Friday, December 16, 2011

What Happens to Us?

I've been floating around the blogs the last few days and ran across an interesting thread from published authors that's really resonated with me. I was going to keep silent on it, but I've found, yeah, I need to say something.

It's an interesting phenomenon that happens to writers after they become published. Elana Johnson, Tahera Mafi, Michelle Davidson Argylle, and Jody Hedlund have all voiced their emotional upheaval. I felt the same thing after my book showed up on the Kindle. I was overwhelmed with how many books were bought, yet down-hearted that it wasn't enough. But what did I expect? I would sell a million copies overnight, that one of the agents who rejected me would call and say, "oh yes, I was so foolish to let you go, let me offer you a contract now", that I would become the next overnight sensation because I had finally self-published this "thing" that I'd been working on for two years.

I know there are differences between indie authors and traditional authors, but the feelings are basically the same. I take from Elana, lost and alone. I put my book out there and waited for the accolades, the kudo's the press, and nothing. I take from Tahera, that giddy feeling of going into a bookstore (although, I have to check my Kindle stats every 3 hours) and staring at the cover, feeling the pride, yet not wanting to be conceited about it. I take from Michelle the overwhelming jealousy over what someone else has. My own crazy insanity that another author got 57 reviews overnight and I only had three for two months.

I have done something no one else in my family ever did, but my family doesn't care. Not one note of congratulations, not one encouraging e-mail. NOT ONE. Like, who cares, it's just Anne, being Anne again, just another one of her hare-brained schemes to make money (I refer back to my catering business -- they all said I couldn't do that either.) This hurts so badly you can't imagine. My own family doesn't give a shit that my name is on a book. That it's being read by 182 people whom I've never met. If that doesn't make you a little emotional, then nothing will.

And so, after three months of watching and waiting for the "big break", I finally came to the conclusion, there's nothing any different about being a writer than there is about being a chef, or a cab driver, or a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. When the next day dawns, you put on your pants, brush your teeth and go to work. I just happen to work from home, downstairs in my basement.

The expectations that life is going to change in some dramatic way after we are published are fed to us, by us, by other writers, in where we read about the debut author snagging that million dollar movie deal. We want to be JK, Stephanie, Kristen. We want it to be us. Desperately. (And if you say you don't, you're lying. Okay that's a blanket statement, so I take it back, but we all do think at least once, how fab it would be to be famous.) We want the awards, the fame, the hype, but when it doesn't come (to most of us) we're left feeling out of sorts in our own skin, and wonder who it was that we could blame for lying to us, who told us this was the way life was going to be when you get published.

And we find, it was only ourselves.

Yes, I do take pride in all I've accomplished, but what I need to remember is, I'm just a writer who wrote a book. Sure, I'll be jealous, and afraid, and excited, and overwhelmed by all these crazy emotions. The feelings of abandonment, despair, elation, joy, and trepidation are just the natural process of evolving from writer to published author. Kind of the same feelings after you've had a baby.

But what I've found through these last three months, is to just let it go, and get on with what I do best. Love my daughter, pen my next stories, and catch up with the laundry.

What else is there really?


Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

i think it might actually be harder, if things changed a lot after publishing. I kind of like the idea that, hey, things are still the same. You're still the same.
Also, that sucks about your family. I'll pretend to be your family:
Anne, you are amazing. You did this awesome thing and we are so proud of what you have accomplished and so proud of knowing you. We brag about you to random strangers, because we're so excited about this thing you have done.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Oh my, you've evoked so many feelings here. I'm really sorry your family hasn't been more supportive of your writing aspirations ... of your writing ACCOMPLISHMENT, dammit... but you have an awful lot of blogger pals who are mega proud of you. I'm one of 'em. Please don't measure your accomplishment by dollars and cents. YOU HAVE WRITTEN A BOOK. And I have no doubt that it's a GOOD one. After Christmas, I'll be ordering it for my new Kindle. Can't wait!

Anne Gallagher said...

Sarah -- Aww thanks, I kind of think of your family as my family anyway. You look just like my cousin Liz, your sister's name is Anne, you call your brother "Brother" and I've called my brother "Brother" since he was a baby, Yvie looks almost like my Fluffy, and Tula reminds me of my Bella.

