First, I want to say that I know how lucky I am, and I try to never take it for granted. I’ve had more success in the last year than I know how to cope with on most days. I’ve sold four books, some with foreign and audio rights. I’m going to graduate with my MFA in July in Paris, and I get to visit Germany while I’m in Europe. I have amazing editors and an agent who are all very supportive, even when my Type A personality rears its ugly head in the form of charts, spreadsheets, and too many emails. I couldn’t ask for better friends and family. From my local critique group to the writers and bloggers I’ve come to love online, I’ve found myself rich in friendships and support. And I have two books coming out this year. Some weeks I’m hit with so much exciting news that I’m riding on a good news high. I actually glow. I know because NASA has proof of sighting me from space.
Of course, that only lasts until I sit down at my computer to write. I had a mini-meltdown about a week ago. I’m super at looking like I have everything handled, and not so good at sharing how I’m freaking out on the inside. When I had my mini-meltdown – the kind where my friends could tell from my emails that I was most likely (a) crying when I wrote them and (b) eating ice cream straight from the pint with a spoonful-of-peanut-butter chaser – several people wrote me to say how it made them feel good to see me losing it. And they meant that in the nicest way, which is exactly how I took it.
My fake superwoman act kind of made my friends feel bad because we’re all prone to comparing ourselves to others. (I want to be as funny as Tahereh Mafi and Maureen Johnson. I also want to be classy and handle myself like Veronica Roth. And I want to move people like Laurie Halse Anderson. See? We all do it.) By only sharing the great happenings, I gave off this air of having it together. Juggling two book deals with school and a full time career? No problem! Piece of cake. *finger snap* At least, that’s what it looked like when I hid my struggles.
And it’s not much better on this blog. I’ve been posting less and less frequently, partly because some things seem shrouded in secrecy once you get a book deal (you simply can’t talk about some things), but mostly because I once used this blog as a place to share my struggles, and now I feel like there’s a perception that if you have a book deal, you no longer have struggles. Or at least, your struggles are ones that others would volunteer for, so please, please stop your whining, stupid author. The first I can’t do much about, but the second, I’m getting over because of what happened after my mini-meltdown.
See, I’ve been struggling to write the sequel to TOUCHED. My first two books (TOUCHED and IF I LIE) I wrote in this vacuum where all was sunshine and love of words. It was a magical place where the pressure to sell out an advance, critics, Goodreads ratings, and deadlines didn’t exist. The only expectations placed on me were my own. Now, I have others to think about, and I’m such a people pleaser. Man, I hate to disappoint anyone and, when I had to ask for a deadline extension, I cried. I was hugely disappointed in myself that I couldn’t MAKE myself deliver on time. And despite me crying, my agent was lovely and reminded me that my life has undergone some major changes this year, and that truly I didn’t let anyone down.
I thought about that after I got off the phone with her and then processed it over the next few days. Last Valentine’s Day – it seems so apropos to post this almost a year to the day after I sold – I sold my first book. A month later I sold a trilogy. I have balanced edits, line edits, copy edits, first pass page review, school, book marketing, a full time career in marketing, writing the sequel, family obligations, a crit group, and more. On top of that, my father passed away seven months ago. And I’ve only been in San Francisco a couple of years, so there’s that adjustment. If you back up to 2010, it’s like someone shoved me in a snow globe and every few months, they’ve taken complete run-through-a-meadow joy in giving it a good jolt. Upheaval, even good upheaval, is still upheaval. There’s no shame in that. See how I’m admitting that finally?
Taking all of those stressors into account, I’ve acclimated well. I think. I work hard. I regularly put in 15-18 hour days on a computer. In retrospect, beating the hell out of myself for not working hard enough is laughable and shows how I lost perspective. You can only demand so much of yourself.
Sometimes I need to pause and take stock. Look at where I’ve been and then readjust my expectations of myself. And I need to share my struggles, both to help myself and to let others in. When I had my crying jag, I discovered at least six other YA writers who are struggling to write their sequels with all the pressures that didn’t exist when they wrote their first books. It turns out that I am not alone. I’m ridiculously normal, as a matter of fact. And knowing that I was struggling helped those other writers see they were normal, too. It’s so nice to find out that you’re not alone in the boat sans paddles.
Really we’re all doing the best we can. Nobody ever tells you what comes after your dream comes true. Stories always seem to end with “And they lived happily ever after…” But there’s a lot of effort, sweat, and tears that goes into that ever after. And, this is so huge for me, it’s time for me to come up with a new dream, a new goal to strive for. This seems so presumptuous, right? I never thought the first dream would come true, so how dare I reach for a second one? But you know what? I’m going to do it anyway.
So yeah, that’s what’s been going on with me.