Monday, August 29, 2016

Learning to Love Books Again…

Two books from my stack, and a notebook on top for ideas that haven't taken shape yet.

…maybe even my own.

For a long while now, just the sight of a book was enough to put a knot in my stomach.

Each one, even if I really wanted to read it, became a reminder of the unfinished dreams I had for my own books; of the marketing that sucked the life out of me every time I forced myself to do it, and the daily barrage of books thrust into my timelines on social media.

So. Many. Books.

How did I ever grow tired of the sight of them?

How did I go from feeling a huge sense of excitement and belonging with others when they professed “I’m a writer,” to a restrained, conflicted, polite response of “Oh. Good luck to you.”?

It took so much less time than I ever imagined it could to erode my life-long love affair with books. To me they have always been things to be treasured, safely kept (I have books from my childhood showing only the mildest passage of time upon their yellowed pages) and accumulated to no end.

Libraries, sacred places.

So what happened to me?

Publishing happened to me.  The good, the bad, and the heartbreaking.

And as more of an artistic soul than a business person, I was wholly unprepared for what the business of publishing truly entailed.

I was unprepared for the fact that no matter how hard I worked on my books, how well edited they were, how pretty the covers were, how perfect the punctuation, that releasing them would be akin to screaming into the void and praying to be heard.

I was lucky, I had some category successes as far as Amazon and BN rankings went at times of promotion with a couple of my books. But overall? I was blessed to have the publisher that I did while they were around, because the truth is that after the sales for GODSPEED were so low (Wattpad reads notwithstanding) I don’t think my second book would have been given a chance by any other publisher.

I do miss Booktrope…

Despite my deep, soul-level disconnect from whatever magic it is that makes someone good at marketing (I tried everything I could think of, I swear, and only drew the line at a few things I would not because everyone else was doing them and failing with them so I saved my limited energy) I was happy with the fact that my books were beautiful, and they were out there in the world.

In print.

Then, with the closure of the company (yes, it still hurts) it all went away.

Now I have to accept that, for many and varied reasons, my books exist only as text files in a huge database of millions of stories. Sometimes found, but just as easily overlooked.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I’m so grateful to everyone who has read my books. So many were and still are supportive and I am so grateful, forever.

That support and the comments of Wattpad readers kept me writing through times when I doubted I could publish another book (and I ended up with five that I am really, at the end of the day, proud to have written.)

Their audience may have been modest but it was enthusiastic (even those who disliked my books did so enthusiastically) and that was what I hoped for: just to connect to a few souls out there who saw what I was trying to say and ‘got it’ as far as the books went.

So, back to my book burn out.

I have so many books waiting to be read on my iPad I can’t bring myself to open the Kindle app most days, and if I do, somehow I end up returning to reading things I’ve read before, or non-fiction, instead of catching up on the never ending stream of new fiction generated every week.

Has my love of books truly died?

No, it’s still got a pulse, it’s just really, really faint at the moment, and so I have given up on the idea for now of reading anything for pleasure beyond a magazine article here and there or a bit of non-fiction or poetry.

I wonder how long it will be before the idea of cracking into a new book brings the thrill back to me that it once did.

I wonder how long it will be until I can once again appreciate books—truly appreciate them— even, and maybe especially, my own, for what they are.

They are works of art in their finest form; even if much of what is out there right now does not draw me in or beckon me, there will eventually be a book that calls me back to reading just for the joy of getting to know the inhabitants of the pages, and a I imagine the day will come when someone tells me that they’re a writer and I once again feel that deep sense of belonging and excitement, just because we share a passion for committing words to paper.

Until then, I’ll bide my time, knowing my stack of books, piled high, teetering, and a little dusty, will be faithfully waiting for my return.

As far as picking up a pen to write long-form fiction again? That is something that right now, I still cannot even fathom.