And you know, I'm really proud of you too. Your short story in a published mag, your book Glimpse (which I totes LURVE lurve lurve) taking care of your house and pets. Big huggs right back at ya!

Linda G. said...

It's natural to have a post-success letdown. Happens all the time in theater -- you work so hard on a show, you open, and after all the're drained. Can't hold onto a high forever.

It does such that your family isn't more supportive. I really think it's tough for non-writers to understand what goes into finishing a novel, exactly how great an accomplishment it IS. That's what your writer buddies are for. :)

You're doing the right thing: getting on with your life and writing. That is where your true sense of accomplishment comes from. Within.

Anne Gallagher said...

Susan -- Thanks. I know my family isn't all that supportive in this, but they are in other ways, so maybe I shouldn't have mentioned it, but still. It is an accomplishment that I'm very proud of, just the fact that I finished the damn thing was pretty good. But now that it's published, well, that stroked my ego for a long time. I just have to remember, the ego is only one part of me. Thanks always for your support. It really means a lot to me.

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- Truer words were never spoken. That IS why I have you guys. Your support is all I really do need. And I get what you say about the "high". I was in the theatre too, (a wicked long time ago.) That post 'final curtain' phase and the 'what next' question. Yup, just live the life and see where it takes me. Thanks.

Em-Musing said...

Well, I'm guessing my family won't pay anymore attention to me when I'm published than they do now. NO one reads my blogs or even talks about my writing. I even gave my sister a few chapters once and she never even commented. I have this fantasy that one day I'll have a NY Times bestseller and my family will go, "That's YOU?"
And no matter what, Anne...YOU'RE FABULOUS!!

Anne Gallagher said...

Em -- Which I guess makes US soul sisters. And you know, that's my fantasy too. And add on a movie deal starring Brangelina with a million dollar option and a 10% take on the gross. lol.
You're pretty fab yourself.

andrea franco-cook said...

First of all, congratulations on writing and publishing a novel. That in and of itself is a huge accomplishment. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

I can soooo relate to your family dillema. It seems the people who are supposed to love and support us the most,tend to be the ones who bring us down.

When I was in grad school my sister used to say the most horrible, cutting things to me. At one point, she accused me of pursuing a graduate degree so I would feel intellecutally equal to her. Seriously, she said, and I quote, "I hope this does it for you. I hope that now you will feel equal to me." She didn't like it when I asked her why on earth she would ever think I went to all that trouble to compete with a person who didn't even have a Bachelor's degree. What an ego.

When a publisher solicited me to publish my thesis as a book, I was elated. That is, until my sister found out. She made it sound like a joke. Needless to say, if I want support I do not seek it from my family. Sorry for this rant, but I just wanted you to know you're not alone here.

Also, the one lesson I learned through my dealings with my sister is, not to let others bring me down. I have backed away from all the negative people in my life, and only associate with those who are positive. No matter what, I have learned to believe in myself, to take pride in all my accomplishments. After all, I worked my ass off to acheive them. I'm a much happier person for making these choices. I hope someday you'll have a similar revelation. Wishing you all the best this holiday season.

Patti said...

Well said, Anne.

I'm so sorry your family hasn't been there for you. That's awful and I hope they read this post and feel bad.

It's always hard to put yourself out, which is why you need to take some pride in that, because there are thousands of people who don't.

Anne Gallagher said...

Andrea -- What is it about sibling rivalry? I got my BA, my brother had to get his. He's got his MA and now he's busting my balls to get mine. The last thing he said to me last summer on vacation was, "Why don't you get a real job instead of farting around writing a stupid book that no one will buy." yeah, I don't talk to him anymore.

I'm actually in a pretty good place these days. I too, have eliminated all who are negative, including my family. I dont' discuss my book with any of them and if they should ask, I just say, "It's going well" and change the subject. I don't need to hear it. Good bad or indifferent.

Thanks for commenting. I know I'm not alone.

Laura Pauling said...

Well said. That's all we can do!

Anne Gallagher said...

Patti -- My family doesn't read my blog, so there's comfort in that in a strange way. I can rant about them all I want and never have to feel the repercussions.

I do take pride in all I've done, especially, believe it or not, the formatting. That was the one thing I was the most scared of, but I sucked it up and got through it. Being published is just a benefit of that. Which is kind of a funny way to think about it.

Thanks Patti.

