It has been five months since I wrote the first word of the first draft of my first novel.
September 8, 2014 was a Monday. My husband was at work. I sat down at the computer after he left and I wrote until he got home, roughly twelve hours later. The words poured out from my fingers on the keyboard of my laptop, and onto the page, so to speak. It was exhilarating.
I “finished” my first draft on January 5th of this year. John took me to get most of what had been written through the end of December printed and put in a binder. When I wrote the last pages, I printed them and put them in the binder with the rest of the manuscript.
For a couple of weeks I took the manuscript and read through it as I started the re-writing and revision process. I marked out words and paragraphs and sometimes entire passages. I also read through a lot of pages that were so engrossing, even for me as the author of the story, that I didn’t change a thing and left those pages as they were.
I did extensive research and made a list of agents who would be open to my manuscript, making sure those I would choose to submit to would be accepting unknown and unpublished author’s query letters, as I was also learning each agent’s particular requirements for submission. I narrowed it down after over twenty hours of research. That alone was exhausting.
However, I was excited. I found my niche. I’m a Women’s Fiction author, by all the standards and definitions per agents and publishing houses out there. So, I rubbed my hands together and took out my manuscript and looked at it from that point of view—you know, the one you have when you are preparing to turn in your term paper to your English teacher, and you just KNOW IT’S GOING TO SUCK. You’re pretty sure you’ll get a big fat F or at the very least, a D or C- on your paper, and be lucky to pass the damn class.
I began to worry if anyone else would like my story, or if I could get it published, or if I should just stop fooling myself about being an author “for a living” and just get back to the “real world.” I started sending out resumes for jobs I know I’ll really hate but know I can do well enough to make some money. I began to read and listen to all the “advice” from those who know just how, and how not, to be a writer and get published. I got sucked into the trending opinions of traditional publishing versus indie or e-publishing. I wrote several pitches for my story and hated all of them. The noise and clutter began to cripple me. I began to second-guess myself. I stepped into that murky place where had I lived so much of my creative life thus far, where Fear was waiting patiently for me and, like quicksand, was ready to suck me back into its’ mire, back into that dark world where I could be safe from rejection while I smothered the untold stories inside of me clamoring to get out.
Several days went by and I had not looked at my manuscript at all.
Then, the world split open. Our Boone dog had to be put down. Grief became the primary concern for a few weeks. Not only was I attending to my own broken heart, I was trying to be there for my husband and yes, even for our other dog, both of whom have been lost without the big guy, too.
I wanted to talk to someone, but I didn’t have anyone I felt I could talk to. So, like I’ve done so many times before in this particular state—where I have something I need to share but don’t know anyone with whom to share it—I wrote about it.
Yeah, that was okay. It was cathartic and it was necessary and it was comforting.
My grief became angst and restlessness. I opened my manuscript for the first time in three weeks and closed it right back up again. Again, I looked on agent websites. I went to some of my writer pages and read advice on query letters and pitches and writing habits and the odds of getting my foot in the door and yada, yada, yada. I seriously considered closing my Facebook page, personal and author pages, altogether.
Nearly two weeks ago, my husband and I did a job to repair a water leak and place a water line for a friend. I welcomed the distraction of hard work, good physical labor and helping my husband. During that time, I also submitted two short stories for a writing contest—something I had not done before. Yes, I have participated in the Bartlesville Friends of the Library writing contest and won with two poems, and I have won contests in school for my stories and poems. But, I’ve never submitted to a national or international writing contest until that weekend. It scared the crap out of me.
For the last few days I have carried my manuscript in my book bag from the living room, to the bedroom, and back again, fully intending on finishing my re-write and revision process so I can get those entered on the computer document and get ready for the submission process. Also, for the last few days, I have not opened said manuscript ONE time.
So, I began to wonder, what do I fear? I wanted to go beyond the general feeling and get to the bottom of it. Why am I stalling now, after having written over 95,000 words in a span of only four months? What am I afraid will happen if I go forward and submit my manuscript?
