Bleed Like Me has been out in the world for exactly a month now. I have settled into the daily routine of waking up in the morning, checking the inevitable drop in my Goodreads ranking, checking the fluctuating sales rank of Amazon, and then considering what this is going to do to the rest of my day.
This is one of the things they don't tell you about life after your release comes out. That every day is like a Weight Watcher's weigh-in where you stand on the scale hoping you've lost weight, but wondering if maybe you didn't work hard enough to lose those pounds. And even if you have lost weight, you wonder if it's enough. And God forbid you actually gain weight.
I wish I could say that postpartum release doesn't happen. I had heard only whispers of it before Fault Line came out. Subtle mentions from my closest friends about how they didn't feel like writing anymore, how they were plagued by uncertainty, how they thought that first book was a fluke and they were really talentless hacks. I assured them this was ridiculous. I told them sagely not to read reviews. I reminded them that these things are out of their control.
And then my own release came out. And I began incessantly apologizing to anyone who would listen about my book. I sent an email to my editor saying I would try to write a book that sold better next time. (This was on day 2 after my releases with zero actual sales information beyond my hourly fluctuating Amazon rank). I sent an email to my agent about how I thought I was done writing forever and I was sorry I ever wasted his time. I sent an email to my friends with a blanket apology about all the things I'd fucked up in my past and how I totally would understand if they stopped wanting to hang out with me since I was a talentless hack and probably would never write anything again.
So yeah. That's what postpartum release looks like. Or at least, that's what it looked like for me. It was fraught with worry over whether I did enough, whether I blogged enough, whether I was charming enough on social media to talk people not only into me, but into my book. I went to a Lit Fest and pitched my book to 60 different tables of people and still I worried that I wasn't selling myself or my book enough.
And then came the writing part. I have never had writer's block. This doesn't really happen to me. I get an idea and it pours off my fingers and onto the page and then I go and clean up the mess when it's all over. But this time, everything that had to do with my release book (which I wrote two years ago) seemed to impact my ability to write this new book. Good reviews, bad reviews, sales, blog posts, social media. Everything became a reason not to write. Because I found all of it overwhelming. There was a part of me that thought: I didn't sign on for this. I wrote a book. Why does all the rest of it feel like it's on me? Hemingway never could have pulled off Tweeting and promotion while trying to write his next book.
The reality is that we as writers don't just write books anymore. We DO have a responsibility to at the very least be accessible. There are too many books out there not to do some kind of promo. And to be honest, there's no solid guidebook how to do promo right or in a way that will definitely sell more books. As soon as you think you've cracked it, everything changes. Which means that post-release, I was filled with doubt that I got it wrong. That I wasn't enough.
But then, I got a Facebook message. Randomly. From a guy. About the impact that Fault Line had on him. And this was like a balm to my soul. This was the deep breath I needed to remember to take. This was the reason I wrote that book. This was the reason I wanted to write more books. I had something I wanted to say.
And it was enough. I wish that I could say things were totally different with my second release. But the reality is, they weren't. The only thing that was different was that this time I expected it. This time I allowed myself the space for insecurity, for ridiculous apologies, for a million phone calls to Carrie Mesrobian asking her to make me laugh so I wouldn't burst into tears. And this time I listened when my editor said, it's all going to be okay. This book is two days old. You're going to be just fine.
And I re-read that letter over and over again. Then I dusted myself off, built myself some Lenny Kravitz memes, and got back to doing my job.