you hear after you publish is Everyone Else’s Opinion—if you are not careful, you begin to listen to too many voices/opinions that aren’t helping you.
At first after Tender Graces came out, I woke up with anxiety so fierce that my stomach tied in a snarl of knots. Fear of what someone might say about my work. That I’d disappoint readers. That (mostly) faded as time went by. But here it is again with the release of Secret Graces. Will people still love me and my characters? How will things go?
My friends, I understand why some writers some times do not write that second book. Author can become paralyzed with fear. That fear can permeate and penetrate and become so prevalent that creativity is stifled. Not only that, there is the fear of: What if I disappoint? What if people expect something they do not get? Imagine writing a book and being compared to other writers—but! Imagine writing a book and being compared to yourself! Can you image Harper Lee’s book To Kill a Mockingbird and all the publicity and the runaway success and all the hoopla and how it is a Beloved book, and now imagine she wants/wanted to write another book and everyone is expecting her to top that beloved book? Not just write what she wants to write, but at least equal to or top what she did before? Who needs that pressure? Be nice if she could just write what she loves without being compared to herself, yes?
If I had not stomped over my fears, skirted around the dark that is someone else’s shadow, ignored my terror, more work would not have come to me, and then to you. Writers and artists and singers and dancers—all those whose work is out for public consumption and review and deliberation—must find a way to stop the: “I have to be loved by everyone. My work must be adored by everyone.” And instead, must do what they love and do it the best they can and do it with love and hope and strength and honesty. And, they must do it in a way that sells, don’t forget that. Art aside, love of books and reading and writing aside, it has to be deconstructed into the business side of things as well. Heart and Brain go hand in hand in this business.
Am I still terrified? Well, yes, sometimes. But am I letting that stop me? No. Yet, I understand better now why and how and when it could stop someone. I understand the shadows that creep in and cover the light—the dark that is someone else’s shadow.