Originally Posted: July 23, 2010
The countdown is on… Four days until Outside the Ordinary World hits bookstores, and it’s hard to think about much else. I’m managing my day job (barely), and getting my kids to camp, walking the dog, making dinners… But underneath and through it all, there’s this ever-increasing hum, like an electrical charge ramping up, or like a train that’s zipping in to the station, straight toward our town.
People keep asking me, “what are you going to do on Tuesday–publication day?” And honestly, I don’t have any plans. Wednesday, the day after, is the book launch and reading in South Hadley, but Tuesday? I hadn’t really given it much thought. What do authors do? Crack open bottles of champagne? Sneak around incognito to all the bookstores to take a peek…? Or just go about their day, pretending not to have noticed that the world’s just burst open like a ripe fig.
Maybe it will be a day like any other day: I’ll run a few errands with the kids, take the dog for a walk, pay some bills, try to get some work done… Ha.
Through all of this, it’s become increasingly challenging to continue my regular writing practice. Ok, nearly impossible. There’s the excitement, yes. But also, nothing dries up the creative flow like distracting thoughts of public opinion! Whether you have a book coming out in four days or four years, thoughts of reviews, sales figures and the literary cannon can stop you cold. It’s like trying to make love in the middle of a supermarket check-out aisle.
But what are we really afraid of here? Is figuring out how our books will sell or what the public wants really our job as writers? Or should we do our darndest to leave that to the marketers, while we slip quietly into our studies, turn off the internet, and try to keep our inner critiques from masquerading as the Voice of the People.
I think the only antidote to this kind of fear and self-censorship is engagement.
Allegra Goodman once said, “Nothing frightens the inner critic more than the writer who loves her work. The writer who is enamored with her material forgets all about censoring herself. She doesn’t stop to wonder if her book is any good, or who will publish it, or what people will think. She writes in a trance, losing track of time…”
That creative trance, that sense of complete engagement is writer’s true prize–far more rewarding than external praise, which is fickle and never enough–it certainly can’t fill the void left by the work we’ve just launched, the characters who inhabited us so convincingly, so urgently, for all those months, or years… Only another work can take its place.
Posted by: Dori