Last month I posted part one of the Pressures of Publishing. That post has a bunch of caveats and reminders that I know how lucky I am to be able write books that other people can read. So this time, I’ll just jump right in with a list. Obviously experiences will vary, but I did a super unscientific poll on Twitter.
And if you are feeling any of these things, know this: you are not alone. I repeat: you are not alone.
It might be easiest to organize these by type (sort of), so we’ll start with…
Writing is a pretty personal thing. Especially when my stories are new and shiny, I love them so much. Little pieces of myself get stuck to them—hopes, dreams, fears, ideas, passions—and letting other people read that can be like letting them peek between my ribs to see my heart. (Sorry, that’s kind of gross sounding.) Even when I know the person reading it—like a critique partner or friend—it’s still a very vulnerable feeling.
You know the saying “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”? Yes. That feels very very true. And then you give your blood-spattered pages to other people. (Gross again. Sorry.) Sometimes they love it. Sometimes they hate it. Sometimes they are apathetic about it. It’s hard not to worry about what other people think of your story, not even on a career level, but a personal, emotional level.
2. Fear of disappointing others
One of the things about publishing is how many people take a chance on you. They take risks for you, for your book, for your career—all because they believe in a story you made up. I know so many authors who worry about disappointing their agents, editors, and other publishing people. They want their book to do well so these people they admire so much will feel that it was worth all the time, money, and effort they put into it.
And it’s not just the professionals authors worry about. We worry about disappointing readers who thought the book looked good and then spent money on it, and time reading it. And when more books come out, we worry about disappointing established readers. What if they don’t like the new one? What if we’ve lost them forever?
3. Writing as a job
Writing at any stage isn’t easy, but once writing also becomes a job, it seems to become even more difficult. Suddenly, there are deadlines to meet, promotion and marketing to take care of, and all the other things authors have to do that Aren’t Writing. Once the first book is turned in, we start thinking about the next one, and whether the publisher will believe in the first enough to take on the second. That next book needs to get out fast enough so that readers don’t forget about us, but not so quickly that we saturate our own market. A lot of writers feel like their process doesn’t conform to what publishing needs, usually in a time-related way, which makes those deadlines and regular release dates tricky.
There’s also the branding issue. If your first book is a light-hearted romance about a fairy and a giraffe, is that what’s expected of you for the rest of your career? What if you want to expand? What if publishers or readers only want the one thing from you? It’s pretty scary to think that the first subgenre you publish might be the only thing anyone ever wants you to write again.
And then, because writing is a job, it must be done. Even when it isn’t fun, contracted books must be written or there will be consequences. Because writing is a job, not something you do simply because you love telling stories.
4. Anxiety and other black holes
This whole blog post has been anxiety-inducing, but yes, there’s more. Lots of writers feel unqualified to talk about writing, do school events, talk about anything with any sort of authority. Plus, getting up to speak in front of people can be just plain scary.
There’s a lot to be afraid of: hoping the next book will do better than the first (and being afraid it won’t), worrying you’ll get no marketing for the book (or you’ll get a ton and the book will flop anyway), and a hundred other things I’m running out of room to name.
But I don’t want to forget the green-eyed monster, jealousy of other authors (and knowing that jealousy accomplishes nothing but gray hairs). It’s so freaking easy to assume what other authors are putting out into the world is the only thing that’s happening to them. Lots of marketing, ridiculously high sales numbers, and adoration from readers everywhere. Even though most of us know others share only the good things, it’s easy to forget that.
The truth is, every author struggles with some sort of pressure. Some of them are mentioned in this post. Lots probably aren’t. There are days I have to remind myself that I write books because I love telling stories—because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do. And like any job, there is stress involved.
What helps me? (Besides cookies, of course, which don’t help my pants.) Remembering the book love. Reading happy reader mail. Taking regular breaks. Acknowledging that there are some things I can’t change. Try to cut out whatever frustrating/upsetting/jealous-making things I can — which sometimes means ignoring various parts of the internet when I’m feeling particularly susceptible to negative feelings. And above all, I remember that there’s one thing I can control.