let's talk about book courage

Monday, January 25, 2016

It should have gotten easier. In fact, it has not.

Because I always forget. I always forget when I am writing my books—happily writing my books, lost in my books, compelled and impelled by the making of books—that at some point along the way the book that is privately mine will no longer be private or, even, mine. It will be an object to be dismissed or discussed, dissed or shared. It will have very little to do with me, except that it is all of me, a part of me, an emanation of my heart, a hope.

Time and again, I have told myself that I can quit, that there are other ways, that the book biz is too cruel a biz (too tilted, unfair, overly made; too much about the in-crowd and the out-crowd; too forced a spectacle). And then: There I go, back to the couch with some paper and a pen because I cannot help myself, because I am most at peace while writing, because the stories demand to be told, because I somehow forget how being published feels, because books themselves aren't the problem here; it's the selling of books, which is different. I'm not a brand. I'm not a platform. I'm not a trend. I don't know how to be those things. I don't really have any business doing what I'm doing, except: writing is who I am.

Reviews are subjective. Of course. Every reader is a market of one. Absolutely. I religiously do not Google myself, search for reviews, seek Big Attention. I am, every single time, stunned when generous words find their way to me.

And—yes—unspooled when the less generous comes knocking, too.

I have been trying hard not to think (in a real way) about the upcoming launch of This Is the Story of You. I have no readings planned, no book-specific appearances, no celebration party, no whirlwind. Still, I realized this snowy weekend, that the angst of the book's release lives loud in me. That I care more than I should about how it will be received. That—especially because Story is so much about the world we live in now, this world of storms and environmental shifts and (still) love and need—I want it to succeed. I want it to find the right readers. I want them to love my Mira Banul and her brother, Jasper Lee, and her friends, and that beach. I want them to think about our world, the sand, the wind, the rising seas.

I write all of this because early this morning, 4 AM, when I woke to work on the first flight of student assignments, I was alerted a flurry of tweets about Story.

A very early reader speaks.

I am embarrassed by how much this means to me. But it means so much to me.


Patty said...

It's interesting to hear you write/talk about this, because it's my first time, and I'm already so nervous about it! I realize I have terror that someone might read my book -- besides people I WANT to read my book -- and of course, isn't that what I've wanted all along but at the same time there lurks that terror...
I suppose much of the fear is about being judged and I read an interesting article recently about art, about putting ideas out there and the inevitable judging, but about the courage it takes to get the art out there in the first place. I wonder, too, if that is what took me so long! It's far easier to be working on a project than to say, definitively, it's DONE, here it is world, what do you think? It's a similar feeling I had when I was accepted into MFA programs. All my life, I had "wanted to be a writer" and here were some programs saying, "ok, come on. We'd love to have you" and I panicked, thought, what if I CAN'T? What if I'm not good enough? When, oh when does this fear go away? (probably another discussion! need of therapy!). But seriously, I think it's a topic that needs discussing. Thank you so much for offering it here. And for listening. And for talking about it in your own life.

Beth Kephart said...

Patty, and thank YOU (and congratulations!!). I so wish we could stop at, Here. This is my story. But. There is far more to it than that. I think we all feel this. F. Scott felt this. I'm just not sure if I have the right personality for this. And yet I can't stop writing. I ponder the contradictions within myself.

Jason Poole said...

Thanks, as always, for sharing your story. For your honesty.
Much Aloha to you.

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Of course you care about how the book is received. You lived with it for a long time. It's part of you. And we love you because you ARE a wonderful author and not a brand or a platform or a trend. Please, Beth, always keep writing.

This post is so very moving. And it makes me breathe a sigh of relief. I'm in the early stages of my fifth novel (it's MG, and no, none of them are published) and I'm still feeling my way through a dark forest of doubt. It's not any easier than writing that first novel was.

Looking forward to reading THE STORY OF YOU.

Lilian Nattel said...

Is just human nature to feel like that. But I know this book will be loved like your others have been.

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Yes, it is human nature to feel and care so passionately. Thank you, Beth and everyone, for sharing that part of you here. I, too, am a writer, not a brand, not a platform. But what I read tells me I can't be anything until I am. And I'm terrified. You all are very brave--and lucky to have someone waiting to read and publish your next work of art. I've been telling stories my whole life. Now I am writing stories as well. It's much harder, but I can't stop. It's part of who I am. I'm a storyteller like my father before me. Only I'm trying to sell them. All the best to everyone.

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