Monday, March 21, 2011

check all egos at the door

I really want to write a post about writing today, but not before I tell you how blown away I am by the response Faking It has received just one week after its AmazonEncore release. In particular, this Charlotte Observer article has given the Amazon rankings a hefty spike, inspired people to write to me, and made me feel da love. I can't express my gratitude and appreciation enough. It's motivating me to keep working on my latest novel-in-progress.

And if you haven't had a chance to pick up your copy of Faking It yet (have you gone to your local bookstore and asked if they're stocking it?), head over to Book Soulmates and enter to win a copy, plus a dozen roses! Cool giveaway, yes?

So, as I said, I'm grateful for all the attention the book is getting, and it's motivating me to keep writing; but there is a danger to this kind of publicity, and that's the ego slipping into the writing process. In fact, if you want writer's block, invite the ego in.

Aaron Sorkin has publicly spoken about being terrified to write "the thing that comes after The Social Network," and I can relate to some degree. Granted, I'm no Oscar winning writer, but I get the fear part. I've written two books since Faking It, but neither have matched its sales numbers. Understandable. They've not been around as long.

But all the ego needs is an excuse, and it doesn't have to be precedent on previous successes. It could be precedent on previous failures, rejections, or just plain ol' doubt whether anything you put on the page will be any good. You want to please your readers. You want them to like what you write. Perhaps you even want them to like you.

But try to conform your writing to that anticipation or desire, and you'll surely come up short. I can't write a character that I think is going to make other people laugh or mad. I can't put words into my character's mouths that I think other people want to hear them say. Ego sometimes makes you do that rather than sitting quietly and listening to what your characters have to say to you. Ego tells you it has to be good, otherwise you're over.

So how do we get past that?

By staying in the present moment, and trusting that the work in progress is exactly what it is and where it needs to be: in progress. That it neither has to be good or bad at this stage, and the only one making a judgment on it at this point is you, so stop that.

By remembering why you write in the first place.

By making sure you like what you write (and that you like you, too!).

And stop comparing it to your other works. We all know how one kid feels when s/he has to live in the shadow of an uber-successful older (or even younger) sibling, and how damaging it can be for parents and teachers especially to compare one to the other. The metaphor of authors' books as their children might be cliche, but it's cliche for a reason. It's a metaphor that resonates. Each book, like each child, is special for reasons of its own. Each one deserves its own love and attention, and needs to be honored for being unique. Fred Rogers's words still comfort me: "You make each day a special day by just your being you." That affirmation applies to our books, our stories, our characters--each and every one--as well as to us.

Embrace the gift of that specialness every time you sit down to write. It'll do wonders for your writing, and you.


Anonymous said...

I just picked up Faking It from my Mom's house on Friday afternoon. (All 4 of us kids have things delivered to Mom's house as they are always home, lol) As of this morning, I am starting chapter 13.


It has been a while since I was single, but I can identify with some of her insecurities. My cousins called me "Prude Pam" because I just wouldn't "go along" on certain things.

It's great, Elisa! I can't wait for the next one!

Pam Meers Purtle

Elspeth Antonelli said...

Although I haven't had a book published, I have had a number of games and one of them sold (and sells) rather impressive numbers, so I know a bit of what you're talking about. The most important thing is to write what you would want to read; that book which you would read over and over again and keep on a handy bookshelf.

I send you so many congratulations on your success, Elisa. Writing is hard work and there's nothing better than having that work appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm happily reading at lunch and have been in love with Andi almost from the first page. I love that she met Sam and their emails are cute. UNTIL...did you really have to bring up the debacle of 2004? Really? Boston...couldn't you have chose some other New England school?



Elisa said...

Pam, you are crackin' me up!! (So glad you're likin' it, too.) And hey, it was where I was livin' at the time, ya know? ;)

Beth, I know you "get" it. And thanks much -- the joy really comes from sharing it with my friends!

Fenny said...

I'm only commenting so that I can bask vicariously in the glow of your AMAZING SUCCESS and gain cool points for knowing you. Well done with all your books and I can't wait for the next one.

Elisa said...

And here I thought I was collecting cool points by knowing YOU, Fenny!