Monday, January 28, 2008

Fear. Sabotage. Success. Anonymity.

I’ve given myself some time to think, squeezed in around all my projects and brain fillers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s next.

If 2005 was about therapy, and 2006 was about recovering, then 2007 was about returning. I think I’m back, for real, in the land of the living. Mostly. I trust my brain and my crooked back and my multi-faceted self a little more now. This next year will be the year that things change, and of course, I don’t know what those changes will be!

I’ve spent most of the last few years in my cocoon of a home, living my huge small life, taking the little tentative steps towards the big steps. I have worked so very hard at it. It’s gone pretty well for me, and despite setbacks along the way, I think I’ve been improving. I write. I ride. I laugh with my kids. My husband still loves me. It’s okay. It’s good.

I have stepped back from my novel. It’s been read by people I trust. It’s been critiqued, submitted, and rejected. I know by now that ten rejections is nothing. That’s just a test run, kids, just a warm up. I’ve got more to go, and I know what I have to do to my book and my query letter before I send out Round Three to my list of newly discovered agents. I’ve done some serious considering and thinking and rethinking. I’m almost ready to go.

And find myself stalled.

I think I might be on the verge of sabotaging my own possible success.

Finding out that I have more work to do than I figured on in order to become a certified riding instructor has been a bit of a kick in the gut. I’m telling myself that it just means I have to do more work. I can do it. I have a little bit of control over it. It won’t ruin my life to get to this goal.

The writing thing is a slightly different though. Riding and teaching is hard, sometimes frustrating work, but rewarding. I feel the satisfaction right there on the spot. Writing is exhilarating and fulfilling, but it can be mental and emotional torture, and it doesn’t always reward me quickly or recognizably. I can take off my riding boots and have a warm bath and get away from it. But when I’m flinging horse manure, my imaginary people run wild in my head. I cannot get away from them. I wouldn’t really want to- they’re part of me. They want their stories told. I have to tell them.

And then what? What if it really does become an actual book that people can read? I fear that it could ruin my life.

Here’s where the fear takes hold. It affects everything- the way I want to live, where I want to live, who I want to be surrounded by, and what I will actually do.

You’ll notice that I don’t use my surname on this blog. It’s for a reason. I don’t really want you to know. I’m pretty sure I like you all, but I don’t want anybody to figure out where I live and just show up. I don’t want to be recognized while I’m sweating and panicking my way through the grocery store. I don’t want my phone to ring.

(Unless it’s a literary agent...I’d hang onto something sturdy and pick up the phone with shaky hands...yes I would....)

I have shown my face on this blog, over the course of two years, for only two events: One, the juno awards last year because my husband won. Two, the day my new horse came home.

I don’t really want to show my face.

Big problem. If you want to teach people riding lessons, they’re coming to your home. I don’t want to leave my (future) farm to work. I want to work on my turf. I have to have a last name for that. And show my face. I can’t go sprinkling fairy dust around my fences so that nobody can find my place.

If I want to sell books, it’s very very important that I have a face and a surname. Lemony Snicket can hide his face and hold close the secrets of his murky past. I’m no Lemony Snicket. Readers need to know that a real person made it all up, a person who has a life and sees things and experiences things and turns it into fiction. I need a name that can be catalogued and kept track of.

No matter what I do, I can’t stay anonymous.

Scares the hell out of me.

In terms of teaching riding, it’s not so bad. Riding instructors usually don’t draw too much attention. As long as good word of mouth spreads, it’s okay. Lots of people in the small saddle club world around here already know my name. There’s a Quarter Horse trainer in Texas with my name- my married name. I highly doubt we’ll be mistaken for each other.

But, the writing thing...

Your writing makes you memorable, but your name sells you.

And I want it, people. I want it. I want to be a household name.

I want you to sit down at the table and say to the person you’re eating with, “That Heidi ****** book I’m reading is really pissing me off, I just want to go in and smack those people for being so stupid. It’s infuriating.”

