Social media is hard. Not the posting, although that’s time consuming. I’m talking more about how it can make a person feel. I mean, is anyone posting the day’s failures? No one I follow. And, honestly, I tend to unfollow the accounts that are negative or depressing all the time. (Come to think of it, it’s hard to find accounts that are well-balanced, isn’t it?)
Anyway, I had a moment this week where I was doing an internal inventory of my feelings and of my own social media and realized: people might think this is easy. I’m guilty of only sharing the fun. The happy. The good in my day. Maybe my followers think my life is really charmed. (And, in all honesty, it is in so many ways.) But there are days when it’s hard. Times when I almost quit. And that’s what I want to share with you today.
I wrote The Exception, my very first novel, out of an almost bet with myself and my husband. I mentioned I had nothing to read, despite thousands of ebooks on my Kindle, and my husband challenged me to write a story I’d want to read. So, I gave it a shot. (I actually started and stopped that book a hundred times over the next six months before really committing to it.)
You know what happened? Readers liked Cane. It found a success that didn’t slay the world by any means, but it blew my mind. What happened next? I got depressed.
Weird, right? I should’ve been on top of the world, riding high, but, instead, I was petrified.
Readers wanted Max’s book. I really wanted to write a book I’d toyed with for a long time, a book about a washed-up fighter and a complicated sister-in-law, but I didn’t know how to do the whole book world thing. I wasn’t writing to be an author; I just wanted to write books. I didn’t expect anyone to want anything more from me, let alone message me with specific requests, and I melted in a huge ball of tears and snot and the pressure of somehow meeting The Exception’s success destroyed me in many ways.
Plus, social media was showing me that everyone else was loving what they were writing. They were busy making huge gallops in followers, outlining next year’s books, and posting snippets of books while I was doing … nothing. I was spending way too much time trying to appear to keep up with the Jones’s superficially when, in reality, I didn’t even know what street they lived on.
The Perception, Max’s book, is what I decided to write. It is still, by far, the hardest book I’ve ever written. I wrote that book because I felt like I had to. I capitulated to the stress. I surrendered to all those sweet, “Can we please have Max’s story?”, requests and wrote it.
I think I cried every day.
Sure, I was a ball of sunshine on line but it was so hard, guys. I finished the book. Put no effort at all into marketing it. And shoved it out in the world and watched. It. Fail.
Sometimes I think I wanted it to fail. Sick, right? But some people have those self-destructive habits and maybe I do too down deep. I’m not sure. But The Perception never took off and faded into the back rooms of the Kindle Store the same week I released it. There was almost a satisfaction in it—like, I knew I couldn’t do this. I knew The Exception was a fluke. I knew I couldn’t be as good as all those people I watched online.
I wasn’t them.
I couldn’t be them.
This wasn’t easy for me.
And I was done.
*brushes hands off, gives husband a “See I Told You” smile, and goes back to the dishes*
Except, I wasn’t done.
Why? Because of Mr. Locke.
I remember him easing me into conversations about books and writing and listening to me vent my frustrations and obvious failures. He’d poke when he felt safe to ask about the fighter I’d been talking about, getting me to talk about the character I named Crew somewhere over the winter before, and helping me to develop the plot even though I didn’t realize that’s what we were doing. (He’s sneaky like that.) Then, one day he said this to me: “I never ask you for anything. (Which is true, by the way.) But I want you to do this for me: write Sacrifice.”
Me: “But why? It’ll fail.”
Him: “It might. But I really would like to read that story and I think you can tell it really well. It’ll be like a birthday present to me to do it, okay?”
I made him read every word. Every. Single. Word. I didn’t let a day go by without telling him how much it sucked or how bad it would do or how much money we were going to waste marketing it. He’d grin and tell me to keep going.
I wrote that book faster than any book I’ve ever written. Less than two weeks, I think. Crew and Julia’s story poured out of me and onto the keyboard and I looked back when it was done and barely remember writing it. it was truly like they told the story. Not me.
Obviously, Sacrifice wasn’t my last book and I clearly didn’t give up writing. But I almost did. If it hadn’t been for Mr. Locke, I would’ve stopped altogether.
The moral of this story, since it’s probably hard to find in this crazy ramble, is two-fold. One, never believe what you see on social media. People are giving you their daily highlights. Don’t compare them with your worst moments of the day. It’s not fair to you. And, two, inspire not only to be better, but to make others better as well. Encourage them. Love them. Remember that even if they look like they’re killing the world, they may be dying inside. (And, if you want to really take lessons from this—follow your gut. Always. I always wonder what would have happened if I’d written Sacrifice instead of The Perception. Yet, I think I was supposed to do it in the order I did. I’m happy I did, even. It’s changed who I am.)
I’m off to post something on Instagram. Probably something funny or adorable that won’t let you know I’m sitting in a robe right now, out of coffee, listening to two kids scream about FortNite in the room above me. It’s not pretty this morning over here, but you probably won’t see that. 😉