I recently bought a children’s book called The Invisible Boy. After skimming through it a few times, I had to buy it. I knew exactly how the boy in the story felt like because I’ve been invisible for most of my life.
As a child and the oldest of three girls (my sister and my cousin), I craved for attention much like most kids do. Not because I was neglected or ignored (I was lucky enough to have a very loving family) but I was always the “cold one” or the “sulky one”. I had a tendency to sulk or be contrary. And I was very quiet. What people didn’t understand was that I was uncomfortable showing affection or letting people know how I felt or voicing my wants and needs. I just didn’t know how, pure and simple. So I sulked, for lack of a better way to express my feelings.
I was also constantly mad at myself for being scared of everything, of not taking risks, of not eliciting the same type of comments my sister got for being sweet or my cousin for being a dare-devil. I was moody, small, and introverted. Nothing people really paid attention to.
In school I went mostly unnoticed by the teachers (not brilliant or dumb enough) and the other students (too shy, too inside-my-head).
Imagine my pleasure when I found the written word, the power to express my feelings without actually having to speak. It was magic. It didn’t take me long to realize I had finally found my voice.
I wrote many stories, some shorts, some long, some never finished. I wrote a million letters to poor unsuspecting friends who probably thought I had lost my mind. The girl that never shared opinions or feelings could not stop talking now in her newly found language.
My love for the written word was so strong I mastered it in several different languages by the time I was out of high school and I eventually became a published author in a language other than my native one.
Writing is who I am. When I write I’m not so invisible anymore.
Writing is not for the faint of heart. What looks like an innocuous activity, perfect for an introvert, is in fact a minefield for those who like me, doubt themselves at every step and suffer from bouts of depression and/or anxiety. I speak not of the actual writing but of the publishing—the exposure of your writing to the scrutiny of others, the opening yourself to criticism. If you already doubted yourself beforehand, wait until your words are being read by total strangers, people who may have a total different view from yours, people who may not connect with your characters or your story the way you’d expected them to.
Then there are the sales–or lack thereof. I torture myself on a daily basis by checking my rankings. As a traditionally published author I don’t have access to actual numbers until the royalties come in–or as I call it, Total Depression Day. When my books are on the bottom of the ranks (which happens way too often) I feel it as a personal criticism, a statement of how much my writing really stinks. “Nobody likes my books” or “I suck at writing” are common thoughts running through my mind as I watch that cruel graph line plunging toward its death.
I do bounce back, mostly because writing has been my passion since I was a little girl with too many stories in my head and no one willing to listen to them. So after I cry for a while, I wipe my tears, drink a strong cup of coffee, and write on.
My mom always told me that the only thing you can’t hope to change is death, so as long as there is life, there is hope. I hang on to that hope for dear life and I keep going. And who knows? Maybe one day my books will actually sell well.
I’ve written about book signings before, mostly about how depressing these events can be for a writer who nobody really knows, especially one who writes romance–the most popular and yet, also most snubbed genre in literature.
I spent this weekend in a signing, except this time it was one exclusively for romance writers. What a difference that made. The fact that I’m not well-known didn’t change, but the attitude of the general public was definitely different.
How refreshing to be addressed and asked questions about your books instead of avoided or ignored. I don’t pretend to write high-brow literature and do not aspire at winning a Pulitzer prize, but I’m a good writer who writes fun and somewhat insightful stories that both entertain and excite the reader’s emotions. Very few people have read my books (a fact painfully evidenced by depressingly low royalties) and I don’t expect a horde of fans to descend upon my table at such events like a crowd of shoppers at a Best Buy on Black Friday. But I love being asked about my stories (the introvert in me won’t volunteer the information), having smart conversations about books (even about other people’s books), and generally just being acknowledged as alive and breathing.
Kudos go out to romance readers. They are amazingly welcoming and easy to talk to. They are also so enthusiastic about meeting authors, they make you feel like celebrities. I’ve been to quite a few events mostly attended by people who–by their own admission–only read “good” literature, or nonfiction, or–my favorite–anything but romance. Generally speaking, those crowds make you feel as if writing romance is some heinous crime for which you must feel terribly ashamed. They also lump all romance novels into one giant bundle of 50 Shades of Grey type stories when in fact the romance genre is widely diverse, both in styles, sub-genres, and quality.
At one point I was embarrassed to admit I wrote romance, but no longer. I’ve “come out” of that closet and I now proudly stand as a romance writer. If you’ve never attempted at reading a romance, you should give it a try. It is not everybody’s cup of tea, I understand, but with the overwhelming number of authors and books out there, there is a very good chance you may find a new favorite.