And then when someone else asks you what you like about the book, you can say, “ Nobody writes a charming bad guy like Heidi ******”

I’d love it if you said to one of your friends, “I just read a book by Heidi ******. It was really descriptive, and it made me think about the way I grew up and how it made me who I am.”

I won’t even mind if you said, “I will never ever read another book by Heidi ****** ever again, not if the world blows up and it’s the only book that didn’t burn to a crisp, because that book is practically a how-to manual for bad behaviour and I was deeply offended.”

You can even say, “Heidi ****** should be ashamed of herself for writing such a disgusting story.”

Yes! I want you to tell everybody!

I want you to be standing in the book store and see a sign that says “Heidi ****** will be here to sign her book!” and you think to yourself, “I’ll come back for that. Heidi ******'s book really stuck with me after I read it. I can’t stop thinking about those kids.”

I need that name.

I want the success.

The price I will have to pay is my privacy and anonymity.

I fear that loss. It surprises me, because I never have been truly anonymous. People always knew who I was. I’m small, but not inconspicuous.

I am telling myself (one of me placates the other one of me) that this will not be a problem at all.

I don’t think anybody really cares.

There is no privacy anymore. Even my father, a guy who has never touched a computer and only recently figured out how to use the call answer phone, has web presence. I typed his name into Google and he came up in a geneology. We Mennonites love our family history. He’s in there.

Privacy is an illusion. And I don’t think it’s such a big deal. Riding instructors do not have fans. Writers, with the exception of King and Rowling, don’t have to have gates around their houses to keep the crazed fans out.

I’m making a big deal out of my insecurities and neuroses, and all of this before I even land an agent.

That’s the whole point though. If I quit now, I’ll never know. I’ll never have to deal with more rejections ever again... never have a book that an agent can’t sell to a publisher... never have the crushing disappointment of a book that fails to leave the bookstore.... never have to meet somebody who will interview me or give my book a bad review.

That part of me will not be allowed to let down or disappoint the other part of me, the one who demands attention and starts the party when she walks into a room. That part of me wants you to read the book, and the reviews, all of them, and the interviews. She wants it all. She’ll white knuckle her way through the agony of breaking out of the little comfy shell and strap herself into the roller coaster. She actually wants to leave the comfort of her little patch of land to meet people and talk about words and mental images and the story that everybody has tucked away inside themselves, no matter how scary it is to take those shaky steps into the outside world.

That part of me loves a little bit of fear.

And right now, she’s satisfactorily terrified.


Smartypants said...

Your control issues remind me of my control issues. I got some good advice this week...by giving up control, you're actually gaining control. Hard to do but I'm trying.

You're going to be just fine. = )

Heidi the Hick said...

Thank you Smarty. (Good to see you!)

It is true in that zenlike oppositional kind of way that giving up control gives you control. Like, the more you crank a horse's head the more tense he gets. Let up the reins, get a better ride. That kind of thing.

...We're both going to be fine.

coffeypot said...

First of all, your face is too pretty not to show it off on your blog every chance you get. We deserve it.

Secondly, I know how you feel about your private life. I have not told anyone this before, but I am a successful author. I write under the pen name of Steven King. I hired this guy that looks like most of my characters to set in for me during interviews and filmings. He does pretty well. He’d better for the money I pay him. But the point is, I am successful and still have my freedom. I trust you, Heidi, not to tell anyone. It’s our secret, okay?

Heidi the Hick said...

Okay, first of all, when I decide to show my purty face every chance I get, I guarantee it'll only be pictures that have gone through my tough approval process. I may be a hick but I'm vain.

Second of all, your secret is safe with me, Coffeysteve. I have seven of your books, so I guess I helped contribute to the stand-in's paycheck. He does alright. Good job on the hiring!

Heidi the Hick said...

Eight. Eight of your books.


captain corky said...

You mean you real last name isn't Hick?!? I feel so betrayed... ;)

Matt Mullenix said...

Have you ruled out self-publishing, Heidi?

And: check out the Q. blog. I put a tractor in there for you. :-)

(not my real name)

Heidi the Hick said...

um..yeah...my real name is Matt "Corky" Hick...

Heidi the Hick said...

