I had a difficult time sleeping last night, probably due to the intense anxiety I’ve been feeling regarding whether anyone will actually think my book is in any way worthwhile.
It’s a crazy thing creating something. It’s very difficult to create something just to create it. You want approval that what you’ve created is good. I see myself doing that with my daughter. I want to make sure everyone sees just how awesome she is, and try to teach her those little tricks that toddlers are supposed to know so people know that she’s awesome enough to do the tricks.
But it’s so much worse with my writing. I’ve been doing it for so long, and so infrequently is the final product something that I really even want to put my name on. So, now that I have finally honed my art enough to a point where I actually like my finished product, knowing that there are some polishing touches which could be made, I find the waiting for approval to be that much more horrible.
So today I sat, staring at my screen, with my heart pounding like it did for those first few months of my relationship with my wife. I prayed to get a response saying something at least as good as, ‘It’s not that bad, I’d like to see how it ends.’
I knew it was impossible to believe reading the fifty pages I sent out would be at the top of this prospective agent’s to-do list. I knew that even if it was, finding the time within a workday to sit down and rock through 50 pages of amateur writing just isn’t possible. Not to mention, I would think you’d want to be in the right mood for it, otherwise it would just be a chore.
But I waited. I hit the GET MAIL button approximately four million five hundred sixty-eight thousand thirty-four times today. Nothing. I didn’t even get any other denials today. My inbox was oddly quiet. The normal amount of daily spam I got? Down to almost nil. And as the day wore on, I found myself incapable of thinking of anything other than whether or not that e-mail would come. Then I realized that it was possible she might have called and I didn’t notice my phone buzzing in my pocket. A quick excited examination of my cell’s screen once again only ended in disappointment.
In fact, I’m still hitting the button, thinking somewhere in the back of my mind that she decided to take my pages home to read and wouldn’t be able to resist sending me an e-mail in the middle of the night to tell me how much she loved it.
And then the other question starts popping in my mind. The question that causes me to think that I shouldn’t even be putting these words up on this site for fear of losing any form of credibility. How did Thoreau deal with trying to sell his first book? I have a hard time envisioning Hemingway as an anxious young man (younger than me, in fact) running to his mailbox over and over again hoping they said yes.
I know the publishing industry is quite a bit different now, but what about Rowling? Stephanie Meyer I’d expect to have been crying about not hearing anything long before now, but Rowling chills with the queen. Surely she too must have suffered this fear of rejection.
But maybe none of them did. Perhaps they were all less self-conscious about their work, and wrote purely to write. I don’t know the biography of any of these writers enough to say.
But I can tell you what I did to finally relieve some of the anxiety today. Something that I still feel rather dirty about. I took to looking at the work of several other new authors today whom have found at least some interest in their work through the publishing world. I had to know where I stood among my actual contemporaries, the people that, although our genres don’t match, are sending letters to those same agents I am.
I came out happy. I looked at these works and saw new things about my own work. I realized that whether or not this one agent sees it, I do truly have a fresh story. I understood that I have an incredibly polished piece of work. My pacing is much faster than most of these other pieces, helping to move the story along much better than I had pictured in my head.
I know that I’m no Thoreau, nor do I want to be. Hemingway exudes a form of masculinity in his writing that I’ll never be able to capture. Rowling created an entirely new world that the real world quickly became immersed in. . . I could only hope to be able to have people feel as though they dipped their toe into a new world with my work. And Meyer, although I dislike what you’ve done to my favorite monster, you’ve created a new monster through your re-imagining of the romance novel, and make a sh*t-ton of money doing so.
I can’t compare to those. But my book has heart. It’s a work of love, and it’s honest. Many of these in-progress works I skimmed through today spend too much of their time trying to be something that they aren’t. I can honestly say that I believe I did a wonderful job in really showcasing my own voice and telling my own story through characters that I think people can empathize with.
In other words, I think I have a damned-good book, comparatively speaking.
But, I’m still finding my fingernails getting shorter by the second.