Anne Gallagher said...

Laura -- Thanks. I take a lot of things in stride now too. My laundry and dishes will still be there no matter how many times I do them. It's what keeps my reality in check. (Although secretly, I swear, if I do get rich and famous, I am hiring a maid.)

Linda Cassidy Lewis said...

It's somehow edifying to have your feelings echoed by someone, so thank you for writing this. I laughed in relief at the second half of your second paragraph because it was so honest and true.

I'm sorry you have no support from your family. I have only a few family members who've said nothing to me, though I suspect it's because they were shocked at my book and are sparing my feelings.

And now back to the laundry. ;-)

Anne Gallagher said...

Linda -- You're very welcome. And what can we do if not to laugh at ourselves from time to time. My mother refuses to read my book, afraid there's going to be "something" in it she won't approve of, although the only thing I can think of is the word "ballocks". No sex, no hint of sex, oh, maybe I did use the word 'breast' too. Oops.

Yes, laundry and dishes. Such is the life of us great writers. If "real" people only knew.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

Yeah, I've already written about all this on my blog one too many times, so you know how I feel about all of it. But THIS:

And so, after three months of watching and waiting for the "big break", I finally came to the conclusion, there's nothing any different about being a writer than there is about being a chef, or a cab driver, or a doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.

That is probably one of the most important things an author can learn, I believe. All I've ever wanted was to be respected for what I do, and it was hard at first to realize that the respect would take awhile to come. THE ONLY way you will get it is to stick with what you're doing for the long haul. Authors who are in this for 10, 15, 20 years, etc., are the ones who are the most highly respected, in my opinion. The serious ones. I already respect you, Anne, and if it helps any, I'm jealous of your Amazon stats. Your books are selling consistently, even if it's only a few copies a week or month. None of this ever happens quickly unless you're in some top percentage, and honestly, I wouldn't want all that stress and "success" piled on top of me like an avalanche. No freaking thanks. I'd rather just go steadily, slowly, and happily along my way.

Being an author is just like any other job people do for the love of doing it. And any art form, period, is going to be hard, as I'm sure you already know from cooking.

Every post I've ever put up about this all say the exact same thing: THIS IS ONLY WHAT YOU MAKE OF IT.

I, for one, choose to make it happy, hard-earned job and love of my life. I hope you do, too. :)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Anne, I'm really sorry your family doesn't care. We care! And we think your writing is wonderful and very powerful.
The reward of doing it has to be enough, because if we expect more, we'll often be disappointed.
But if we keep going and keep believing, then something special might really happen.
We're proud of you!

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

And you know, Anne, I was thinking. If your family doesn't care, it's completely and totally their loss. I've written some posts about people loving you and not what you do. It's here if you ever missed it:

And this one:

Anne Gallagher said...

Michelle -- You know I read every one of your posts on this subject, and I said to myself, "She doesn't know how good she's got it, what is she complaining for." Not only until I went through the entire experience my own self did I realize what it was all about.

And I think that's the difference between writers and authors; we writers think how wonderful it's going to be on the other side, and then we get there and we find out, it so isn't.

But as with everything in life, only we can make the decision on how to deal with it. Luckily it only took me 3 months to work through it. For some it takes longer, for others they can get right back to it.

Writing is a job. And as with any other job, it requires skill, dedication, and perseverance if you want to get good at it. Those people I mentioned got a "lucky break" by being in the right place at the right time with the right ms. Good for them. Sure a million dollar option would set me up nice and tight, but then what kind of stress would that involve.

Right now, I'm incredibly happy to be doing what I love. I can also see myself doing it for the next ten years. Maybe longer, we'll see. But right now, I'm home for The Monster, I'm getting my "passion" out, I'm being my best creative self. If "fame" hits, then so be it, but I'm not seeking it out. I'm just going to get through the next chapter, the next scene, one day at a time.

Thanks Michelle. You know, I will never doubt your wisdom again.

Anne Gallagher said...

