Sunday, November 22, 2015

Two Years Later, And Definitions of Success

(This is a post brought to you by a girl who should be working on her NaNo WIP but can't focus.)
The two year anniversary for the publication of HEART BREATHS was earlier this month, and for various and sundry reasons, I didn't end up posting anything.
For some reason, this morning, I decided to pick up my paper copy and read.I haven't read it since it was published, and it was, to be very honest, a bizarre experience.
I mean, I know I wrote it. I remember writing it. I remember the revising, revising, revising, reading it over and over and over until the words blurred together and the story didn't mean anything to me anymore.
By the time I published it, I was a little sick of it. I mean, I loved the characters and the story, but I was so ready to talk about literally anything else. Even though I hadn't necessarily talked about it with other people, I had spent so much time in my own head with the story that I was just done with it. 
I think that might be why promoting is always difficult for me- I'm so tired of thinking about the book by the time it's finished.Two years has definitely given me space and objectivity.

So. Here are my thoughts about HEART BREATHS, as someone who has finally found objectivity.
I...liked it?
It's so weird to say.
But I liked it.
I ship me some Maddie & Gabe, in all their complicated and emotional baggage, and watching them fall for each other, and learn to trust each other made my heart happy. I loved me some Noie, and some Grandma Ev. I adored Sam, ME, Hannah, and Mrs. Mendez. All the song references made me smile, because they're songs I love.The end made me a little teary eyed.
And then I read the acknowledgements, and realized how much has changed, and how little has changed.
I started writing as a kid to have stories that I wanted to read but I couldn't find.I kept writing as an adult to have stories that I wanted to read but I couldn't find.
The past two years, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the concept of success, and what exactly it should mean to me in the context of writing and as an author. I have spent way too much time worrying about things that I shouldn't have worried about. Things that weren't in my control, things that had absolutely nothing to do with me, things that didn't matter, no matter how much I was convinced they were.
It's hard to go into something like writing without having a concrete definition of what success means, especially when everyone else's definition would be different than mine.
I tried to adopt other people's definitions for myself, and they never worked. The only thing that happened was I disappointed myself. I hadn't sold x number of books. I hadn't hit any lists. I hadn't ever done an in person signing. I hadn't, I didn't, I'd never...
The only thing that I did was hurt myself. Berate myself for not being the success I wanted to be. 
Even though success should not have been the same for me as it was for someone else. Our lives weren't the same. Our responsibilities weren't the same. Our faiths weren't the same. 
I had no right to take anyone else's definition of success without living the life they did.
And so, by default of not living the life of someone else, I let myself down when I did not reach their expectations.
Rereading HEART BREATHS today made me realize that my definition of success is the same thing it's been since I was five, when I wrote an essay about my blanket. 
It's the same thing it's been since I was eight and writing stories about boarding schools and tree houses.
It's the same thing it's been since I was thirteen, writing about road trips and friendships and solving ridiculous crimes.
It's the same thing it's been since I was twenty one, and had finally started writing again after too many years of not writing, when I wrote about teenagers and college students and people falling in and out of love and figuring out who they were and who they weren't.
It's still the same, now, with six stories published, and a seventh one coming next month.
I just forgot.
I write stories that I want to read and I can't find.
I write stories to make myself happy.
I write stories to work through things that have happened to me with a little more objectivity than I'm capable of for my own life.
I write stories to understand myself, to understand the world, to understand who I am, who I was, and who I want to be.
Having other people read stories I wrote and love them like I did, back when they were just ideas I couldn’t stop thinking about is great. Having someone tell you your book made them cry, made them feel, made them think, is amazing.
But my definition of success should be something that I am in control of. I don’t want to rely on other people for my version of success. I want success to be something that I can do on my own. 
It's very hard to see yourself or your work objectively, as you sit in the middle of your life and the middle of your work in progress, and it is very hard to give yourself credit for something you do not think you've done well.
Two years after pressing publish on my first book, two years of a little too much stress about who I should be or what I should be, things slid into place.
My definition of my own success has always been being able to read a story that I wrote, knowing that it's something I want to read, and something I created. 
Two years after publishing my first book, I have realized something supremely cool.
I'm a success.

(Reference point: this book)

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