In case it wasn’t apparent from the giant banner at the top of this blog, I wrote an eBook. That was a little under two years ago, but due to career changes, life, blah blah, it feels more like something that happened in the life of an entirely different person. Also, WordPress deleted like thirty minutes of good edits so this post is not as good as it could have been (*fist shaking at the WordPress gods*).
My life has changed so much in the past two years that I rarely think about the time when I hated my job and my career prospects and the only thing that gave me any sense of satisfaction was writing this blog. I really only think about it in a “wow, I’m really fucking lucky I’ve found something I love to do everyday. How did I trick these people into paying me?” kind of way. Or I think about it when people say, “Hey. You wrote a book. What was that like?”
And that’s what I’m going to talk about. I’ve been reticent to write about the experience because I don’t want it to come off humble-braggy (or regular braggy), or sounding like I’m lamenting one of the most exciting and proud accomplishments of my 20s. Please keep that second part in mind when I lament.
But I think enough (so, like five?) people who read this blog are also writers/aspiring writers in some vein and hopefully my learnings can help you one day when you also write an eBook (or regular book. Dream big, peeps!). So, here goes:
How did it happen?
Like threepointfive years ago I was walking home from work, thinking about how the one year anniversary of when I met my then ex-boyfriend was coming up because I’m a massive creep who’s overly sentimental and I was thinking about the Google reminder I’d set for myself when we broke up for four months out that was like, “Throw a party because you’re totally over that douche”, and how that reminder and come and gone and I was, in fact, not at all over that douche. I should have told my boyfriend to skip this paragraph.
^That’s a tangent and also very close to the first page of my eBook. NEWAY. I came up with this whole idea about the online dating and went home and told Austin and CLEARLY we got drunk in the living room to celebrate and when our other roommates came home and we were sitting on the floor having a singalong to Robyn (but songs from before she was like, Gay Icon Robyn, eg. “Show Me Love”) and were like, “Why the fuck are you guys blackout? It’s Monday.” We were probably like
BECAUSE TIFFANY’S GONNA BE INTERNET FAMOUS FOR DATING
but I’m not sure we said that because we were blackout.
So I started my experiment and nothing happened. The Internet did not rally around me 40 Days of Dating style, but some of my friends did express that they thought I was The Worst for going on dates and writing about it in what I like to refer to as The Great Rooftop Confrontation of 2012. And then Chris and I got back together and the blogging about dating came to an end.
BUT. A year later, when I was submitting anything and everything to Thought Catalog anytime I felt extra suicidal at work, one of my posts was finally accepted. An editor there started scanning through my blog and reposing more stuff. Then one day she emailed me and asked if I wanted to turn my online dating posts into an eBook.
Within about ten minutes my boyfriend texted me that he’d gotten the job he’d been in hoping to get for the past six months. We had the best day ever. Champagne was consumed, Drake was blasted, drunk rapping was the main activity of the evening. The high from that lasted a few days for me. I was going to be an AUTHOR. Ok, well, an eBook author, but someone who wrote something who someone else asked them to write so that’s like an author. Right? Shit, I was going to be an author. I was going to be an author? How was I going to be an author?
What was it like?
I wanted to be a writer when I was a little kid. I imaged sitting in my New York City apartment, guinea pig on my desk, eating a cookie at 9 AM because mommy wasn’t there to tell me I couldn’t. I’d look out the window at my city view and type away, relaying all of my experiences to the world. It’d be fucking beautiful.
Wrong. Me writing a book looked like this –
All of my roommates were out of town that weekend. Someone had gifted me some adderall a few weeks back (god bless you, unknown drug angel) so I spent the weekend very alert, holed up in my apartment crying and ordering different variations of my favorite sandwich from the bodega across the street, feeling utterly terrified that I was going to fuck up writing a book like I fucked up music school because apparently I’ve got some demons, people. I had bed bugs but I didn’t know it yet, so I was also quite itchy.
And here’s where I get to the hindsight being 20/20 part –
I was living with a brilliant, kind, helpful, beautiful, wonderful human with a giant book deal (who could make this sentence a hell of a lot better) and I didn’t ask her for help. One of my dear friends who knows every terrible, embarrassing thing about me is an editor a very real publication. Yet another good friend is an editor at a publishing house.
I asked none of them for help because I was Imposter Syndroming so hard. I didn’t ask my editor enough questions because I was starstruck and believed she secretly hated me and was terrified she was going to cancel the whole deal entirely.
It did not help that during this time it was that part of GIRLS where Hannah was blowing her book deal and if Lena Dunham couldn’t do it HOW WAS I GOING TO DO IT?
What was your “process”?
Art(super hating myself for even slightly putting what I do and ‘art’ in the same category) and expression are romanticized like whoa. In reality, they’re a lot like pooping.
You’re walking down the street, minding your own business, and suddenly it comes to you and so you have to go to a Starbucks and order a coffee and pretend like you want to be there so no one else knows you just needed a place no one you know will be in while you get this thing inside you out of you. This metaphor is working so well.
My “process” sucked. And I did it all wrong. And when my book was released (i.e. – put up on Amazon), I was actually sitting in my apartment alone, drinking massive amounts of vodka and texting pictures of dead bed bugs in a plastic bag to the guy with the bed bug sniffing dog to confirm that I did indeed have bed bugs.
