Hello and welcome to Part Two of, well, whatever this is. Thanks so much to everyone who commented, messaged, or texted me about the first post. I was overwhelmed in the best possible way by your responses. I am so grateful to have you all in my life! (Read Part One here if you haven’t and you want to.)
It has been pointed out to me that it’s counterintuitive to broadcast your failures while trying to manifest success. And to that I’ll just say, well, yeahhh. But, it was so cathartic! And, I’m sick of the spin. You know the spin. Every creative person is intimately familiar with “the spin.”
We all dread those four little words at a party: What do you do? Or, even worse for a creative: What are you working on? So, we spin. We don’t say, “I sent out thirty query letters last month and haven’t heard back from any of them,” we say, “I’m trying to decide on an agent.” We don’t say, “I worked really hard for a week on an article but only made a hundred bucks,” we say, “I’m writing for (insert website) now; it’s great!” It’s exhausting, and, in some ways, harmful because every single time you do the spin, you’re telling yourself that the truth isn’t good enough. You’re telling yourself your actual reality doesn’t measure up so you have to gussy it up a bit before it’s fit to be seen by others. Some people say this is just being positive and, I mean, they’re not wrong. But, why does it feel so icky?
I was in the car on the way to a pool party this weekend when I realized I was full of social anxiety. This is a super fun new hobby of mine, something I’ve only suffered from for the last few years or so. I’ve missed birthday parties, weddings, and karaoke bashes. I never know when it’ll hit. Sometimes I’m fine and sometimes I want to pull a Lady Bird and fling myself out of the car to avoid an event. This particular day, I was headed to see a bunch of folks I’ve known since we were theater majors together in the 90s. So, a lot of them are people I know well. In other words, the opposite of a typical anxiety trigger. But as we flew down the freeway, I realized that since they ARE people I’ve known since college, all the hopes and dreams I had for myself back then are basically reflected right back at me every time I look at their lovely faces. It registered that most of my social anxiety is just that: worry that I’m not living up to some version of myself that an earlier version of me created. I’m scared to be around people because I fear judgment when, in actuality, the judgment is all coming from me. I guarantee you that a bunch of theater majors give no fucks whether or not I published a book yet, they just want to know whether Tim and I are doing okay, if our dog is still crazy, and what I thought of this season of The Handmaid’s Tale. (The answers are: yes, yes, and YASSSS respectively.)
I’d never thought about there being a link between my social anxiety and my career anxiety but it makes perfect sense. It’s an anxiety meet-cute, a match made in hell. People who care about you -or even strangers just meeting you at a party or whatever- often genuinely want to know what’s going on with you. It’s the most natural question in the world. If you’re ashamed of what’s NOT going on with you, you’re gonna get a side of anxiety with your giant plastic cup of rosé.
The novel I wrote changed a ton over the course of the two years I worked on it. It started out as one thing, then morphed into something else: something way more fun and ambitious than I’d originally intended. I didn’t talk about it a ton at first. Then, I began actually telling people what I was up to when they asked. Hence, the social anxiety. It felt like my perfect little baby and I didn’t want anyone to see it just in case they took it away from me, either by dissing it, dismissing it, or making too big of a deal out of it, thus, in my mind, strong-arming me to succeed. But, slowly, I started discussing it with friends, which made it real instead of just this fun secret thing I was doing. Allowing other people to know about it did put a certain amount of pressure on the project but it also allowed me to think of it as a real live boy I mean book.
Another thing that added pressure was that it quickly became apparent that I was writing a series instead of a stand-alone novel. Which was, in some ways, totally fine by me. I was having a blast writing the book and by that point I was head over heels for the world and the characters. I felt like I could write thirty books in the world (I’m not going to write thirty books in the world, just want to put that out there right now haha) but even that was a bit overwhelming. The practicalities of writing are muse buzz-killers. It was and is challenging to remain in love with the project, to stay in the fun, creative zone while thinking about practical things like agents and marketing and how many books in a series is too many books in a series. Should I delete all of my vodka tweets if I’m writing YA? Can I actually put Tom Cruise’s name in my book or will I get sued? You know, logistics.
But, I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t mainly just a fucking blast. (Can I say fucking if I’m writing YA? You know what, don’t answer that, just sit back and have some vodka, man.)
Somehow, despite my insecurities and those demon voices in my head, I finished the first book and I was actually pretty thrilled with it. I sent it off to beta-readers and immediately began outlining the second book. Pretty soon I was writing the second book, doing notes on the first, and querying agents all at once. It was exhilarating.
I figured it might take a while to find a good fiction agent but I knew I would eventually. I mean, I’d found a non-fiction agent quickly and easily. I’d even had quite a few other non-fiction agents approach me through Twitter over the years. I’d find a fiction one. How hard could it be?
(TO BE CONTINUED…)
*Another post, another glorious bathroom mirror selfie that was never meant to be seen by humans.