My recent conversations with authors, including Tuesday’s Author2Author with Erica Bauermeister, seem to have included a discussion of the first-time novelist’s most surprising discovery: that complete strangers will buy your book, read it, and occasionally want to talk to you about it. These complete strangers will be moved, amused, angered, disappointed, or enlightened by what you wrote in the pristine privacy of your desk. How strange. Don’t they understand it’s just something you wrote and not a real book? All writers are readers first, and it is perhaps for this reason that the reality of publication seems unreal. As a reader you are not granted a backstage view of the stories you love; they arrive in your lap fully formed and uncorrectable. That is what a book is. Until you write and publish one. For a moment, The Book’s magic is lost; for a moment it is cheapened. Why, anyone could have done this.
This does not last long, and what changes has everything to do with those surprising strangers. You thought you were writing for yourself, you see, because during the writing you were about the only one who actually cared that this book would be written. But then you learn the reality. You learn that you were also writing for those strangers. You didn’t know it, but you were. This is perhaps the most surprising reality of all. You can write in your pajamas; you can disconnect your phone and cancel your Internet; you can even write in a cabin in grid-less Idaho, but when you write, your thoughts are no longer yours alone. If you write and publish, your thoughts are going to travel far and fast.
This psychic intrusion is the primary force behind the dreaded Sophomore Slump. The truth is, of course, that your thoughts were never quite your own to begin with. Publication has merely heightened your understanding that your are a full member of the herd of man, and that everything you do, say, and think ripples out to all the other members of the herd. It has always been thus. In this way, to become an author is to accept responsibility. To become an author is to answer the question, “What do I actually want to see more of in the world?” Because to become an author is to publish not one book but, depending on your readership, to publish a thousand, or ten thousand, or a million books.
And so, you still un-published writer, you think you fear the silence of rejection, but you don’t. The truth is all about you, and you have known it in your heart. The world is already listening, poised at the edge of your thoughts. Accept that those thoughts are being heard, accept that they have always been heard, and you will know acceptance too.
Remember to catch Bill every Tuesday at 2:00 PM PST/5:00 EST on his live Blogtalk Radio program Author2Author!