I just woke from a nightmare, my first in ages.
I was rushing to get ready for a job I don’t have. A nameless person was pushing me: Hurry up, hurry up! I wanted to upload my latest book, so I did. Suddenly I was all smiles. I went to the nonexistent office, happy as a cat tangling very expensive mohair yarn (this had to have come from AJ, since we talked yarns recently) and realized with a sick feeling in my stomach I’d forgotten to add a cover. Horrors! This was the Worst Thing That Ever Happened. When I got home, I went online to delete the book until I could fix it and saw the site had slapped Harry Potter on the cover. Not only that, it had sold the most copies in one day of any self-published book EVER.
I woke up in one hell of a bad mood because it had taken misrepresenting my work as a Potter tome to achieve bestseller status.
Every author dreams of hitting the big time, of having the latest breakthrough novel that readers gush over. We all want to have the talk shows clamoring for our witty presence, because what else can we be but insanely awesome on camera (never mind that we will sing only in the shower and claim dark corners at parties)? We want Hollywood begging to hand us millions to make the movie.
But the truth is, most of us make almost nothing. We sit hunched over our laptops in a pool of lamp light, creating our worlds and populating them with people that only live in our heads, and hope we’ll connect with even a handful of readers.
Why do we do it? Hell if I know, but we continue churning out stories that make our eyes sparkle with glee and cause our breath to catch in our throats. We continue giving up sleep and a social life for the rare privilege of playing the game of pretend in public. Getting paid, for most of us, is icing on the cake, and having a novel hit big? Unheard of!
We hope for that, we long for it, we–um, I–dream about it at night. But in the cold harsh light of dawn, we know it will likely never happen. Because here’s the thing most writers share like a dirty secret: we don’t think we have the talent. We never think we’re good enough. We live in perpetual fear we’re about to be revealed as impostors.
That showed up in the nightmare, too. I remember distinctly the terror I experienced when I saw the bogus Potter cover on my book and thought of the readers opening to the first page only to discover they’d been hoodwinked! This was no Potter book (interpretation: bestselling, enthralling, amazingly written). This was a piece of crap and, by association, so was the writer.
The thing we writers have to remember is one person’s crap is another person’s favorite novel. A few months ago, I caught an old movie on Netflix called Rich and Famous. It starred Candice Bergen and Jacqueline Bisset (and in a tiny role, Meg Ryan as Bergen’s daughter). Bergen and Bisset were best friends, and both of them were writers. Bergen wrote big trashy sex-laced books that everyone loved and they made her rich. Bisset wrote small literary novels that required she open a vein to underscore every word in blood, and she was blocked.
The movie’s a hoot and I recommend you catch it if you have a couple hours to spare, but the point is, these women wrote two very different things and experienced completely different reactions to their writing, yet both achieved acclaim of some sort.
In other words, write what you must and stop worrying about how it will be received. You’re not an impostor, you’re a writer. And if you have to slap a Potter cover on the book to get people’s attention, well… consider it. ;/