Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Biggest Deal Ever

Y'know, when you're a kid, everything is THE BIGGEST DEAL EVER.

Not getting a cookie = biggest deal ever.

Christmas when you're four = biggest deal ever.

Middle school crush = biggest deal ever.

High school breakup = the catastrophic, world-ending bigness of this deal cannot be overstated.

And part of that's because your brain hasn't pupated yet, and you're still working on things like impulse control and executive function.  But I think a lot of it's because everything just feels SO MUCH MORE EPIC when you're experiencing it for the first time - you know, there's no precedent to fall back on, no "well, this is like that other thing that happened that other time" to help you put things in perspective.  (This must also be why we unabashedly LOVE the stuff we read/watched/listened to when we were kids, back when everything was brand-new and there was no such thing as a cliché.  I love many things, but nothing will ever match the savage virginal ferocity with which my 15-year-old self loved Sailor Moon.)

Except maybe for Youkai Yume's Sailor Ponies.  Be still, my throbbing ovaries.

I kinda feel like we don't make enough allowances for that in adulthood.  There's this prevailing opinion that by the time your prefrontal cortex is fully up and running (when you're about 25), you should pretty much have all the emotional training you need to deal with your life.

The thing is, though, the first-time stuff keeps rolling off the line.  First marriage.  First real job.  First kid.  First major illness in the family.  First death in the family.  First kid leaving home.  And even though you're trying so hard to do a good job piloting your grown-up mecha, it all still feels like the biggest deal ever - because it's all still totally new.

All of which is to say, I'm sorry for falling off the planet over these last couple months.  No, no dire secret tragedies here - I just got into this weird, nasty funk, and it's taken me awhile to discover the source of the River Angst.

See, when we were launching Sixes this summer, I tried REALLY hard to get it all right.  Guest blogs, con appearances, Twitter things, Facebook things, launch party, the whole nine yards.  It went great - better than I could have ever expected.  I didn't manage to do everything, but I had a fantastic time. 

Things got kind of backed up in fall.  Commitments and deadlines piled up, and I fell off the promotional wagon altogether.  Sales and mentions nose-dived.  By winter, I was totally wiped out - and then the "best of 2014" lists started rolling out, and I came down with this awful cocktail of bitterness and exhaustion and guilt.  Bitterness because my book had disappeared without a trace, exhaustion because I was too dang tired to contemplate another round of the "look at me, aren't I wonderful?" schtick, and guilt because A) I knew I hadn't done everything I could to help myself, and B) it is incredibly stupid and petty to get bent out of shape about stuff like this.  (I have a book that is published and in the actual bookstores, and another one on the way.  I AM the 0.00001%.)

The funny thing about these biggest-deals-ever is that you can KNOW that they are really the smallest of the small stuff - lepton-like in their #firstworldproblems insignificance - and still not be able to get past it.  The best you can do is keep your mouth shut and try really REALLY hard not to channel your inner Dudley Dursley, throwing a fit because you only got 36 presents this year. 

But then a happy thing happened last week.  Sixes got a great mention on SFsignal's latest Mind Meld (thanks, J! You are the queen!) Then a couple of days later, 4 out of 5 stars from the San Francisco Book Review.  And yesterday - this one's totally lighting up my life right now - a place of pride on a book blogger's Best of 2014 list.

And that just, like... I don't know, totally parted the clouds.  I realized that it was never really about wanting the big prizes or winning All of the Buzz.  Almost without exception, the people in the running for those are people who've invested years - decades - in the craft and the community. I might still throw my name in the ring, but I have not put in NEARLY enough hours to be a serious contender.  That's all right.  That's really as it should be.  I think more than anything, I just wanted assurance that I don't have to keep pushing every single second in order to keep my name out there, that I wrote something that can stand on its own - you know, that people who don't know me at all can still pick up my strange, dense, offbeat little book and find good things in it.

And I almost didn't post this, because for all that we praise the inner child, you're really not supposed to show the world your inner two-year-old... but I've talked to several other writers lately who are all in different stages of the process, and all going their own special kind of crazy.  It's a wonderful, peculiar business that we're all lucky to be a part of, but the thing people don't talk about much is that there really is only one way to stress-test a submarine... and you don't know where your weak spots are until you go deep enough for something to spring a leak.  That's normal - all part of growing into a big strong grown-up author - but you can't fix it until you figure out where the water's coming in.  I expect that's true for other things, too.

So all of this is to say that you, upstanding sophont that you are, are almost-certainly doing a great job of adulting - but if you ever do catch yourself feeling massively, disproportionately irrational about something, and can't implicate any of your usual suspects, it might be worth checking to see if maybe you aren't having a first-time-induced biggest-deal-ever.  They sneak up on you long after you've taken charge of your own juice and naptimes.

--"I don't mind dragons THIS size," said Mother.  "Why did it have to grow to be so BIG?"
--"I'm not sure," said Billy, "but I think it just wanted to be noticed."


  1. Yes to all of this. Really. And I adore this bit: "there really is only one way to stress-test a submarine... and you don't know where your weak spots are until you go deep enough for something to spring a leak."

    1. Aw, I'm glad it's not just me. It's a suspenseful slow-motion exercise, is it not? And nothing to do but surface, patch up, and head back down again!

  2. As a self-pub, my sales have been all over the map. Up, down, sideways, you name it. But for all the promotion and signings and reviews I've allowed myself to be jostled around by, the most important thing I can see that really helps to keep publishing books. Good books. (Or great ones as yours are.) Feed the fans, they'll take care of you. Just watch your fingers.

    1. Haha, okay, that last line would maybe not make the world's best tattoo, but I'm TOTALLY getting it engraved on my future solid-gold desk credenza. Thanks so much for the reality check and the sanity-suggestion (and one hell of a nice compliment, too!) Remind me to corner you over a cup of coffee once you're back in town - I would definitely like to think about where I can make myself useful in your 2015 plans!