Author Confession: The Downside of Reading a Really Good Book
A book hangover isn’t the only downside to reading a really good book.
Last week I wrote a post about book hangovers – you know, that lost feeling readers get when they finish a really good book. But for writers, the effects of reading a really good book can go well beyond that.
Like me, most of the authors I know are self-proclaimed introverts. Put them in front of a computer and they can come across as funny, witty, and quite social. And they really are funny and witty, even if they’re not particularly social when it comes to face-to-face encounters.
Writing – whether crafting a book or a Facebook post – allows authors to interact on their own terms. It is their world, a world where they are judged based on their words. People form opinions based on what they read, rather than what they see.
That’s some heady stuff.
And it is exactly because people form opinions about authors based on what we write that it is so important. Our livelihood, and therefore a fair share of our self-image, is rooted in that. If readers don’t like what we put out there, then they don’t buy our books, and love for the craft isn’t going to put food on the table or our kids through college.
Competition is fierce.
It’s no secret that the indie ebook market has exploded over the last ten years. For people like me, that’s a great thing. I get to live a dream I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. That self-esteem I was talking about? Well, it’s pretty hard to believe in yourself when those rejections from professional agents and traditional publishers start filling up the inbox. If enough people tell you you don’t have what it takes, well, eventually you might start to believe it.
That’s one of the best things about self-publishing: readers decide what they do and do not want, no one else.
But there’s a downside to all of this newfound opportunity, too: the market is flooded and competition is f-i-e-r-c-e. Even in a community known for sharing information and supporting one another, we’re ultimately competing for reader attention, reader loyalty, and a slice of that book purchasing budget.
And this relates to reading a good book how?
My point is, when I read a really good book, one that grabs me and doesn’t let go … well, it can be disheartening. I love it, but envy inevitably rears its ugly head. My already-fragile self-esteem – the one so dependent on people liking my books – takes a hit. Self esteem surrenders to self-doubt, and I’m tempted to throw up the white flag. Disparaging thoughts like, “I will never write this well” or “why would anyone read my book when they could read this?” force their way into my psyche and do a number on me.
Thankfully, that post-good-book funk doesn’t usually last long. My muses regain control, and I try to use the experience as an opportunity to learn, one that will improve my own writing. What did I really like about the book? What made it so special for me? How can I incorporate those elements into my voice, my style of writing?
It’s not always easy for us introverted types to find the silver lining. We tend to focus more on the negative than the positive, I think. But like the old saying goes, what doesn’t kill our creativity makes it stronger. And I am blessed to have some incredibly loyal and supportive readers who continue to believe in me, even when I’m having trouble believing in myself.
I just have to remember that next time I pick up my next great read.
p.s. I tried to find a good article on this for reference. While I found lots of stuff on author self-doubt and influential books, none of it really addressed the specific issue of how a good book can temporarily affect an author’s confidence. IDK. Maybe it’s just me…