Friday, August 27, 2010

The Yin and the Yang

by Libby Hellmann

I’m going through that peculiar period before my next book comes out. There are still several months to go -- it will be released in December. It’s a thriller that goes back, in part, to the late Sixties in Chicago, and yes, I’ll talk more about it later. Now, though, my publisher and I are in the process of sending out Advanced Reading Copies, or ARCs, to reviewers, bookstores, and bloggers. Btw, President Obama, I’m happy to send you one. You can read it after you finish your Jonathan Franzen ARC.

Usually, I love this period. No reviews have come in yet, and everything is still all possibility. Maybe I’ll get starred reviews. Maybe it will sell 100,000 copies. Maybe it will break me out. Maybe (gasp) it will end up on the New York Times best seller list. Maybe it will even be made into a film. This period is seductive, exciting, and enjoyable and I’d like to stay here forever. I’m in a dreamer’s paradise. I can even feel proud of my accomplishment — this will be my seventh novel, and for someone who never thought they’d be published, that’s not bad.

But you know where this is going, right?

Yup. I’m already bouncing from the rosy glow of the Yin to the dark abyss of the Yang. My friend Diane calls it “Imposter Syndrome”. I call it the “Who Do You Think You Are” disorder. It’s the feeling that the entire manuscript is drivel, that everyone will see what a fraud I am. That I’m just fooling myself to think I can write at all. Everything is black and toxic and gloomy, and I creep around the house feeling the weight of the world on my back. I don’t want the book to come out; I don’t want read what will clearly be pans by reviewers. I just want to go into a corner and disappear.

You’d think that after seven books, I’d know how to cope with both ends of the spectrum. That I’d learn to control the manic part, ignore the depressive. But it doesn’t get any easier. Even though I’m knee-deep into the next book and going through the same process -- Hmm, I never realized how cyclical these feelings are. Maybe I should see someone. Oh that’s right. I did. It didn’t take.

So, I ask you, blog readers and writers. How many of you have felt the same duality? What do you do about it?


Earllier this sumer, reviewer Nina Sankovitch said this on Huffington Post:

“Short stories are a good way to ease your way back into the art of relaxed reading after a cold and intense winter. Start with these great shorts and just see where this summer can take you.”

While I wish she’d been talking about my collection of short stories (she wasn’t), in that spirit, I’m running an End-Of-Summer-It’s-Not-Too-Late special. My e-collection of short stories, NICE GIRL DOES NOIR, (all previously published), is free until September 1 on Smashwords. Just use the following coupons.

Vol. 1 #VC26Y
Vol. 2 #NL43X



Bryan Gruley said...

Libby, are you kidding? I've lived the Yang every day of my life. OK maybe not every day, but at least every week. It's that constant quiet dread within that somebody somewhere will finally find you out from what you are--a zero. This has applied to my newspaper career from the tinest paper to the Wall Street Journal, and now I'm happily expanding it to my fiction writing as well. At least in hockey, I know I suck, and everyone else knows it, and I don't have to struggle under the fear of being found out.

Pascal said...

Libby,'ve read my mind. How did you do that? With the release of my debut thiller novel Identity: Lost due out in June, 2011, I've been living this ying/yang duality since the moment I first submitted the manuscript. And when the email finally came in from the publisher asking me to "call them" I sat there reading and re-reading the email, saying to myself simultaneoulsy, "Yes, I knew I'd get published!" vs "This is really a mistake. They can't really think it's that good, can they?"
Now my fear is that when it finally reaches the bookshelves the only people who'll buy my book will be my family and the network of friends who've been so supportive throughout the whole process.
So, I find it refreshing that you have these same feelings but I also find it somewhat disconcerting that it still haunts you after seven novels. My suggestion: let's both assure each other and ourselves that no matter what others might or might not think, we've done it. We sat in the chair, put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and created something out of nothing. That in and of itself is reward enough for me (although it sure would be grand if Obama picked up my book when it hits the shelves next year at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore down the street from his house in Hyde Park.) ;-)