Did you sell a lot of copies?
It was a stroke of luck in some ways that I was drunk and on the verge of insanity because both of those things compelled me to announce my book’s arrival on social media. I’d posted nothing about it previously because I was terrified I’d fail to produce, but in my drunkeness I harassed everyone I knew into buying it and reviewing it.
The early sales and positive reviews (thanks friend & mom) placed me into the Kindle Singles program. If you don’t know what that is it means lots of free promotion from Amazon and lots of lots of lots of sales. Of course, lots of sales means lots of reviews.
Is it good?
I was laying in bed on a Sunday morning, a couple days after the book became a Kindle Single, trying to figure out something to tweet because people kept following me on Twitter and I felt the pressure. I took a break from trying to think up jokes about my hangover and popped over to my Amazon page. And there it was, a review from an unknown human. It wasn’t scathing, by any means, but it was a, ‘this was a meh experience for me’ sort of thing. I freaked out, my boyfriend calmed me down. We got mimosas. All was well again.
Until the next day, when Googling myself brought up a review. A review! Of my book! As it turned out there was a new website devoted to reviewing every Kindle Single and the woman who reviewed mine absolutely fucking hated it. I read her review that criticized my writing, my experience and me, in general, and then I went outside to wander around in the fog and cry.
At the time, it hardly hit me that my book was in the top ten non-fiction Kindle Single sales for the week. All I could do was be obsessed with the opinion of this one person. And, subsequently, a bunch of other people who wrote negative reviews.
At first I wanted to hear all of it. I thought if I could soak up enough negative feedback I’d be able to make myself immune. In my quieter moments, though, those words would echo in my head. I’d get defensive and bitter. I’d make up conversations in my head. I’d try to take action.
Reviewer – “Seems like Tiffany needs to keep her day job.”
Me – “I AM KEEPING MY DAY JOB YOU ASSHOLE.” And then I went and marked every single one of his Amazon reviews for screwdrivers as ‘This review was not helpful’. Suck it, reviewer.
I made the mistake of personifying them when, in reality, internet commentors are unsympathetic shells of people. Anonymity does weird things.
So it’s two years down the line and every so often I get the inevitable, ‘hey! you wrote a book,’ from a new friend who’s taken the time to look at my Twitter. It’s a weird thing to be both proud of an accomplishment and simultaneously embarrassed by it. And it’s a weird thing to manage your internet self, a distilled version of you that (at least if you want to be paid attention to) should present every little thing you’ve done as evidence that you should be paid attention to. Well, until you’ve done something cool enough that just gets you them for free.
When I published the book I’d get asked by some of my more put together friends if I was nervous about the fact that I’d potentially forever be associated with drinking and dating. I didn’t think back then and I still don’t think now that I’ll ever be worried about that part of it. It’s really the smaller things, like the fact that I used the word ‘retarded’ or that I described in detail how I was repulsed by someone mainly due to his weight. I don’t worry people will find out I wrote it (because that’s still kind of fucking cool), but I’m always gripped by the anxiety that they’ll read it and see me like some of the internet commentors did. That maybe they won’t hear everything delivered in the flat, tongue-in-cheek tone I wanted them to hear it in.
What did you learn?
No one asks me this question, but it’s the most important part, because it all goes back to the biggest lesson I’ve ever learned about Imposter Syndrome. I was dying for an opportunity like this one in order to prove to myself that I was not just another person blogging on the internet, but a person with ideas worth being put into a more permanent form. Once I got that opportunity I felt just as much like an imposter as I had before. I was up against the other people writing books who really knew what they were doing. I thought if I could just push out ANYTHING and be published then I’d have that title of “author” to claim for myself. Once I did publish the book and the reviews started coming in, Imposter Syndrome struck again. I wasn’t an author, I was a “bad author”, a “hack”, or as the website that continually liked to use puns on how my book was about drinking (we get it, you’re not good writers either <- still bitter) described it “only selling copies because of a clever title and good cover art.”
The lesson I learned was that I’m going to feel like an imposter until the day I die if I let myself. It’s never going to get better, nothing is ever going to feed that deep-seeded insecurity that I’ve got in the pit of my stomach. Every glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel fades and morphs into something sinister, a whisper in my ear that wakes me up in the middle of the night to remind me that I’m the shittiest.
^Uplifting, right? BUT IT IS I PROMISE STICK WITH ME WE’RE ALMOST DONE AND THEN YOU CAN EAT COOKIES IF YOU HAVE THEM I PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE WARNED YOU TO COME EQUIPPED WITH COOKIES. Once I realized that the imposter syndrome, just like all of my anxiety and my crazy, is with me forever, I was able to take it a little less seriously. It became just like that voice in my head that tells me the 90-something, tiny Asian woman walking behind me in the street is actually a secret serial killer and she’s about to stab me. It doesn’t go away, but it’s stupid as fuck.
Are there a bunch of things I wish I’d done better when I wrote it? Hell yes. Am I so embarrassed at points when I think about things I wrote? Oh my god you have no idea. But we learn best through our mistakes. We see new parts of ourselves when we’re putting our broken egos back together.
And all of the lessons I’ve learned? Those will just have to be used on the next (e)Book.
Next time… On Serial.*