Michelle -- It is their loss and I know it. I mean, my parents are probably secretly proud of me but they won't ever tell me that. so you know, it is what it is. And truthfully, I don't really care. I want The Monster to be proud of me. And I want to be proud of me for her.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

You have your heart in the right space. The thing to remember is that even those people whom you think have it so, so good - those million dollar writers - they are most likely jealous of others, and they are not happy with a lot of things. The grass is always greener, I'm telling you. The key is to just be happy grazing where you are and if you happen to make it to "greener grass" someday, you probably won't even notice. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Alex -- Thanks. I know you guys are there for me, that's kind of why I had to write this post. Just so the unpublished can see what it's really like on the other side. You can't know another person until you walk a mile in their shoes. I have found my expectations tempered in the last few months, so have been pleasantly surprised by what actually has happened. It's all good. Thanks so much for stopping by today.

Anne Gallagher said...

Michelle -- The old adage -- the bigger they are, the harder they fall -- comes to mind. I remember a long time ago I wanted to be Danielle Steele. She had it all. But now, I wouldn't give a penny to trade places with her. She's lost her edge, her style, her flair for romance, (IMHO) I don't even read her anymore because she's so rote with her plots and stories.

I am who I am, and now that I've found another life lesson, I think I'll keep it that way.

Terry Towery said...

Well, I think your the best thing since artificial sweetener! I'm proud of you and a little jealous of you, but mostly I respect you and your talent.

Also, I think maybe we might be related somehow. Your family sounds suspiciously like *my* family. Oh well. Screw 'em.

Terry Towery said...

And, uh, I meant *you're* and not "your*.

Man, do I need an editor....

Liza said...

Oh Anne...I guess the point is that we have to grow our kudos from strong in ourselves and know that writing a book is something millions of people talk about doing, but only a small group ever accomplishes it...and you are in that group. Be strong and proud in what you have done and continue to do!

Wendy aka Quillfeather said...

Your own family may not give a flying shit that your name is on a book, but hey, I do! And by the look of all the comments, so do many others.

I think what you've done is simply extraordinary. And don't you forget it :)

All the best. Now, get penning that next novel :)

Elana Johnson said...

Excellent and wise words. Hang in there; it gets better as you "find yourself" and your place. I'm still looking, but I at least have a better idea of where that will be for me.

Anne Gallagher said...

Terry -- Aww, you're the best! Thanks, man. And you know I'll always edit you. lol

Liza -- Without you I never would have made it to 65! I don't care what they say, it takes a village to raise a writer, so thank you for helping me in so many more ways than this. Your pictures and words from home keep me grounded in a way you'll never know.

Wendy -- Thanks for giving a flying shit! I do appreciate that comment more than you know. And I'm penning, I'm penning. Almost done as a matter of fact.

Elana -- Without your view on this whole thing, I never would have found the courage to write what I did. So thank you. I didn't realize there were so many more of us who felt like this. It's nice to know I'm not alone. And it is better already. Just getting this off my chest has helped a bunch. So thanks.

Nicki Elson said...

Ah, the dreaded reality hump - but you got over it, so congratulations! Doesn't mean your dreams won't happen, just that they might be readjusted a bit. You've got so many more books in the pipeline for publication, which is only going to draw more attention to your first stories released to the world, so you're in a great position, even if it doesn't quite feel like it yet.

My dream was to be interviewed on Regis and Kelly. And Regis just retired. :(

Anne Gallagher said...

Nicki -- Readjusted. That's EXACTLY how I feel. It's funny that you say I've got all these books in the pipeline. I never thought of it in terms like that, so thanks. I guess I better get to writing them then.

I know, The Monster's father watched Regis religiously. He doesn't know what to do with himself now.

Clarissa Draper said...

My book is just about to come out and so this post was so interesting for me. But, I totally understand the lack of enthusiasm that people around you show. Sure, at first my family was semi-interested but after awhile... it's like oh yea, you're a writer. Thanks for the post.

Donna Hosie said...

You've achieved something HUGE. I can't believe you don't get more emotional support from those around you. Thank heavens there is a wonderful community here to congratulate you on your efforts.

jbchicoine said...

Anne, I'm so glad you finally posted about this! I feel as if I'm on the brink of all these crazy feelings and reading your thoughts--which allows for honest discourse from your commenters--is edifying.

Nothing makes me happier than knowing your focusing on your writing again, and not your stats! You are right where you should be! :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Clarissa -- Which is why I'm so glad there is a family of writers I can count on out here. Thanks for stopping by.

Donna -- We can pick our friends but we can't pick our families. Yes, I thank Heaven every day for my friends here in the blogosphere.

