Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Dream Eclipsed

A week or two ago, an amazing thing happened: I held a finished book in my hands, and it had my name on it. The first copies of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING are hot off the press, and the always gracious Shauna was kind enough to send one to me.

It was definitely a cool moment (or even a stupendous one), but in the ensuing days and weeks, that high has tapered off, and I've gone back to feeling mostly ambivalent about the upcoming release. I'm about to fulfill a lifelong dream--and after holding that book in my hands, I've kind of already fulfilled it--and the most that I can drum up is ho-hum ambivalence?

What in the heck is wrong with me?

I've thought long and hard about why I'm so indifferent, and the realization I've come to is that I've been letting the noise, both good and bad, get under my skin. Reviews have been coming in for the last couple of months, and if they haven't been awful, they've just been all right. (And by "all right," I mean they haven't been starred. Are starred reviews the only ones worth mentioning? I have no idea.) But before I got those reviews, I let other people's dreams for this book go to my head. I started thinking of them less as dreams and more as certainties. Of course my book was great. Of course everyone was going to love it.

I don't know when I stopped caring about the book itself and only about what other people thought of it, but somewhere along the way, it happened. You can survive when other people think it's awesome, but you won't really be content. And when someone bursts your bubble, you'll crash back down to earth. To insulate yourself from future heartbreak, you'll convince yourself that you don't care, and then you really won't.

I don't know how to reverse this process, but I want to figure it out. Once upon a time, I was confident enough that both the praise and the scorn rolled right off my back. I want to find that girl again. I know she's in here somewhere.

For those of you who are reading this post in your inboxes or feed readers, you should know that I'm giving away two signed ARCs of THE SOUND OF LIFE AND EVERYTHING on Goodreads. Also, I just added an "Educators" page to the blog, so if you want to learn more about my school and library visits, definitely check it out!

16 comments:

michelleimason said...

Oh, Krista, I hope you regain your joy in the release once it happens. I have a feeling you will start getting a lot of affirmation once the world at large can read it, and perhaps that will help. I can understand hardening yourself as the not-so-glowing opinions come in, but remember that an agent and a publishing house believed that a base of readers would love this book as much as they do. It's for those readers, not reviewers. So clutch those copies tightly and wait for the day when all the happy notes come through, because I'm sure that's what will happen on release day!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks, Michelle. I think I would have handled the situation better if I'd known that this was possible, that I might feel this way, so hopefully, this post will help another almost-author. I want the book itself to be enough again, and with some effort (and some grace), I think I can get back there.

JeffO said...

Maybe this would have happened regardless of the reviews. The book is now well and truly out of your hands at this point: you can no longer change it, edit it, kill or birth a character, cut a scene. Maybe this hardening is just part of you moving on. All that said, this is a great accomplishment. Be proud!

Karen lee Hallam said...

Thanks for sharing that, Krista. It's a real life net, for me. I sometimes wonder how I'd feel in a similar situation. Guess, as Jeff says above, it's out of our control at that point. once the book is in the world. Scary and exhilarating.

Andrea said...

I was recently at a YA book expo, and an author on the panel said that they have learned to stop reading any reviews, for the bad ones obviously make them feel bad, and the good ones make them nervous that they can't live up to readers' expectations. Maybe you should ignore all of the reviews, good and bad. You obviously have talent, to have gotten and agent and publisher, and to have a successful blog. Your book will find its readers, and trust me, they will love it.

RC Hancock said...

Thank you for such an honest post. Thought provoking and poignant. Once you have several books out, I'm guessing it'll be easier to find that old confidence. Until then, hang around people who don't read and don't want to talk about your writing. :)

Kathleen said...

Thanks for sharing and maybe this is all part of the process. Are you writing something new? This book is done and yes, it's amazing you got it published and yes, not everyone will love it. I agree about not reading reviews. I've only pubbed with small presses and self-pubbed but I decided not to read or be influenced by reviews. I write what I write and if a reader doesn't like it for whatever reason, that's their right. I don't like every book I read either. You need to celebrate this in a unique way, buy something special for yourself, something unique so when you look at it years from now you'll remember how wonderful it was to get YOUR FIRST BOOK PUBLISHED. Now, go write something new. *smiles*

Maria said...

Amazing how much we live in our heads. I experience exactly what you wrote about regularly, though not always about writing or publications. So thank you for sharing this very honest experience. Now think about how AWESOME it is that your book will be out there for your children and their friends to read. And remember that getting any reviews means you have shared this story and your beautiful words with others, especially those children who will find it and read it and be touched by it.

Laura Moe said...

I'm sorry you feel you've lost your joy. But the comments others have offered ring true. The writing is one reality, releasing the book for others to see is a parallel reality. You're still learning the language of being a published writer.
The is joy in having the talent and perseverance to complete a novel.

Heather said...

I love your honesty and thank you for sharing this. I am guessing with time and perspective you will find that joy again, the joy in the book itself, rather than relying on what people think of it. That joy is there. It's just hiding under the surface noise right now. I'm sure of it. Best wishes to you!

Rebecca Gomez said...

I recently wrote a post about how books are like people. Some people you just ADORE, and others you can barely manage to love them as God wants you to. And a lot of them fall somewhere in between.

I've been trying to prepare myself for reviews and criticism, knowing that not everyone will love my upcoming picture book as much as I do. Maybe some people won't even like it at all, as hard as that is to imagine!

We just have to keep ourselves grounded in reality. Our books are our babies in a way, and we will love them no matter what. That is the most important thing. Plus, someone loved your book and believed in it enough to publish it. And that is a big deal!

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Excellent insights, JeffO. It has been difficult to let go, to call it well and truly finished. This could definitely be an extension of that.

Scary and exhilarating, indeed, Karen.

It's a great suggestion, Andrea, and believe it or not, I've been trying to do that. I hope I'll get better at it:)

I wish I could, Ryan!

Kathleen, you're so zen. I totally admire that. I am working on another project (a companion novel to DON'T VOTE FOR ME), but I fear I'm not as good at ignoring the old ones as you are:)

Thank you for this kind response, Maria. All of you have really boosted my spirits.

Wise words, Laura. I've never thought about writing and publishing as being similar but parallel worlds, but it's so true. Gives me something to think about...

I hope you're right, Heather! Thank you for this thoughtful comment.

Our books are like babies, aren't they, Rebecca? Maybe that's why it feels so personal. I thought all the years of querying and submitting had helped me develop a thick skin, but I think I need to add another layer!

Amy Cattapan said...

I'm three weeks from my book launch, and I totally understand where you're coming from. I'm terribly excited one moment and totally terrified the next. Like others have said, I've met more experienced authors who simply don't read reviews. Not sure I'll be able to avoid the temptation but I keep telling myself I should be happy as long as it makes a positive difference in one teen's life.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Amy, in our always-plugged-in world, it's really hard to block out the noise. I hope to get better at it!

Ben Spendlove said...

Oh, Krista. I'm definitely going to benefit from your experience. Many of your blog posts that have struck me as valuable, either now or in the future.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thank you, Ben. Writing friends definitely make this whole process more bearable.