“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”
Is there such a thing as post-publication depression? I mean we spend all this time working on a book losing our evenings, weekends, and holidays making sure it’s ready. Then the big day arrives, the launch happens! We’re giddy! We’re excited! The book is released! Then… silence. The book is out there. You see people buying it. You know it’s in the hands of readers. But you sit and wonder and wait and eventually fear starts creeping in.
Oddly, this is my third post on the subject of fear as it pertains to writing. (See: I’m Scared and Fear Is The Mind Killer for the others.) I say “oddly” because these are never the articles I set out to write, but somehow I still write them. Which shows how constant these emotions are in our lives. Over the last three years, with each successive launch I have taken the time to write about the tangle of emotions that swell around the launch of a book.
The greatest feeling in that knot is always the same; it’s fear. We’re afraid it’s not good enough. We’re afraid our books will be failures. We’re scared it’s full of mistakes. We worry that people will hate it. Those ideas can be debilitating. They gnaw at us, and if we let them they can devour us. But, here’s the kicker, I don’t think those feelings ever go away.
Worry comes with this job. Sure, in some magical land a writer writes a manuscript and everything is perfect, editing isn’t a bear, and reviewers laud them with praise, accolades, and candies. La de da. But that isn’t today, and it’s certainly not the world where we live. It can be tough out here. People can be mean. Some want to be mean. But, here we are. Three years ago, when I stared into that long tunnel and faced the launch of The Stars Were Right I was there. I was terrified. But I pressed on. A year later, when I set out to launch Old Broken Road, I still felt those pangs. Hell, here I am standing on the other side of Red Litten World‘s launch, and I still feel it. Those emotions are still there even three books and thousands of copies later.
“Perfect is the enemy of good.”
There is an ancient saying (Seriously, ancient, it’s attributed to Voltaire) that I like to quote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t try to achieve perfection. Quality matters. That’s a given. What I am saying is that so often we get so stuck in the chase of perfection that we never stop. We run and run and run afraid of failure. Projects never see release because they haven’t achieved an unreachable ideal we set up in our heads. Fear fuels it, and it’s empowered by those lingering “what if” questions. Questions that bog us down, snare us, and stop our momentum.
The biggest lie in life is the idea that failure itself is permanent. I’ve seen it crush writers, artists, designers, architects, and creatives of all types. I’ve seen it destroy dreams. But… it’s a lie. Failure is a state of being, and like every other state of being, you’ll realize that it’s temporary. Once you realize its temporal nature fear begins to take a back seat. The panic becomes a white noise. The post-publication depression that hangs over our head and sabotages us begins to fade. As that happens, you become powerful.
“You’ll have more failures than successes.”
Last week, Kari-Lise was watching The Trojan War, the latest in ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30. (It’s a brilliant documentary series and I encourage more than just sports fans to watch it. A lot of great stories.) During the program, Lawrence Turman, the producer of The Graduate and American History X, had a great quote. It was something that has stuck with both Kari-Lise and me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something along the lines of: “you’ll have more failures than successes.”
Think about that for a moment, more failure than successes. That’s intense and yeah, it’s scary. But the trick, the thing a lot of people don’t understand, is you can’t fail unless you try, and you certainly cannot succeed until you’re willing to fail.
So, I’m scared. I feel the fear. I always do. But, now three books in, I’m realizing: that fear never leaves. It lingers, it picks, it torments. Somedays I give in, but more and more I find myself pushing past it. My reaction to it has changed. I’ve changed. The way I react is shifting. Emotionally I realize that fear is part of the process. Sure, I can still feel it moving beneath the surface. I know it wants to reach up, and (excuse the Lovecraftian imagery) grip and strangle me in its tentacles. But I push on. What else would I do? Give up? *scoffing noise* Not a chance. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I don’t ever intend on stopping.
So yeah, fear is out there. We all deal with it. But we can’t let fear stop us. Keep at it.
Now, go make great things.