Getting a Grip

Writers are a nervous, overly-emotional lot. (I tell myself this because I don’t like to think it’s just me.) In the grand scheme of things, what does it matter if a novel is good or bad, a hit or a flop? It’s just a toy. At best a mental vacation for readers who connect with it, and at worst a minor irritant to readers who don’t. So why do writers freak out when their novels are published?

If people don’t like your book, they can put it down and start another. If they do like the book, you, as a writer, have accomplished what you set out to do: provide an hour or two of pleasure to some kind soul who did you the honor of picking up your work. With luck, at least a few readers will enjoy the book. After all, your editor did — or s/he wouldn’t have sent you that contract. But even if your book brings joy to millions, it still will not matter five hundred years from now.

As a writer of commercial fiction, I am in the entertainment business. It is not my job to change the world. The best I can do is provide a diversion for someone who has spent a long, hard day changing the world and needs a break. That is a noble endeavor, in its way, and I’m proud and happy to be of service when I can. But even if I manage to do the job really, really well, I will never win a medal of valor or invent the light bulb or prevent a war. I’m not changing lives and serving humanity in the way that, say, the designer of a really good sewer system does. What I do will not make history. Good or bad.

In other words, Diane, get a grip. You’re not important enough to feel this anxious.

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