As for self publishing, I've done some looking-into, and found that fiction doesn't always do well that way. Sometimes, but there's a real possibility of it getting sort of lost.

Also, I am not good with the business end of things. I really want to have a person on my side who can wrangle contracts and that sort of thing.

However...I wouldn't rule out self-pub if I were to do up a non-fiction project.

Biddie said...

I feel so priveledged to know your last name. (I promise not to tell)
I can't believe that OUR Coffeypot is THE Stephen King.
You could always you a pen name..I know then people won't know YOUR name, but then you will have your privacy.
Also, we have that friend that we went to school with that has two (?) published books. You should talk to her.
Mind you, I think that you are a much better writer than she, BUT that is my completely unbiased opinion.

Heidi the Hick said...

Biddie, you know all of my last names! And I know all of yours!

Published author friend went with a small press- they actually asked her to write one of the books, did you know that? It's non-fiction though.

She should write some fiction.

You should just write, write, write, girl!!!

(I have two surnames to choose from...)

Heidi the Hick said...

dammit, I gotta leave the house and get some groceries. This is ridiculous.

katy said...

could you not use a pseudenum? maybe an anagram of your own name?
you will be an author i know it x
katy real name or kate or katie ok then it is kathryn, but sush dont tell the others ok!

Heidi the Hick said...

katy kate kathryn kt!

I would like to use my maiden name but my mom still isn't so sure about that. It's on their mailbox. She doesn't want any hate mail!!!!

Heidi the Hick said...


go to http://www.nathanbransford.blogspot.com/

He's having a Surprisingly Essential First Page contest. He is the bravest, most reckless lit agent on the planet. I am worried about him.

Go check it out! He actually WANTS you to! Remember, let's not say crazy like it's a bad thing, okay? There's some good stuff in there and some not so good. Worth a read!

coffeypot said...

I also write under the name, Patricia Cornwell when I am feeling kind of soft and feminine.

CindyDianne said...

Self sabotage. My own personal nemesis! At least you know it is going on and are conscience of the steps you need to take to overcome it! That something amazing in itself!

You'll be fine. You're hordes of fans will worship from a distance! Except me, I expect some personal attention. In fact, I expect a famous cabin guest! ;-)

JKB said...

A writer friend of mine and I were discussing this very concept the other day. She is also a professional marketing person (read: SICK) and had a theory: you will shoot yourself unconsciously in the foot by not accepting the fact that if you become published you will lose that private aspect of your life.

So her idea was to never try and get published.

I am far from the published mark, but I do believe I will get there. And I'll deal with that whole private/public thing when that happens.

Worry about that later. But worry about those agents now.

PS - you doing that Nathan thing? I adore him too.

PPS - I don't really know how long I've been lurking, but since I "came out" about my fantasy books, I've decided to "come out" and write comments on your blog. ;)

PPSS - Johnny Depp is so mine. I won't share. ;)

Heidi the Hick said...

jkb- I'm coming to terms with it. It's the price I have to pay. It might not be so bad, after all, really, much...

(I think there's enough Johnny to go around. I hope anyways!)

(And we'll see if there's enough Nathan to go around...!)

Cindy- we all do the self sabotage in some way or other, don't we???? Sad thing is, so few of us see it.

And yes I do plan to take you up on the cabin time offer. From what I hear there are horses there, and good company, and nice scenery!

Biddie said...

BTW, I LOVED Steinbecks The Pearl.
Read it in grade 9 (Nova Scotia) english class.

Olly said...

Yeah, I think a pen name or your maiden name (or your mom's maiden name) will work. That way you could keep your own name to yourself.

Our name is well known in the Biz world out here, but we work from home and use a box number for our mailing address. People cringe when they hear our address, so we keep it private. Soooo important.

Balloon Pirate said...

I think you know what I have to say.

But I'll say it anyways:

Feel the fear and do it anyways.

No decision based in fear has ever turned out well.

I'll repeat that: If you're doing something out of fear--either choosing to do an action or NOT choosing to do an action--it will turn out poorly.

I hate to get biblical on your ass, but check out Matthew 25 14-30.

