I’ve given myself some time to think, squeezed in around all my projects and brain fillers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next.
If 2005 was about therapy, and 2006 was about recovering, then 2007 was about returning. I think I’m back, for real, in the land of the living. Mostly. I trust my brain and my crooked back and my multi-faceted self a little more now. This next year will be the year that things change, and of course, I don’t know what those changes will be!
I’ve spent most of the last few years in my cocoon of a home, living my huge small life, taking the little tentative steps towards the big steps. I have worked so very hard at it. It’s gone pretty well for me, and despite setbacks along the way, I think I’ve been improving. I write. I ride. I laugh with my kids. My husband still loves me. It’s okay. It’s good.
I have stepped back from my novel. It’s been read by people I trust. It’s been critiqued, submitted, and rejected. I know by now that ten rejections is nothing. That’s just a test run, kids, just a warm up. I’ve got more to go, and I know what I have to do to my book and my query letter before I send out Round Three to my list of newly discovered agents. I’ve done some serious considering and thinking and rethinking. I’m almost ready to go.
And find myself stalled.
I think I might be on the verge of sabotaging my own possible success.
Finding out that I have more work to do than I figured on in order to become a certified riding instructor has been a bit of a kick in the gut. I’m telling myself that it just means I have to do more work. I can do it. I have a little bit of control over it. It won’t ruin my life to get to this goal.
The writing thing is a slightly different though. Riding and teaching is hard, sometimes frustrating work, but rewarding. I feel the satisfaction right there on the spot. Writing is exhilarating and fulfilling, but it can be mental and emotional torture, and it doesn’t always reward me quickly or recognizably. I can take off my riding boots and have a warm bath and get away from it. But when I’m flinging horse manure, my imaginary people run wild in my head. I cannot get away from them. I wouldn’t really want to- they’re part of me. They want their stories told. I have to tell them.
And then what? What if it really does become an actual book that people can read? I fear that it could ruin my life.
Here’s where the fear takes hold. It affects everything- the way I want to live, where I want to live, who I want to be surrounded by, and what I will actually do.
You’ll notice that I don’t use my surname on this blog. It’s for a reason. I don’t really want you to know. I’m pretty sure I like you all, but I don’t want anybody to figure out where I live and just show up. I don’t want to be recognized while I’m sweating and panicking my way through the grocery store. I don’t want my phone to ring.
(Unless it’s a literary agent...I’d hang onto something sturdy and pick up the phone with shaky hands...yes I would....)
I have shown my face on this blog, over the course of two years, for only two events: One, the juno awards last year because my husband won. Two, the day my new horse came home.
I don’t really want to show my face.
Big problem. If you want to teach people riding lessons, they’re coming to your home. I don’t want to leave my (future) farm to work. I want to work on my turf. I have to have a last name for that. And show my face. I can’t go sprinkling fairy dust around my fences so that nobody can find my place.
If I want to sell books, it’s very very important that I have a face and a surname. Lemony Snicket can hide his face and hold close the secrets of his murky past. I’m no Lemony Snicket. Readers need to know that a real person made it all up, a person who has a life and sees things and experiences things and turns it into fiction. I need a name that can be catalogued and kept track of.
No matter what I do, I can’t stay anonymous.
Scares the hell out of me.
In terms of teaching riding, it’s not so bad. Riding instructors usually don’t draw too much attention. As long as good word of mouth spreads, it’s okay. Lots of people in the small saddle club world around here already know my name. There’s a Quarter Horse trainer in Texas with my name- my married name. I highly doubt we’ll be mistaken for each other.
But, the writing thing...
Your writing makes you memorable, but your name sells you.
And I want it, people. I want it. I want to be a household name.
I want you to sit down at the table and say to the person you’re eating with, “That Heidi ****** book I’m reading is really pissing me off, I just want to go in and smack those people for being so stupid. It’s infuriating.”
And then when someone else asks you what you like about the book, you can say, “ Nobody writes a charming bad guy like Heidi ******”
I’d love it if you said to one of your friends, “I just read a book by Heidi ******. It was really descriptive, and it made me think about the way I grew up and how it made me who I am.”
I won’t even mind if you said, “I will never ever read another book by Heidi ****** ever again, not if the world blows up and it’s the only book that didn’t burn to a crisp, because that book is practically a how-to manual for bad behaviour and I was deeply offended.”
You can even say, “Heidi ****** should be ashamed of herself for writing such a disgusting story.”
Yes! I want you to tell everybody!
I want you to be standing in the book store and see a sign that says “Heidi ****** will be here to sign her book!” and you think to yourself, “I’ll come back for that. Heidi ******'s book really stuck with me after I read it. I can’t stop thinking about those kids.”
I need that name.
I want the success.
The price I will have to pay is my privacy and anonymity.
I fear that loss. It surprises me, because I never have been truly anonymous. People always knew who I was. I’m small, but not inconspicuous.
I am telling myself (one of me placates the other one of me) that this will not be a problem at all.
I don’t think anybody really cares.
There is no privacy anymore. Even my father, a guy who has never touched a computer and only recently figured out how to use the call answer phone, has web presence. I typed his name into Google and he came up in a geneology. We Mennonites love our family history. He’s in there.
Privacy is an illusion. And I don’t think it’s such a big deal. Riding instructors do not have fans. Writers, with the exception of King and Rowling, don’t have to have gates around their houses to keep the crazed fans out.
I’m making a big deal out of my insecurities and neuroses, and all of this before I even land an agent.
That’s the whole point though. If I quit now, I’ll never know. I’ll never have to deal with more rejections ever again... never have a book that an agent can’t sell to a publisher... never have the crushing disappointment of a book that fails to leave the bookstore.... never have to meet somebody who will interview me or give my book a bad review.
That part of me will not be allowed to let down or disappoint the other part of me, the one who demands attention and starts the party when she walks into a room. That part of me wants you to read the book, and the reviews, all of them, and the interviews. She wants it all. She’ll white knuckle her way through the agony of breaking out of the little comfy shell and strap herself into the roller coaster. She actually wants to leave the comfort of her little patch of land to meet people and talk about words and mental images and the story that everybody has tucked away inside themselves, no matter how scary it is to take those shaky steps into the outside world.
That part of me loves a little bit of fear.
And right now, she’s satisfactorily terrified.