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You are not your book

This post is for all those authors who, like myself, get emotionally invested in their books. Too emotionally invested. Yes, we talk about the writing process and path to publication with words like “passion,” “love,” and “pour your heart out on the page.” You spend months to years on each draft of your novel, and even more time crafting a synopsis, a query, a pitch. You feel the raw heat of your imagination still radiating from the story when you read it again–or maybe it grows cold, but in time you warm to the book again. Your characters are dear friends you love to revisit, maybe even dream of. You long for the day when others can meet them, too, and step into the world you created.

It’s true, I think, that all this emotional intensity and vulnerability is necessary to write a good book.

But it does not make these things true:

(1) If someone reads your book and absolutely loves it, that means they love your mind and creativity.

Or, if they hate it, they think you must be a driveling imbecile who can’t even wipe the drool from your book before it goes to print. Seriously, though, a reader can’t even begin to pretend to know you by reading your book. There’s a good chance you write stories that have little to do with your personality or life. Yes, readers can admire your book, but that’s all. A book isn’t even the tip of the iceberg in terms of your total brainpower or imagination. Besides, you have other books in you, and readers might love or hate each of them uniquely. And if these readers met you, who knows what they would think.

(2) If your book gets recognized by starred reviews, awards, and gushing reviews, that means that you should feel proud of yourself and validated.

Or, if your book gets skipped by all the buzz and recognition, you should feel ignored, like you must be a social leper, and start a frenzy of marketing efforts on Twitter, Facebook, and that blog you don’t really like anyway. Yes, you can feel proud of your book, and happy that people are interpreting it in a positive way, or on the other hand, sad that your book is being ignored, because something must have gone wrong along the way. But it’s not you. It never was. Unless you’ve been completely nasty to everybody involved, they haven’t blacklisted your book.

(3) If you’re absolutely convinced that you’re not in fact a social leper, and your blog is the greatest thing to grace the internet, this must be why people have fallen head over heels for your brilliant writing.

Or, if you are part of the leper colony, you gaze enviously at super-popular authors with massive followings and presumably equally massive book sales. If only people liked you better, then they would like your book. Okay, let’s be honest: why do you read blogs? Because you like the blogger, and learning more about their life. Or if it’s a more craft-oriented blog, they have useful knowledge to share. And if your favorite blogger writes a book, you’re more likely to read it, hoping their skill at blogging and their scintillating personality might have rubbed off. But there’s no guarantee that it will. And who cares if you loved a book and–gasp–the author doesn’t blog. Blogging, and by extension personality, does not equal a good book. Period.

(4) If you’re having a fantastic time drafting a book, maybe under contract, or revising your book to suit a mountain of editorial notes, that means you’re extra efficient and, I daresay, a writing genius. I mean, everything is going so easily!

Or, if you have to wring words from your brain like water from a damp towel in the Sahara, that means you suck. And if reading your editorial notes wants to make you cry, that also means you suck. If only you possessed a more pure, innocent desire to write. But alas, it’s been tainted by deadlines and external pressure, and you have Failed. Seriously? It’s a job. You want to get it done, and get it done right, so you can admit if you’re tired or stressed or elated, but the book is going to be the book. Readers won’t know how you wrote it. Well, unless you’re one of those bloggers who spills their guts…

(5) If you’re a lead title at your publisher, and your editor, agent, publicist, and entire marketing team raves about your book, that means they all adore you. Well, of course you’re raking in the dough for them, but they love you.

Or, if you’re solidly in the midlist, or maybe the underbelly of the midlist, you watch your book get trampled as people stampede toward the bigger, shinier titles. You feel like crap. You feel like your editor is ignoring you, and your agent surely thinks you’re neurotic. Maybe you are neurotic. You circle over your book’s sales numbers like a vulture, worrying that they spell Impending Doom. To be perfectly honest, you probably will get a lot less attention if you’re an author with a small-fry book–but that doesn’t mean you’re a small-fry author. You can always write another, bigger book. And even if this bigger book isn’t big enough, that says nothing about people’s feelings toward you. It’s business.

In conclusion, you are not your book. Try to remember that. I will, too.


@ #4--I can't speak to all the published author stuff, but books are just so different. Even ones from the same brain. Having been on both ends of the spectrum, I HAVE NO IDEA what makes some books easier to write than others. So uh...I agree that you don't need to feel bad if it takes effort, nor too pleased with yourself if it doesn't. If a book does happen to flow out in whole cloth, the appropriate response, as I always tell my kids, is thank you.

BTW, my local university bookstore stocks OTHER. They have a small couple of shelves for YA, but they choose to stock yours. They don't know you--but they do like your book!
Brains are mysterious things. Like, some nights I have these absolutely fabulous technicolor dreams... and others, not so much.

And woot, excited to hear that your university bookstore stocks OTHER!