Every writer who puts fingers to keyboard or pen to paper fantasizes about what their life will be like when their novel's out there in the world. Heck, plenty of folks who can't lay claim to being a writer daydream about it, too. I should know; I've been both. As I've mentioned here before, I'm not one of those people who realized in second grade they were destined to be a writer. I came to it a little later, when my Big, Important Plans for life fell short of my expectations.
It's been sixteen months since my first novel was released. Nine months since my second. One month until the release of my third. Enough time, enough work, and enough words between me and HOLY CAPSLOCK I'M A REAL LIVE AUTHOR for the first flush of pie-eyed writerly romance to fade, and my life to settle into some semblance of a new normal.
So what's it like?
Honestly, vast stretches of my life aren't all that different. I still have a day job. It still pays most of the bills. I park the same car at the same house as I did before my books were published. Said house is a little messier than it used to be, because my writing output's increased considerably these past sixteen months. Some of that was by necessity; I had a tight deadline for book three, and I was determined to deliver it on time. But mostly, I attribute the increased output to the fact that I feel like I've been given my shot, and I'm determined not to waste it.
I will say I worry a damn sight more. Once your stuff is out there for all to read, it's put-up-or-shut-up time. So I spend my days thinking, am I promoting myself enough? Am I driving people crazy with promotion? Are my books selling? Are people liking them? Will I ever land another book deal? Should I have deleted that iffy comma in chapter seventeen? That political tweet I wrote last week?
And then there are those short bursts of utter insanity that underscore just how much has changed. A conversation in a limo with a literary idol. Knocking back drinks with a table full of old friends you just met. Reading to a packed house. Reading to an empty room. Fan mail from total strangers. Hate mail from total strangers. Signing books, which at first feels completely weird and wrong and oh by the way there's no do-overs if you fuck up the inscription. Getting your first bad review, and feeling like someone ripped your heart out of your chest. Getting your tenth, and finding it hilarious. Freaking someone out just by tweeting at them. Realizing that writer whose books you hate is the nicest person on the planet. Realizing that writer whose books you love is kind of a jackass. Realizing people feel the same in both directions about you.
Reading those last two paragraphs, you may be thinking, Christ, listen to the published author whine. Such is your right; one thing I've learned these past sixteen months is that by putting myself out there I invite folks to form opinions about me, well-reasoned or otherwise. But here's the thing: I'm loving every second of this. The highs are far beyond anything I ever dared hope for in my life. And the lows are the sorts of lows real, live published authors feel. Sure they suck. But in a way, they're better than the vast beige middle of doing nothing.
It's a hoary old saw that college is the best time of your life, but there's a kernel of truth in that statement. Thing is, it's no more than half-right at best. For many people, college is the wildest, most challenging, most emotional time of their lives, before they settle into the long, hard slog of adulthood. It's the best and worst life has to offer all rolled into one deliciously melodramatic package.
That's what the writing life is like. Thrilling. Gutwrenching. Wonderful. Horrible.
But damn, if it ain't living.