I knew, before publishing Magic Most Deadly, that almost all authors go through a stage of ennui, discouragement, and even fear that they’ll never be able to write again after they publish their first book.
So when it all happened, I was prepared for it.
I just wasn’t prepared for it to last so long.
I am writing again—but it’s hard. Nothing flows. Nothing feels right. There’s no spark. I find myself putting off writing to read, or to wash dishes, or bake, or any of a hundred other numerous things that are good and important in and of themselves but should never come in the way of my writing time.
Part of it is disappointment. I knew MMD wasn’t going to set the world on fire. I knew the internet wasn’t going to explode over it, that people wouldn’t be lining up to buy copies, that nobody would be pounding on my door to beg an interview, that publishers wouldn’t be falling all over themselves to offer me a contract. And yet … the fact that it came out with a whimper instead of a bang, and fizzled almost at once was—and is—hard.
If I didn’t care about people reading what I write, I wouldn’t bother with publishing at all. I’d just write my own stories for my own amusement and leave it at that. But there is something deep inside me that needs to share my writing with other people. It is deeply important to me. Not for fame or for money (although, not gonna lie, I would sooo love to be able to support the family while Carl’s in seminary, rather than him having to work and do school), and I’m not even sure why, but there it is.
So when I offer the world this story, and the world doesn’t even notice it was offered, yes, it stings. And it makes it hard to remind myself that my voice counts, that my stories matter, even if they are just light-hearted and fun.
It makes it hard to persevere.
I am persevering, because like Emily Starr, if you took everything else away from me I would still write. I can’t not write, but it has lost, I hope temporarily, much of its zest and joy for me.
Carl has reminded me that it is winter, and I went through the incredibly painful process of losing my grandfather in December, followed immediately by a whirlwind of holiday busyness, followed by sickness felling everyone but me in the family one by one in recent weeks (thank you, thank you God and vitamin supplements, for fixing my immune system so that thus far I’ve resisted the illnesses), and that it’s natural for me to feel discouraged this time of year, whatever is going on, due to lack of sunlight and fresh air and constantly being cold (although I’d actually rather be perpetually cold than hot, but that’s neither here nor there). So I’m trying not to take the discouragement too seriously. At the same time, I don’t want to dismiss it altogether.
Last night, once again frustrated that everything I write lately never gets beyond surface depth, and yet doesn’t have any of the humor I value so much either, I re-read something I’d written about two years ago. A crazy fan-fiction mash-up of all my favorite sci-fi and fantasy stories, with me in the thick of it (yes, a self-insert, but not technically a Mary-Sue since nobody fell in love with me, and I didn’t save the world and die tragically) (well okay, I did sort-of die tragically, but not for real, and Voyager’s doctor and Mara Jade brought me back to life, and it was mostly a plot device to let them be grumpy and snarky, not for me to be a Heroine), with not much plot but just a whole lot of fun.
I actually laughed out loud at parts, bits I had forgotten I had ever written, and other parts made me really impressed with their unexpected depth. It was simultaneously great and awful, because it told me that I can write humor and passion and Truth, but it also made me wonder if I can only do so when playing with other people’s characters, in a story never meant for anyone’s eyes but my own.
I don’t have a neat, pithy ending paragraph to end with here. I guess the title of this post says it all, really—I’m not sinking, but I’m not on solid ground, either. Everything is currently very shaky beneath my feet. The best I can do is keep cautiously inching my way forward, hoping to eventually get out of the mire and back onto the firm path, and can move forward once more.