A few days back I received emailed galleys for my upcoming novella, What we Hold Onto, which should appear in the late spring, in the June issue of Asimov’s.
Again, I experience a weird mixture of triumph and terror. Gut wrenching fear.
What if people hate it?
The POV character is female, a middle aged woman. What if they say she doesn’t feel female?
I’ve made up a new human culture. What if people say it’s total bullshit? I use the made-up culture to explore some ideas in and around race. What if people say I’m whitesplaining, mansplaining?
Even worse, what if people think it’s boring?
What if it makes people cancel their subscriptions and I never sell another story?
Everything I’m proud of in the twenty three thousand word thing, every revelation, every thing that came alive on the page as I wrote it now looks like a dissected frog in the galley. Yup. Those are the organs. That’s a heart. That’s a stomach. That’s a, a… liver, I think. Uh huh. That’s a frog all right. I think.
I’ve been through his ten times now, in the big magazines.
Some part of me will love this thing again, in the future, I know. But not now.
And as I anticipate failure, some part of me wonders, what if it was nominated for an award and I felt like I’d finally, once and for all, arrived? What if I felt perfectly welcomed and accepted and loved by all of science fiction? What if my Clarion instructors read it, and sent me notes, on a job well done?
What if it got me a thousand twitter followers?
What if it made attractive people want to be my friend?
Would that change the nature of the blank page in front of me when I write? Would that blank page feel any better?
Would that page beckon any more brightly?
Knowing what I know, about myself, having got this far, what do I think, really?
I hear a voice which says, soothing, ‘just do your work, just do your work, just do your work.’
This is as good as it gets. It doesn’t have to get better.
Be content. Get back in the saddle.