(Warning: This post is longer and whinier than usual. It is also more honest.)
Oh, where to begin. Not sure. But beginning somewhere, anywhere, here, is better than not beginning.
I'm having a hard time. And I'm not sure why. Actually, I know why: I published my first book fifteen days ago and somehow, someway, I feel quite lonely.
(Please continue reading a little longer before judging me to be the sourpuss entitled privileged piece of work that I most likely am.)
These past two weeks have been utterly sublime and surreal. The highs have been fairy tale divine. Seeing my book in stacks at bookstores, actual bookstores? Hearing from loved ones and lovely strangers who have read my book - my book - and loved it? Celebrating my dream-cum-reality on numerous festive occasions with friends and family? Carrying two copies of my book and a Sharpie in my bag at all times? These things are nothing short of incredible.
Then why? Why do I have this cryptic cloud following me? Why do I feel a surge of tears in the random cracks of good days? Why am I struggling so? I don't know. But I have a hunch. My hunch is that I've been spending too much time pretending. Pretending (even to my nearest and dearest) that this time is a perfect and precise and princess-y paradise when in fact it's not. It's not.
Many months ago, I had lunch with a friend. A fellow novelist. We sat there, digging into our vast salads, and I asked her. "So what's it like to be published?" And she looked at me. Put her fork down. And shook her head. "I don't want to tell you," she said. I implored her to spill it, to give me the real story. I insisted that I didn't want the candy-coated version of things. And she gave me that okay you asked for it look and then said something like, "It's a great, but also really hard and lonely time."
I think back to our lunch and realize that she was right. That this is both an exquisite time and an existentially tricky time. It's really both. And about the loneliness? I feel it. In spades. And, on some level, on some profound level, I welcome it. Because writing? It's a lush, but lonely affair. It always will be. And if publication entails a certain level of concomitant loneliness, I will take it each and every time. Because this? This nebulous and nefarious this? This is what I want. Grayness and all.
But for me, I think there is a bit more to this loneliness. I think this feeling I'm having - the one that I haven't had the guts to confess until now - has something to do with blogging. Why? Because, over the past thirteen months, this blogging world has been my safe and serene place. I have come here to spill bits of my self, even the untidy and unpretty bits, and I have visited all of you. I have forged connections and friendships. I have felt surrounded and supported. But during this particular phase, I have had a lot less time. I have been unable to visit my favorite blog friends. I have lost touch. And, really, book or no book, this makes me sad.
And there's more. On this blog, I have made a point of being honest. I do not reveal everything about myself, actually far from it, but what I do choose to reveal is real. But recently? I have felt compelled to fudge a bit. To focus on the ups and mask the downs. To put up an impeccable professional facade, whatever that is. To paint the picture that all is pure peaches in my world. And it isn't. Because it never is.
And with the predictable loneliness, there are also the predictable letdowns. Yesterday afternoon, I called my publicist. A wonderful woman and now a good friend. And I asked her. "Have you heard from People?" For the past several weeks, we have been in communication with the magazine and have been cautiously optimistic about a review. But yesterday? My publicist told me they decided not to run a full review. She assured me that very very rarely do debuts get coverage in People and comparable periodicals. And I know she is right. But I was still sad. Deflated. I felt silly for having such high hopes. Because I did have them. I hoped (and still hope) that some big-time mag would feature my first book and then so many people who do not know me or read this blog would see it. And read a little bit about it. And maybe even pick it up. And maybe even love it.
Alas, the privileged problem of a literary rookie. How to get people to buy a book if they do not know about that book? Now, even as I write this, I am fully aware of how this might sound. How it does sound. I sit here, mid-dream, angsting over how to angle my book, my published first novel, for maximal exposure. Cry me a river, right? I know that this is not a tragedy. It's not. It's reality. My reality. And a pretty amazing reality. A very amazing reality.
But still. I sit here. A bundle of raw nerves. And I'm exhausted from forcing smiles where they don't belong. Part of me wants to throw up my hands and say, Hey, this is my first book. This is the way it goes. Whatever happens is fine. Lower those insane expectations. It is tempting to do this because I am tired. Very.
But, just now, I decided I'm not going to do this. Not yet at least. No. Because of all of you, you, Life After Yes is getting a healthy bit of buzz in these parts and beyond. Because of you, you, my baby book is selling off shelves across this nation. Because of you, you, your eyes, your ears, your comments, I'm hanging in.
And so. This post is part apology and part confessional and part plea.
Apology: I am sorry that I haven't been there for you, reading your words, holding your hand, when so many of you have been unrelenting in your support of me. I will be back. Doing this how I want to. And need to. And soon.
Confessional: As always, I am a bit of a modern mess. Same old Aidan. Translation: Publication did not transform me into a purely confident creature.
Plea: I know you have already purchased your copy of LAY and I do not expect you to break your bank to quell my insecurities and satisfy my unruly expectations, but please do what you can to continue to spread the word. Every single mention matters. Every single sale counts. And if you are so inclined, please consider writing a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I am a rookie in this glorious game, but apparently, all of these things mean a great deal. Particularly during this early time.
I might not have People this time around. But I do have people. Wonderful people.
I have you.
- Are you in any way offended that I am having a somewhat hard time when I am supposed to be awash in smiles and celebration?
- Have you ever experienced a phase in your life that was both lovely and lonely?
- Do you ever feel lonely when writing? Or doing whatever you do?
- How do you deal with loneliness when it manifests? Does talking about it - on a blog or elsewhere - help?
- Have there been times in your life when you felt compelled to smile sweetly?
- Do you agree that social media, used properly, can enrich and bolster our experiences in the real world?