When the Sun Blinds
When the tough breaks rain down, an author expects to have difficulty writing. (Real) friends offer up support, whether it's a shoulder to cry on or an offering of a voodoo doll in the guise of a tough-to-please editor, a fiercely-scary agent, or the odd PW reviewer. But where does a writer go for sympathy when the sun gets in her eyes? I'm talking about those times when the most recent release is garnering rave reviews, award nominations, or blockbuster sales and the writer freezes, absolutely terrified she'll never duplicate whatever she (accidentally) did right.
Here's the script for this conversation:
Anxious Type-A Author (ATA): And I'm getting so much fan mail and so many great reviews and the book's going into its sixteenth printing, and my publisher's tripling my next advance. But what if it's a fluke? I mean - I have no idea why, after all this time, this book is *the* one, and what I'm writing now can't live up to -- it looks like a piece of crap to me, and --
Long-suffering Writer Friend (LWF): You've done it once. You can do it again.
(Thinking: *Die*, you neurotic twit! I'd kill to have that kind of trouble!)
ATA: You're such a good friend. I don't know what I'd do without you. But-but what if I can't --
LWF: I've gotta run. I'm really sorry, but someone's at my front door.
(Thinking: It's sure as hell not opportunity, but even if it's Freddy Kruger, I'd rather get chain-sawed into bloody bits that continue this conversation.)
ATA: Oh... all right. But can we get together later? I'm really in a crisis here.
(LWF fantasizes about ripping the chainsaw from Freddy's hands and going after ATA.)
The truth is that like anything else, success (even when it's of the much more modest variety) can prove enormously distracting and certainly puts pressure on the writer. But the other truth is the writer needs to stop and think before she cries on the shoulders of struggling friends (if you want them to remain friends) about it. Instead, try to find a mentor who's much more successful and/or experienced. Ask her honestly if she's ever found it difficult to work when things are going swimmingly and how she managed to overcome any feelings of insecurity. Because it's critically important to keep your head on straight at these times... and if nothing else, it helps to know that others have experienced and survived the blinding glare.
But don't go looking for a lot of sympathy. So quit calling me, Ms. Rowling!