You've got talents. What will you do with them?


dilling said...

wellllllllll....stephen king NEVER had fans like us, let me tell you. You better start your fence now. A big tall one...with razor wire, electricity, lasers, heat seeking devices....you've made it a challenge.
Now how scared are you?

Heidi the Hick said...

Oh dilling... if you bring some of your good food...I'll have Mr Burns and Smithers call off the hounds...

Pirate, "Feel the fear and do it anyways."

I am feeling and I am doing.

Olly, a box # is probably a good idea for most businesses that deal with the public.

The more I think about it the more I think that it doesn't matter what name I choose. Most authors writing under a pseudonym eventually let their real names leak. Like our Pal Professor Stephen King! I think the Richard Bachman name only lasted for two books???

Soon he'll give up and start writing under the name Coffeypot...

(Actually, interesting story about his son if we're talking about pen names. I'll tell you later.)

Heidi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heidi said...

So glad to hear you say all this: fear these days is driving me mad. In fact, the more success I have, the more fear I have.... I guess it means there is further to fall or something like that.

I figure fear is a good thing, because if I'm not doing anything that involves fear of rejection or failure, I'm probably not doing anything at all.

Still, it would be nice to sleep a little better at night.

i do love that you used your name so many times here... without a last name your post could be me! :) Although I haven't written too many bad guys yet.... just one really clueless husband.

Heidi the Hick said...

Yeah I guess you could read that post differently than most readers!

Repeat after me: Heidi is a great, great writer.

Ooh let's google bomb ourselves!

Heidi's writing knocks me out. Heidi is excellent with the written word. Heidi's book changed my darn life.

Well, that makes two of us who feel much better now!

Jethro said...

Is anybody really anonymous these days? My favourite GoogleBomb this year was the young studio intern, ADRIAN GOZUN, working under Producer/Engineer Michael Beinhorn at Sage and Sound in LA. He stole a few microphones and a couple pieces of gear, sold them on eBay (shipped to an out-of-state buyer) and has now witnessed the spectacular flameout of his budding studio career due to intense internet accountability, criminal charges, and a permanently tarnished employment record.

The problem is, once you've released a book, an album (any creative work), and it meets with any sort of searchable internet criticism, it doesn't matter how big your fences are, and how unlisted your phone number is... Your name, your brand, is permanently connected to everything anyone ever says about you (true or untrue).

It almost seems that in this modernity, it's absolutely insane to NOT use a made-up name. That way, you have plenty of chances, until one of them becomes successful.

So, I say make up a really fun pen name.



LadyBronco said...

Heidi ~

You inspire the hell outta me, ma'am.

Lynn Sinclair said...

I always figure that I'll worry about it when (and if) it happens. Get yourself a pen name, and don't put any information in your bio that can lead someone to your door--although if someone did come knocking, I know you'd invite them in for tea because you're way too nice.

Biddie said...

Hey. We lost Pork Chop this morning. She was really sick, so we knew that it was coming. Still, the place won't be the same without her.

Therese said...

Me too.

Only I'm slightly taller, older, and weigh more than you. And I haven't sat a horse in years.

I thought about the psuedonym thing...but no, I just gotta be me.

Heidi the Hick said...

Biddie- I will call you tonight. After 10pm.

Therese- You're satisfactorily terrified too eh? I guess you would be! The thing about a pen name is that it's a pain. Hassle. We'll see. Maybe I won't bother. I'll worry about it later.

Lynn- exactly. Worry about it when (and if). I do like your bio because it's got what readers want to know, but it's not too specific. And you know me- I'd probably invite somebody in but ask them to not look in the corners where I keep my mess...!

Lady B, we gotta do for each other out here, y'know? (thank you)

Jethro, you mean ADRIAN GOZUN, the intern who stole gear from a studio? Man, all the engineers are talking about him!

Okay, my love, let's get to work on my pen name. Let's all get busy and come up with something. It'll be fun. How about HEIDI HICKWORTH? It's both homey and uppity at the same time. Eh? Good?

Although, Jethro, that name I got from you is a good one.