The loneliest day in the life of a published writer

In between books, when I’m pondering my next project, I like to read about writing, and I particularly enjoy books by other authors in which they share their own experiences of the highs and lows of the writing life – thoughtful books, personal books, such as the one I’ve just finished reading by Dani Shapiro, Still Writing.

This one's definitely going on my recommended reading list
This one’s definitely going on my recommended reading list

I read this book a few days after publishing my own book on writing, When a Writer isn’t Writing, and a few days before the publication of my YA novel, Driftso this idea caught my attention:

The loneliest day in the life of a published writer may be publication day. Nothing happens. Perhaps your editor sends you flowers. Maybe not. Maybe your family takes you out for dinner. But the world won’t stop to take notice. The universe is indifferent. You have put the shape of your soul between the covers of a book and no-one declares a national holiday.

Shapiro goes on to explore why writers keep on doing it, even though so few are heading towards any major recognition or celebration of their work.

I pondered before reading on, because of the moment I was in. I remembered when publication days really did feel like the loneliest time to me, in the days before social media, when maybe your publisher would send you a card, but that was all.

Back then, I learnt to make my own celebrations. I followed the Weatherly rule (Lee Weatherly‘s genius idea, passed on to me by Liz Kessler) and opened a bottle of bubbly with friends as soon as I finished a manuscript, rather than waiting a year or more for publication day before feeling I could celebrate.

I learnt to get started on something new as soon as possible, so that my creative energies were happily engaged in writing the next book rather than focusing on the build-up to publication day for the one I’d finished.

When publication day did eventually come, I learnt the importance of throwing a party, not as a publicity or sales event, but as a personal celebration, because writing a book is hard and, as the writer of your particular book, you know what an incredible achievement it has been to go the distance.

This year, the launch is in a lovely gallery on the edge of Dartmoor. All welcome!
This year, the launch is in a lovely gallery on the edge of Dartmoor. All welcome!

I still do all these things, but I must say publication day doesn’t feel so lonely any more to me now that we’ve got facebook, twitter and blogging. When I put the word out about a new book, I straight away hear back from people I know and people I’ve never met, so that instead of a solitary card on my doormat I receive a steady flow of congratulations.

Soon after that, rather than waiting several months to receive a few letters from readers via my publisher, I start getting direct messages in twitter and fb, and emails through my website, from people who have bought my book, and started reading it.

A lovely selfie via fb from a friend who has just bought my book
A lovely selfie via fb from a friend who has just bought my book

And rather than just a press review or two, readers begin to post their thoughts on my new book in amazon and elsewhere.

So publication day is no longer the loneliest day for this writer, and that’s down to all of you. Thank-you for calling by!

6 thoughts on “The loneliest day in the life of a published writer”

  1. I’m rather subdued when it comes to personal celebrations. I didn’t make a big deal when I finally finished my first novel last year. In fact, the professional editor I hired to review and critique it was the only person who actually knew. I’ll definitely announce its publication to family, friends, acquaintances and former colleagues, which I intend to do before year’s end. And, of course, I’ll broadcast it on my blog. That will be my first step towards marketing. That’ll be my biggest challenge because I’m not an egoist and I don’t expect to become famous or fabulously wealthy through my writing.

    I write mainly for the joy of it, but it’s also excellent therapy.

    1. I think celebrating our work and promoting it is a huge challenge for most authors, Alejandro, and I used to refuse to do it. I mean, it feels big-headed, right? But then someone said that would feel to her like lovingly conceiving, carrying and giving birth to a beautiful child and then throwing it out into the world to sink or swim, without any parental support. Now I try to nurture my books better after publication, and at least try to help them get some kind of start in the world. Best of luck with yours when you publish it!

  2. Usually by the time a book of mine is actually published, there’s been so much going over the individual words and commas I actively hate it – and celebrating is the last thing I feel like doing! For me, the best time is the actual writing when the story is flowing out and nobody at all is reading it, or that first stirring of a new idea. Maybe we should celebrate beginnings rather than endings? Though, of course, publication IS the beginning for your reader…

    1. I’m three chapters into a new book and feeling the flow, so I know what you mean. Actually, Dani Shapiro goes on in that section to say the best bit is starting out, all alone, and that’s what makes us keep doing it. I guess I’ve learnt to love all the parts of the process now, as a kind of needs-must. Even the endless redrafting!

  3. My feelings are close to Katherine’s. – I’m honestly not trying to squash anyone, or say that they shouldn’t feel as they do, but – Well, it’s all about expectation, isn’t it? I never expected any kind of celebration – apart from saying to family/friends, ‘I finished the &*&£(!’ And they say, ‘Oh. Right.’ And go on with what they were doing.
    I look on writing as something I do because I want to do it – and if there’s a reward, it’s getting paid. And by then I’m more interested in the next project anyway.
    At no time have I ever felt that I’ve put my soul between the covers of a book. But perhaps that says more about me than anybody else…

    1. Oh that’s interesting! Thinking about it, the only time I’ve ever felt I put my soul between the covers of a book was with ‘Writing in the House of Dreams’, and because I had that on the go for so many years alongside my published work, everything else felt like bread and butter writing. But with all my books, however much of myself is invested in them, writing would feel less pleasurable without being published, having other people read and respond to what I’ve written, so I like to celebrate the beginning of that.

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