Here is a hard lesson I had to learn: there are tougher things to being an author than getting the book published.
I believed that once I had published my first book, all would be known to me. I could trust I had arrived. I had met the hardest, and biggest, hurdle and my course would be smooth after that.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The biggest challenge I face is an ongoing one: self-doubt. Self-doubt has killed more careers than bad reviews, lack of advertising funds, ugly covers, and poor discoverability combined.
Writers are in the entertainment industry. We are always putting ourselves out there to be judged. This is not a business for the sensitive. Then again, neither is acting, modeling, news broadcasting, and, I’ll lump this in here, politics. It is even a challenge to be a librarian nowadays. Unwanted spotlights loom everywhere. But then, to create something and want it to be consumed by the public calls for thick skin. I quickly learned that if I paid too much attention to what others think, I wouldn’t accomplish anything. I would have given up thirty-eight books ago.
How do I stop self-doubt from robbing me of my mojo? I never forget that I’m doing something I love. That is the most important point. I don’t know if I could not write. But I also believe that if I want to grow as a writer, and I do, I’ve got to push some boundaries. That means I might try characters who are unlikeable, play with tropes, sample new themes. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. But I shared my opinions when I wrote the book. Readers have the right to clap back.
I won’t lie—when a reader “gets” what I’m doing, when they believe that reading one of my books is the absolute best use of their time, it’s magic. And that is what I strive for.
But I’ve been at this a long time. I’m not going to please everyone. I’ve also learned that the most important relationship in publishing is very personal—it is the connection of a reader to the writer through a book. My mind tapping into someone else’s by way of a story. Amazing, isn’t it. As close to a miracle as I can imagine.
And that opportunity for connection is what checks my self-doubt.
Don’t get me wrong. Self-doubt is a nasty critter. It reserves a piece of real estate on my desk. But I’m not going to let it win. Not when there is the possibility of magic lurking on the horizon.