Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Big Fat F Word: Failure and Writing

I've mulled this topic over quite a bit in the last couple of weeks. I usually think about it in my down time, like in the afternoon when all my brain cells are gone and I eat roasted peanuts and stare out the window. I also think a lot about the plot line for Breaking Bad, but that's neither here nor there.

There's really no good way to say this, and truly, I suspect it's something you're never supposed to say. Or, at least, I don't hear any other writers saying it. Maybe they're smarter than me, or have more dignity, or maybe, just maybe, they are more comfortable pretending they're always a success. Or maybe they really are.

I, however, have never been good at pretending. I tell it all on myself. And now, thanks to my very verbal daughter, I have a partner who likes to over-truthfully announce, "MOMMY TOOTED" in Target. But yesterday, as I shoveled handful after handful of peanuts down my gullet, and watched a bird fly smack into my office window, I wondered why this particular topic should this be any different. I also felt really sorry for the bird, but again, neither here nor there.

So here it is.

Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, I feel like I failed a little bit at the whole book thing.

Now. I'm not going to tell the world how much money I made, or how many books I sold. And overall, it was a great experience.  But I will say this. If everyone who read my blog had purchased a copy of the book, I might not be writing this post.

It's been hard, to compare book sales, and the number of visitors to this blog, and not feel like I missed the boat somewhere. It makes me feel a little deflated. Because what I do here, for free, is obviously worth a lot of people's time. The book and this blog don't match up. I don't know the reason for that. I probably never will.

So why say it? Why air it here? Am I trying to make anyone feel guilty?

No. Never. Ever. But, there are lots of us that love writing. There are lots of us who have widely read blogs, published articles, and if we're lucky and we work hard, a published book. And for most people, that is the end of the rainbow, the ultimate fulfillment of the fairy tale. No one tells you what comes after.

No one tells you that you will have to be your own one man PR team (well that's not totally true, my agent did a great job of telling me that). No one tells you that you'll have to promote, and shmooze, and pat yourself on the back. No one tells you how stressful it will be watching the sales numbers every week. No one tells you that sometimes, you'll feel a little bit like a failure even AFTER you've published a book.

But I want to tell you that even if you feel like a failure, it's more normal than you think.

It doesn't last forever.

And it will be O.K.

So here I am, two years later. It's easier to realize that not everyone who reads my blog is willing to buy my book. It's easier to accept that the fairy tale dream in my head just wasn't my reality. It's easier to accept that even though things didn't measure up to what I thought they would be, it was still one of the best experiences of my life and I'm so grateful.

I have finally realized that the F word, failure, is all in my head. It's the measuring stick that I dreamed up, therefore, it's the measuring stick that I alone can break.

So lately, I've been writing and working on projects for myself. I've been concentrating on what I want to do, rather than what I think will sell or impress. It's all I know to do. It's why I really write in the first place.

And yesterday, as I sat in front of my office window, eating peanuts, feeling sorry for the maimed bird who probably said, "Hey, look! There's my cousin. Hi Bill.........." and then plummeted to the ground after colliding with his own reflection, I felt finally ready to tell this on myself. I felt ready to get rid of the F-word and move on with whatever comes next in my writing life.

Because you know what? Something ALWAYS comes next.

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