The life of a writer can be lonely and frustrating. If you are not extremely successful, you generally can’t pay your bills without someone else supporting you; and it can be difficult to get published from book to book, even if you are fairly well-known and loved by a devoted cadre of readers. Potential editors look at your sales figures and often base their decision on those alone when deciding whether to accept or reject your latest manuscript–even if, like me, you have already published nine books and received superlative reviews. Reviews just don’t cut it the way sales do.
So many people don’t understand any of this, whether they are readers or not. They imagine the glamour of the writer’s life: the freedom to set your own schedule; the delicious wait for a readily available muse who will sing sweet songs of inspiration; the book tours, during which you are shepherded from one city to another by an attentive assistant, doing reading after reading to your adoring fans, who then buy hundreds of your book and stand in a long line to get your signature. Perhaps most of all, most people assume every writer gets the payoff: big bucks. This flight of fancy applies only to writers like the popular Stephen King and Danielle Steele, or the best-selling newcomer Paula Hawkins, or the literary Philip Roth and famous others like them.
For the rest of us “little guys,” it is a different story. Conjure up this snapshot: standing at a microphone in a bookstore reading from your latest–to only three people; receiving a royalty statement that shows returns rather than sales, from bookstores who over-estimated how many copies they could sell; sitting alone day after day, hoping that the words will come, without any input from a fellow colleague or friend; relying on self-discipline every morning at 9:00, when you must become your own demanding boss. I’m not complaining. I’m just stating the reality for thousands of writers today.
So why do we do it? For the love of it, of course, for the satisfaction that comes from pushing words around and seeing what happens when we feel we’ve got it “just right.” In this way we are so lucky: we get to do exactly what we want to do. This is the secret world of the writer, the private thrill that keeps you slogging away.
However, last week something incredible happened to me in the public arena. I sent out an e-blast to my newsletter readers, asking that they do me the favor of clicking through to my new article, “How To Celebrate Mother’s Day When You’ve Lost Your Mom,” which I had just written for the Huffington Post. To my shock, many of you very busy people did just that. Some read the blog and then shared it on their Facebook or Twitter pages, and others left a comment directly on HuffPost. You all waved a magic wand for me.
Success! In responding to my plea by immediately clicking through to the article on my HuffPost author’s page, you attracted the attention of their editors. Swayed by my readers’ interest, they moved the piece from the darkness of my archive, where no one ever sees it, to the highlight of the front page. My publicity guru tells me that I may perhaps have had close to ten thousand views from a public just learning about my work. A miracle!
Thank you all for being so responsive. It is better than a good review or a fat royalty check to know that so many of you were generous enough with your time to open the link and share your thoughts–either with your friends or with the public at large.
Every single one of you made the publication of my article a triumph. How true is that old adage: “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Yours with gratitude,