A Writing Life: Intimidation (or “Back to the playground”)

So…you’ve quit your job to write full-time. Your first book is done. A rough draft of the second book is with your editor. What do you do with a couple of months “break”? Take a vacation? Enjoy your free time? Are you freakin’ kidding me? This is your new career! You want to do EVERYTHING you can to make it work.

You try to master all of the social networking stuff you’re supposed to be doing. You take care of all sorts of boring tax and incorporating issues. You use NaNoWriMo to write 50,000 words of a new story that’s been brewing “up top” for a while. You meet the challenge, but after 30-days of intensive writing, you need a break from the manuscript.

So you launch upon a new project on your personal “to do” list. You begin studying your colleagues. You’ve been stalking a few of them since your editor suggested it. But now you choose a dozen or so and look at their websites, their schedules, their social networking, their touring, their swag, their products, their marketing, and their bios.

And you get TOTALLY INTIMIDATED. How can someone handle 3 series (that’s 3 books per year) AND Tweet every fifteen minutes? Not just “I’m brushing my teeth now”, but something really witty. How can someone whose first book is due out at the same time as yours already have a thousand Twitter followers? And holy cow, this one not only looks like a beauty queen, but she has a law degree! And next June you’re going to be sitting next to her signing books.

Plus, they all know each other and send each other funny personal Tweets all the time. You wonder if you’re supposed to be getting in touch with the other writers on your imprint. But if you did, maybe they would think, “Who does she think she is?” Or, on the other hand, and even worse, maybe they think you haven’t contacted them because you’re stand-offish…that is, if they have actually heard of you.

You Tweet one. She’s not only heard of you, but she has your book. “Oh my God,” you think. “I am on their radar.” It also means your editor has sent advance reader copies of your book to other writers to get blurbs for your book cover. Fear grips your heart as you realize that you’re in the most intimidating of situations: being judged by your peers.

And all of a sudden, you don’t only feel like you’re back in high school. No, this feeling predates high school by at least a decade. We’re talking elementary school. On the playground. In a game of double-dutch jump rope. You’re on the outside, swaying back and forth and trying to figure out the pace before jumping in and skipping to the beat.

The problem is, you’ve never had a very good sense of rhythm. You’ve always felt a bit awkward, especially since you seem to live half the time on another planet, far far away inside your imagination. But, you tell yourself, this is not a time to falter. It’s time to pull up your knee-socks and start jumping as if your life depended on it. And you try to convince yourself that—even if you fall—a skinned elbow isn’t the end of the world.

10 Comments to A Writing Life: Intimidation (or “Back to the playground”)

  1. by Kristin - On December 8, 2010

    Not only is a skinned elbow not the end of the world, but when the skin on top — and everything underneath — heals, it is stronger, smoother, bolder, and even more equipped to take on the everyday mundane as well as the unexpected and surprising with grace, aplomb, and good humor.

  2. by amy - On December 8, 2010

    Kristin – you sound like a very good jump-roper. Thank you for such a beautifully stated comment.

  3. by Lori Ann - On December 8, 2010

    Okay, Amy. So this jittery flittery feeling you’re writing about: that’s me, as your husband comes home with my book, that is totally different from your side of awesome sauce.

    I haven’t posted a single blog post since NaNoWriMo, so thanks for putting the fire under my feet. You are already a rock star, dear, and intimidating the rest of us! ; ) Isn’t it funny how there are always other writers in the stratosphere above us who make us shake a little in our booties?

  4. by Kathrin - On December 8, 2010

    Very well said Kristin! Amy, what you think of the others, I think of you. Asking if your day has more then 24 hours to accomplish all you do. I am convinced, you will get the feel for this ‘new territory’ pretty quickly.

  5. by lisa - On December 8, 2010

    Love Amy’s comment. Remember to enjoy the newness of everything and take it slow……

  6. by amy - On December 8, 2010

    Lori Ann, honey. You’re the one who made me cry at 4:30am last night/morning with Adelle’s story. I haven’t commented yet because I’m not done, but your book is beautiful.

  7. by amy - On December 8, 2010

    Lisa – thank you. The newness is refreshing and scary at the same time. As for taking it slow…I’m trying SO hard, but that’s not my usual pace. You sound like my husband. :)

  8. by BethDazzled - On December 8, 2010

    The great thing about your peers: we all spend half our time on another planet. Mines called my writertorium.

    I’m going to tell you to breathe and take a step back to realize how amazing your situation is and how proud of yourself you should be and not to stress. And then I’m going to tell you I will most likely be feeling the exact same way when my book’s where yours is, and I will not be taking my own advice. So we can freak out together, I guess. :)

  9. by LD - On December 18, 2010

    Honestly, I’d relax and enjoy it, because I’ve read an ARC of Die for Me, and it’s fabulous. Can’t wait to sell it when it comes out next year!

  10. by amy - On December 18, 2010

    Beth – freak out date, confirmed!

    And LD, thanks for leaving the note on FB as well as this very sweet comment. I took a look at your blog – I grew up in B’ham. Hope you’re not having too hard of a time adjusting. Which book store do you work with?

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