If I write a novel, I will feel like an author.
If I publish a novel, I will feel like an author.
If I publish a series of novels, I will feel like an author.
If I publish a series of novels, and another, I will finally feel like an author.
So why don’t I feel like an author?
It’s helpful to begin with what I know, plain facts stated plainly. My name is Cheri Baker and I’m forty years old. It’s Sunday morning and I’m at the keyboard at the small desk I share with P, preparing to write a new scene in my new novel, entitled Power Play.
What is “being an author” supposed to feel like? Probably it feels exactly like what I’m feeling now. On a good day, I sit at my keyboard and manage to bat away that “Well, shit. Now what?” feeling long enough to write a chapter or two. And on a great day, the words flow easy and fast and true as the story races forward like a movie happening in real time. My worst days are the ones where I don’t write at all, and I can feel my book going stale like an open box of crackers.
In my ego-mind, an author is impressive and self-assured. They attend parties with other popular people, and they are always witty and wise in person. And because I don’t identify with those descriptors, most days I don’t feel like an author.
I set up my desk before I go to bed at night. First, I set out my laptop and keyboard, my paper notes and a pen. Then I take a sticky note and write down the first thing I need to see in the morning, whatever that might be.
Today’s note says: Good morning, Author. Have fun today.
It feels silly, writing myself notes for the following morning. But it helps too. Perhaps when I say I don’t feel like an author, what I really mean is I’m not living up to the idealized image I’ve been carrying around. But that image is silly, right? It’s based on ego, or a desire to fit in, or aspirations that have nothing to do with the work itself.
I’m thinking now of two writers I met at two different conferences. One author was a quiet bestseller I’d never heard of. She was gracious and encouraging to us newbies,dispensing practical advice and encouraging us to work super-hard in our careers. “Write your ass off!” she told me, smiling. The other author was a status-climber. She was superficially friendly, but her eyes always sought out the most famous person in the room even while she was talking to you. She introduced people on the basis of their status or accomplishments, saying that so-and-so was “a good person to know” and talking enviously about their friendships with other writers.
Perhaps it’s less important that I feel like an author and more important that I think about what kind of author I’d like to be. The egoist, always seeking status, eager to be seen as a member of the cool kids club? (Blech!) Or the low-key bestseller who works hard and occasionally pops out to enjoy some company and comraderie.
My sticky note is at my left elbow. It’s time to work on my next chapter. The note says Good Morning, Author. Have fun today. It reminds me that my job is to work hard, enjoy the ride, and let all the dumb ego-games drop to the ground.
Good morning, me! And wherever you are, internet friends, good morning to you too.