Hey cHEwY gum gums
I’m on the verge of meeting a deadline for my next cHEwY creation, Misfits. It’s a collection of short stories that is due for release next year. Being short stories has been my saving grace because I won’t be able to deliver all of them at the same time, instead I’ll give my editor the first bunch of short stories and try to polish the others and hand them in the next few weeks (I promise, if she’s reading this haha).
Now I spoke about the mix of joy and nerves of handling in a manuscript last year with Don’t Follow Vee. This time I want to focus on the anxiety that comes with finishing a manuscript/book/project. It never truly goes away, so let me go back over a decade ago to when I first started my cHEwY journey and address these anxious thoughts
What if I never get published?
Everybody starts at square one. Back in 2009, after 3 years of pursuing my writing dreams, I had hit a road bump. My Thai-riffic! manuscript was in limbo and I was exhausted with reworking my episodic tales. Thoughts crept into my head. What if this doesn’t work? What if nobody wants to read about Asian-Australian characters? A friend of a friend told me that during a birthday party. That conversation still lingers in my head.
I can’t guarantee that every aspiring writer will get published. But you just can’t give up. I kept chugging along, and eventually it all fell into place, but that resilience as a writer takes time to build.
What if no one likes my book?
I don’t know what’s worse. Not being published or being a one book wonder. Think about it. You poured your heart and soul into your first book and after all the excitement of the launch and promotion dies down, you ask yourself, is it actually selling? As an author, you get little clues, like news of reprints or your actual sale figures twice a year from your agent or publisher. But you spend a lot of time, living in that uncertainly, that the books are being sold and not being sent back to the warehouse.
So how do you combat this anxiety? You keep the promotion going on your own. My hunger to hustle and promote has never gone away, at any school visit, festival or bookstore event. I’m not at that stage where my name is enough to sell a book, so I’ll keep on fighting and shouting for every new reader and earn that cHEwY gum gum. Then if one book is all you’ve really got in you, at least you can say, you gave it your all.
What if I never get published (again)?
After Thai-no-mite came out in October 2012, I struggled big time to get my fifth cHEwY creation off the ground. A few failed attempts of writing manuscripts of Nothing’s Prefect and Bookish really knocked my confidence. It was getting to the point where I was at schools and festivals, and kids were asking me, ‘when’s the next book coming out?’ and I honestly couldn’t answer them. I smiled and said it was coming, but deep down, I was quickly becoming a writer who was still plugging his old books like they were fresh. I felt stale.
I was thrown a lifeline with Ethan, a short book for the Stuff Happens series, so I was thankful that 2015 was a ‘pub’ year. I’m also grateful that despite not having anything new come out, I was still getting work as an author visiting schools. But that feeling about my publishing future kept eating at me and it got me down. All I knew is that my next eventual book, whether it took me 3 or 10 years was going to be special. It turned out to be The Other Christy and I cherish that book to this day.
Hindsight has taught me a couple of things. Firstly, the publisher is on your side, even if they reject you. I can’t imagine promoting a book that was a dud, and honestly a bad book or series of flops can end your career anyway. Secondly, every failed manuscript is an opportunity to grow and nothing is ever wasted. I used parts of my unpublished works in Stuff Happens: Ethan and Natural Born Loser. Finally, every author finds their own path. Some authors bring out a new book every few years and they’re still going strong. People would look at me and wonder how I bring out one book in a year. I’d ask the same thing when I see authors release 7 or 8 books in a year.
Every experience builds resilience. Besides, how else you will stay grounded if you don’t fall down once in awhile?
What if I run out of ideas?
This is another thought that has also haunted me over the years, usually when I hand in my manuscript. What if I can’t think of anything else to write about? I wonder if those authors who have been written a ton of titles ever have these fears. Thankfully, I have the next 3 cHEwY creations lined up in my head. Whether they get picked by my publisher and be on the shelf is another story.
Of course, if Don’t Follow Vee was to be my last title, I can say that I’ve had a good run and if my time is up, then so be it.
That said, the desire to write more stories will never go away. So I’ll never stop writing, trust me.
I feel that there is no cure for anxiety in a writer’s life. The inner critic will always have the first dibs of your ear whenever you start writing. Sometimes the doubt can be used for good as warning signs, but if that voice becomes anxious, stop and reflect. You can’t control anything else except for the words that you create. So whatever happens, just keep writing.