I decided what I fear most is rejection, whether it be direct or indirect. I feared the direct rejection of getting one of those nice letters that say, “Thank you, but no freaking way.” Even worse, I feared the indirect rejection where I might hear nothing at all, like when I post something on my page and nobody likes it or comments—nothing. All that silence and nothingness, which translates into rejection in my twisted thinking, was like a huge cloud before me, and one preferred to avoid.
Rather than stay stuck there, I did something that was highly difficult for me to do, and I shared my pitch (one I still do not like but can live with for now) and an excerpt of my book on my Facebook author page and on my Facebook page. Then I held my breath.
There have been a couple of positive responses to it, and according to the Facebook page insights (the statistics of interaction) I have reached 212 people with the post directly from my page, Wordjunkie1966-Kim Deal, as well as garnered three “shares.” That’s pretty good. Up to that time, I had 263 “Likes” on my page as well.
Then something disturbing happened. I lost a “like” on my page the next day. I saw 262 instead of 263 on my page and it shook me up a little bit. Who would unlike my page? Why? Did someone decide I really do suck and they just don’t want to read my stuff anymore?
I shook it off and decided I needed to focus. So, I carried my manuscript from the bedroom to the living room this morning—again—and after my husband left for work this afternoon I have yet to open it up—again—and work on it.
Instead, I went on Facebook and procrastinated by looking at posts and commenting here and there and so on and so forth. One of those pieces of advice for “aspiring writers” I have picked up along the way is that we must “network” and with the advent of the internet and social media, that means getting more “likes” on your page, more interaction, more readership, more followers…you get the idea.
So, I shared a link to my page, Wordjunkie1966-Kim Deal, on my personal Facebook page. Within minutes I lost another “like.” Yes, you read that correctly. I actually went from 262 “likes” to “261” likes in a couple of minutes after I PROMOTED my page!
Now I’m really aggravated. I’m thinking to myself, “What the f*ck? What am I doing wrong?”
I look around me. Coach, our little dog, is crashed next to me on the couch. The kitties are in another part of the house. My head is pounding with a headache I woke up with this morning. I get up and rummage through the cabinets for something to munch (stress eating) and find some pretzels. As I was standing at the kitchen counter crunching away on them, I thought about how I’ve gained over twenty pounds in the last six months and I really did not need to eat them. God only knows what the number on the scale will read NEXT time I have to get on it!
As I’m standing there in the kitchen, my mouth full of pretzels, I’m full of self-loathing—as a writer who has not written past a first draft and who has never been published, as a woman who could stand to lose some weight, as a mom who barely gets to see her kids, as a daughter whose mom hardly calls and when she does I wonder what planet she is calling from, as a friend who hardly ever sees her friends, and as a wife who is not doing her part and wasting day after day (not to mention that college degree) not getting this book done while my husband has to go to work to a job he would probably rather not go to—it hits me.
That damn NUMBER! It’s about the numbers, isn’t it? I’m worried about how much I weigh, if the number is too HIGH. I’m scared about how many people like my writing page, if the number is too LOW or if I’m losing people along the way. I’m afraid my book won’t be good enough to make it past the slush pile where agents throw “well-written” and “beautiful” manuscripts every single day in favor of a book that will SELL.
When I stopped writing for myself, and I began to write for the purpose of getting someone to like me and my work, I crippled my creativity and took all the joy out of it.
First of all, no one has to like me or my work but me. It’s nice that others do, though. Secondly, I need to write from my heart and soul, in my typically honest manner, and whatever happens with it after that is beyond my control. I can choose to stay paralyzed by fear and stop writing because I’m afraid no one will like my work enough to publish and/or buy it, or I can write for the sake of writing and leave the rest to happen as it will.
So, I’m putting this on my Facebook author page. I’m not going to pay attention to how many people view it, or like it, or comment on it, or even if I gain or lose likes along the way.
I’ve got a first draft to polish. Therefore, the story that I worked so hard to write and which came from my soul will be the ultimate gift to myself—one of completion and wholeness. My stories deserve to see the light of day regardless of who does, or does not, read them.
It’s about damn time I stopped being so fearful.
Now is the time to be fearless.
February 12, 2015