Em's place

Writing, anxiety-wrangling, tea.

Janus Syndrome

By Emma on December 31, 2013

I wasn’t going to write a post at the turn of the year. I don’t like writing about myself at the best of times, I’m deep in edits and juggling work with my child being on holiday and anyway, I hate looking back.

But 2013 has been one hell of a year. And I’m feeling all sorts of stuff about the coming year and the only thing to do when I feel this way is to sit down and write it all out.

A glance back

This was the biggest year of my writing career to date. Hell, the fact I’m able to write “writing career” without deleting that immediately says something. I’m doing something that I’ve been investing in for many years now and it’s something I want to do for the rest of my life. I bounced from job to job before, always dissatisfied, and now I know what I want to do. I am unspeakably lucky to know what I need to do to keep myself happy, fulfilled and less mad than usual. For the longest time I was terrified I would never know.

So this was the year of the Split Worlds and I think that’s why I didn’t want to just gloss over the turn of the year without at least a moment to turn, doff my hat respectfully and thank it for being… very. Yes, very. That’s the only way to describe it. I could say terrifying, exhilarating, exhausting, wondrous, maddening etc, but ‘very’ encompasses all of it neatly.

All these months later I’m amazed that I’m still proud of those books. The last week has been amazing; so many people have included either Between Two Thorns or the whole series in their “best of the year” posts that I’ve been flabbergasted.

It was a strange year. I was editing the second Split Worlds book whilst writing the third whilst launching the first. There was only 3 months between the releases of books 1 and 2, then only 4 months between books 2 and 3. I had my first proper fan mail (and it’s still arriving, which is lovely). I received my first troll emails and they didn’t break me. I wrote a whole new book – a standalone sci-fi that could not be more different to the Split Worlds if I tried – which is very nearly ready to leave the nest. I wrote a few stories too, narrated 3 audio books and launched Tea and Jeopardy.

Oh, and we moved house. So yeah, 2013 was a bit tiring too.

I went to so many conventions it was a bit silly. I even got to the point where flying to America didn’t freak me out and result in constant shivering for 12 hours straight. I can now go onto most panels without extreme nausea or sweating. Also nice. I still get nervous, mind you, but I’m happy to report that a lot of it has got easier.

Not all of it though.

Reviews still freak me out. I haven’t been to Goodreads once this year. I worry about everything it is possible to worry about – like all authors, I imagine. But I’ve survived and those three books with their beautiful covers are out there now, on many, many bookshelves and damn, that feels good.

A few random thoughts about 2013

Never underestimate how important it is to have friends who are also writers.

Being able to share fears and frustrations with people who ‘get it’ is so valuable, in any profession. I have been so lucky to meet so many amazing people over the last two years, some of whom are becoming my favourite people in the world. I’m thinking of Gareth and Becky Powell, Adrian and Annie Tchaikovsky, Adam Christopher, Lee Harris, Jennifer Udden, Ian Whates, Paul Cornell, Philip Reeve and Melinda Snodgrass. I had the pleasure and privilege to get rather drunk with Myke Cole, Steve Drew, Justin Landon, Lou Morgan, Tom Lloyd, Chuck Wendig, Sarah Pinborough, Marcus Gipps, Jennifer Williams and so many others. (I fully reserve the right to forget people here because I am rubbish at this sort of thing). I have laughed so much. I have had long, long conversations that have grounded and reassured me. I thank you all.

All of the demons that were there before you got published will still be there afterwards.

All those insecurities are still here. Hell, I’m editing the 7th book I’ve written and it was the hardest one yet. Each one feels like I’ve learned nothing from the ones before. Of course, that’s not true in that I’ve refined a process (though saying that, my process got thrown out of the window for the latest one) and I have figured out how to write despite anxiety issues, but yeah, all that doubt and imposter syndrome stuff is still here. It probably always will be.

The race is long, and ultimately, only with yourself

Something like that is said in that brilliant Sunscreen song and my goodness, have I had to remind myself of that this year! There’s always someone achieving more, doing more, just being more than you. The only way to handle it, in my opinion, is to just work hard on your own stuff. And by stuff I mean the next book and also all the psychological knots life has tied into us over the years. So many things come from the dark places inside ourselves, and so few of them actually help us.

And now, the future!

So, time to look ahead. And guess what: I’m terrified.

Yes, I know it’s my default state, and honestly I get bored of my own anxiety a dozen times a day but it’s strong enough for me to need to write this shit out. I’m a firm believer in voicing fears and stuff from shadow (in the Jungian sense) so that it loses its power outside of my internal echo chamber.

Things I am scared of and looking forward to maybe (in no particular order):

The sale of my next novel

Or rather, the hope it will be sold. I sort of fell into the Angry Robot deal, but now I’m without a contract to fulfil and I have a book that will soon be in the hands of my agent, looking for a home.

Insert every single worry imaginable here. The loudest ones are: What if no-one buys it? And also: what if I never have another book deal ever again?

Writing a whole new series

I wrote that standalone over the last six months and it was hellish. Life was pretty insane, what with all the Split Worlds promo, the conventions, the house move and whatnot. I didn’t write as much as I would have liked.

But now I have a new world growing in my head and my goodness, I am so ready to go and play there. And, as usual, there is a lot of fear around it. But honestly, kiss my arse anxiety demons! I’m still going to write these regardless of what you say.

And the last one is something I didn’t know whether to talk about or not.

That eligibility thing

2014 will be the first year that I’m eligible for big proper grown-up awards and that makes me feel… wretched with shallow desire and the shame of having that!

You see, I’ve never done anything in my life that would ever merit recognition from other people. The only thing that comes close is my degree, but hell, that was a different kind of thing all together. And I’m going to be truthful and confess that I would love to get an award, whether it’s for a novel or Tea and Jeopardy or whatever.

The thing is, eligibility brings the inherent likelihood of failure. And I know my chances are slimmer than a paper doll in profile, but hell, it doesn’t stop me daydreaming. There, I said it.

Urgh. I want to shower now. Forgive me.

Onwards and hopefully upwards!

I want to write 3 novels in 2014. The first drafts, that is, and I have no idea which stage each will get to after that. I also have Tea and Jeopardy to work on and a few other projects I’m tinkering away on too. But for the first few months of the year, all I am going to work on are novels (and getting Tea and Jeopardy out the door every fortnight of course). This year was packed with great stuff, but all the travel and promo exhausted me and took me away from the blank page. There are so many books in my head waiting to be written. [insert usual guff about so little time].

So, my lovelies, permit me to wish you a happy, productive and quite brilliant 2014. And remember, if you’re travelling outside of the EU, wrap up warm.*

*If you know where that comes from, you are a fine person and I salute you.

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{ 3 comments... read them below, or add one }

  1. It was a pleasure to meet you this year, get to know you, and read your books!
    Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) recently posted..William Lind’s 1995 article “Militant Musings: From Nightmare 1995 to My Utopian 2050”

  2. John Wiswell says:

    A splendid year, Emma, and it’s only going to get better. I’m proud of you, and we’ve all got your back!
    John Wiswell recently posted..Best Reads 2013 is Live

  3. “You see, I’ve never done anything in my life that would ever merit recognition from other people.”

    Not true. You’ve been a kind and generous friend. That’s a huge achievement in this world.

    Best of luck with the new book and have a great 2014.
    Graham Storrs recently posted..Heaven is a Place on Earth by Graham Storrs is now available

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