This blog first appeared on the Rainbow Romance Writers website on October 12, 2015:
Publishing fiction is very much like standing naked in a crowd while every flaw is critiqued. The judgment is painful, yet indifference cuts even deeper. (Hey, stark-naked here! See anything you like? Aren’t you at least grossed out?)
I doubt I’ll ever grow accustomed to exposing myself.
Introverts are drawn to writing because we get to work in solitude, yet we’re compelled to share our stories. Sharing requires publishing, and publishing requires marketing. Marketing conflicts with introversion.
It’s not as if we haven’t already grappled angst to get the writing done in the first place. Real life obstacles hinder us at the same time they provide creative fodder. We blend hopes, fears, and imagination into words, and then we toss our stories to the crowd for adjudication.
Is the writing good? Will it sell?
I don’t know about you, but I haven’t taken a single step on the publishing path without longing for a magical guide to hold my hand and give me very specific instructions.
I am reminded of a suspense novel I read as a teen. A woman travels alone in Eastern Europe, and through no fault of her own, ends up in jail. For long hours she sits on a cell bench, staring at a high window in a thick stone wall, waiting for someone to save her. The realization slowly sinks in: no hero is coming. She will suffer in a foreign prison for the rest of her life.
The woman stands on the bench, leaps up to the window, and grabs the stone ledge by the tips of her fingers. She falls. She does it again. Then again. And again. She’s in agony, exhausted, her fingers shredded, but she keeps throwing herself at the ledge. Finally, she maintains her grip and is able to escape.
I’ve forgotten the title and author of the book, but that scene has stayed with me. The prescient author foretold current expectations: In the face of adversity, we develop our own strength and courage. We might enjoy fictional champions and occasionally encounter a genuine hero, but most of the time, we save ourselves.
Authors have been forced to take over much of the publishing process. Even when our work is accepted by a formal house, we often serve as our own agents, wrestle with technology, and suffer the exposure of social media. A finely-honed torture for introverts.
So we take action. We consult with experts and learn tricks. We tap dance with technophobia. A good portion of our lives is spent online and in classes and writing groups. If we’ve been consulting therapists for those pesky real life problems, we leech them for help with writing fears as well.
We write, and we market. When anxiety peaks, we take a break and then we return to the computer. We do it again. And again. Like the woman in the novel, we keep throwing ourselves at the publishing ledge until we’re able to hang onto it and climb over.
Standing naked in our words, we rescue ourselves.
Authors are autoheroic.