Publishing my first book has been the most surreal experience of my life. From the moment I clicked “Submit” to send the manuscript to the printer, it’s been a whirlwind. After spending every waking moment thinking about the story, the characters, and how I was going to get from A to B for an entire year… And then some time before that… I expected a lull to follow submission. Relief. A vacation from the story. I poured myself a large glass of wine, my boyfriend took me out for dinner, and I waited for the kind of deep sleep that had eluded me for months.
It never came.
Instead, I woke up fretting over whether I had caught this typo or that necessary edit. I woke up scared of critiques and ready to battle the closed-minded. I woke up thinking about promotional strategies and social media branding. You name it, I worried about it. And I worried every night. And then I worried every day. All day and all night. All the time. Of course, yoga and meditation help, as do long walks with my pup… As does wine. But, nighttime always comes and, with it, come the hours upon hours of tossing and turning as my heart rate increases to nearly panic attack levels.
Finally, I’d had enough. One night I attended a large party where every single person in attendance knew that I’d published a book. While incredibly flattering, and simultaneously humbling, it was also terrifying. By the end of the night, I was drenched in sweat, dabbing at my makeup in the hopes that none of these fantastic supporters would notice that I was melting right in front of them. As I spoke with each potential reader, I realized what it was that was causing my anxiety – I felt naked and exposed. This book is so much more personal than I ever thought possible for a fictional book. I’m sharing a piece of writing that I’ve worked on for over a year. It’s consumed my every waking thought and every sleeping moment. I’ve created the characters, given them names and habits and life stories. I've made them into real people, in my mind, and then I spent every spare minute I had with them. It doesn’t matter that they’re make-believe – they were real to me. And still are, in a way. I wrote them to be raw. Messy. Flawed. And by writing them that way, I got to know them better than I even know myself. They’re a part of me now. I imparted parts of myself onto them. I used my own fears and my own flaws to inspire their reactions. I used my own heart to inspire the kind of compassion I wanted them to feel. So, when I open their story up to the world, I feel more than a bit naked. Judged. Questioned. And since it's always been my dream to be an author, I’m in this for the long haul. There's no turning back. I believe in my story. I believe in my characters. And I believe in what I have to say. But that doesn’t mean that I am not constantly enveloped in crushing anxiety that is affecting my almost every waking breath.
The night after the party I was plagued by night terrors, which only happens to me during times of peak stress. And, since I hadn't been sleeping well for months already, I was more than exhausted the next morning. So, when I got out of bed for the day, I resolved to set myself straight. But how?
Being a bit of a quote addict, I decided to turn to Google and find out what some of the greats had to say about writing and the life of an author. Who better to advise me than those who did this over and over and over again?
Harper Lee had, potentially, the best and simplest advice: “I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide.”
Well, I better get working on that, I thought. I'm still working to grow past my people-pleaser phase. I like to argue and I will stand by my beliefs, but confrontation still makes me anxious.
But, as good advice as that was, I needed more. I needed to know that it was normal that I felt this exposed when talking to people about my book. I wanted to feel normal. I kept scrolling and started to find some that really resonated. These are the ones that I’m finding comfort in now. Here are a few of my favourites:
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
- Robert Frost
(I think this applies to prose as well. Good writing, to me, evokes emotion. Which brings me to the next quote...)
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.”
- Robert Frost
“Write what disturbs you, what you fear, what you have not been willing to speak about. Be willing to be split open.”
- Natalie Goldberg
“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
- Ernest Hemingway
“There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
- Ernest Hemingway
I have to say, for me, emotions are the truest form of communication. If emotions are laid bare on a page, the words feel honest to me. And they resonate. So I used every ounce of sympathy, empathy, compassion, and understanding, as well as my excellent research skills, to make sure that I let these characters get as raw as possible in Unsealed.
These are just a few of the many quotes I found that that express the importance of diving into personal emotions and experiences in order to put raw and honest emotions onto the page for the reader, fiction or not.
So, while I’m still exhausted and dreading the next social or promotional event, I’m proud of what I've accomplished. I’m proud that I put so many of my emotions into my characters that they feel real to me. I’m proud that I laid it all out there for the world to see. I'm proud because I believe in my story and I believe in my characters. And I believe that these emotions and personal truths have made these characters real enough to get their message across.
Click the image above to check out the book that has led to all of these sleepless nights.