Anne Gallagher said...

Bridget -- Well, I wouldn't be anywhere without you, so thank you. And I guess we can say we're in this together now. Like Dr. Doolittle's Push-me/Pull-you.

Carol Kilgore said...

You had to mention laundry :)

I'm sure I'll feel much the same way next year. Already I'm a bit nervous. Thanks for the heads up.

Elizabeth said...

Lovely blog...great post.

Stop by my blog if you like for an e-book giveaway.



February Grace said...

If I went to the moon my family would criticize that I did it by hitching a ride with the Russians instead of going when the Space Shuttle program was still running.

Do you see what I'm saying?

Sadly, sometimes our family is the very LAST place we can look for validation or congratulations even though it's where we most want it to come from. All I can say is that as I'm sure others have already said (sorry I didn't read all the comments) your friends are very proud of you. I know it's not the same but I hope it helps a little.

Far as fame goes- I am being completely honest here when I tell you that I have never wanted to be famous.

Maybe that's why I agonize still about ever publishing at all, and why I don't know if I ever will.

It's not that I think it'll happen, my ego isn't that big-- it's that I fear that outside chance that any attention at all could be paid to my work--and it could get weird- and I don't want that.

Fame is transient, it is short-lived (unless you're Keats or Shakespeare or Tennyson or Rowling- I really don't think Twilight will still be a huge hit 50 years from now.) and fame is a real b***ch.

Seeing what ya'll who have published go/are going through...a huge part of why I still stash almost everything I write away.

But I know I'm an exception to the rule.

Happy Holidays, Anne- please know that I celebrate every one of those copies sold with you. You worked hard, people are reading your stuff- that is what matters.

You are an amazing writer and a phenomenal person- that is what matters.


Sarah Pearson said...

Not sure if you'll catch this as I'm late commenting, but I wanted to chime in on something you wrote. You're not 'just' a writer who wrote a book, you're a WRITER who wrote a BOOK :-)

Hold my hand: a social worker's blog said...

Dear Anne,
I've been so busy and so behind on blog news and I just now found out about your novel. Oh my goodness! This is a big event, Anne. You published a book!! You are an AUTHOR!!!

Please, don't let your family or others bother you with their lack of support. It may be just jealousy on their part, or just a poor understanding of the passion of writing. Not everyone is into writing or even reading. Breathe deep, wear a broad smile, and feel proud of your accomplishment. I am proud of you!

By the way, I'm trying to buy the ebook on Kindle but I can't find it. Maybe you can email me some instructions about how to search for it.

(((( Merry Christmas ))))


Francine Howarth: UK said...


Late to this party because suffering too many hangovers from the real things: hate this time of year and obligatory seasonal functions.

But, getting back to going Kindle or paperback, it's best to adopt a philosophical almost experimental approach to the whole process of being a self-pubbed author!

1) think acorn (shove it in the ground)
2) wait a bit (wow! a shoot = sale)
3) blimey, (two leaves = second sale)
4) What? (8 leaves = Yippee 8 sales)
5) shove second acorn in ground
6) wait a bit (hee hee I got a bush and a shoot)
7) Oh wow! One month and I got a money tree...
8) Quick shove another acorn in the ground
9 Some one noticed my tree/s and left a comment
10 More people noticed my trees and left comments
11) Month No 2 = no comments :( But WOWEE! 10 sales in two days
12) acorn No 1 now part OAK tree with golden leaves: money money money!
13) acorn No 2 withered a bit
14) acorn No 3 reaching for the sky!
15) Paperback version coming up as collection of acorns!

The above is how brand begins to take hold: how one good read can lead to follow-up reads.



DL Hammons said...

Anne ~ Sorry that I'm just now reading this, things have been rather hectic. First off, that's awful about your family. Truly awful! But you should consider us, the blogging community, part of your extended family. We CARE about your accomplishments, and more importantly, we know how significant they are! I'd rather have a fellow writer pat me on the back and offer congratulations then a family member who has no understanding of what it's like in this industry. We are your peers, and we hold you with high esteem!!!!

Like others before me have communicated so eloquently, in the long run it'll be your entire body of work that will satisfy the expectations that feel bruised right now. The first step of a marathon looks just like the last, but the recognition is vastly different. :)