It wasn’t until a few weeks ago that I truly understood the term “emotional roller-coaster.” As someone who enjoys roller-coasters, even though they often frighten me, the term just seemed like an easy cliche. Not anymore. Here’s what the past few weeks have been like for me, in theme park ride form:
Three weeks ago -
“I finished writing my book! Finally. What an achievement!” - the chain clinks the coaster car up the track and I lean back, excited.
Three weeks minus one day ago
“Wait — I’m done writing the book I’ve been working on for over two years. What do I do now? How am I going to get it published? What if all this work was for nothing?” – Ahhh!! Car flies over the hump, careening me down the track. Stomach lands in my throat.
Two weeks ago -
“Wow, my friends that I printed copies for really loved the book!” – Ride levels out and I catch my breath.
One week ago -
“I’m so lucky to have this author as a friend, she’s willing to tell her literary agent about me! She sent her my email and query and everything. I’ll send this other one to a different agent just in case — maybe they’ll fight over me!” – Coaster ramps back up, hurtling me upside down, much to my enjoyment.
“Time to check my e-mail, I’m sure they’ll be something by now!… *crickets*” – Safety harness snaps, and I’m ejected from my seat, launched towards my imminent death.
For the first time, it’s starting to sink in that it’s not guaranteed I’ll be published. If that sounds insane, it is. What writer thinks that it’s a given they’ll be published, who’s that delusional? This girl, that’s who. From the moment I first got published on Burnside, I thought, “it’s only a matter of time.” Granted, at that point I didn’t even have an idea for a book, but that didn’t matter. Some agent, somewhere, was magically going to find me and offer me a book deal. With every Burnside, Relevant, and especially Huffington Post essay of mine that was published, I still believed this would happen. Surely someone would discover me.
After my first half dozen or so articles failed to result in an email from a literary agent, who was just dying to rescue me from my cubicle — with a five figured book advance, I realized I needed to refine my approach. Instead of just hoping someone would pay me to quit my job and write a book, I’d better just write a damn book. So I did. Over two and a half years. It took about a year to write 1/3 of it, since I wasn’t really sure where I was going, but then once I got disciplined, and made myself write at least 500 words a day, the rest of the book just flowed out of me. In chunks of 500 to 2,000 words at a time, 47,000 words were written in the past three months. The book that had been sitting dormant for nearly two years burst to life in a matter of weeks, once I paid it the attention it was due.
All along the way, I’d secretly hoped that the email from the literary agent would land in my inbox. That I’d get a publisher before I reached the end. Because once the end came, the terror tagged along with it. Fear that comes with the realization that I’m done. And I have no idea what to do next. I mean, I have a vague sense of what to do; query letters, research, painstaking editing, etc, but I’d never thought I’d face that all on my own.
But here I am. Staring at an inbox sans agent email. Looking down the long road of rejections. Wondering if I’m going to end up quitting, before I ever reach my goal of having a published book. Before 30, if at all possible. While I watch author friends I’ve made along the way, reaching the success I so badly want. And wondering, at the same time, if I even deserve it.
Even though Ryan has very lovingly reminded me that I’ve only been on this nauseating ride one week, I’m ready to get off.
But I know, deep down, that I have to believe in my words, and that what I wrote is worth all the work. And heartache. Even if the idea of staying on this tired metaphor any longer makes me want to hurl.
At least I finally understand why so many famous writers were alcoholics. That mystery is officially solved.