So you’ve finally published your novel after two painstaking years of work, and you set off on the adventure into the unknown of being a published author. It’s super exciting. The big publication day arrives and your book becomes available online for people to buy. It may not seem like a big change in the world at large, but everything has changed in your world as you’ve become a published author.
1. Becoming published is a beautiful moment, but no one else can understand what it means to you or how much work was involved. Writing my novel, Secrets of a River Swimmer, was a joyful experience, but allowing others to read it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I delved deep into my subconscious for guidance throughout the writing experience, and I allowed myself to write the novel “in the flow” as they say. And now it’s a published book, those words are there for the whole world to read. For me, that reality took a lot of getting used to, but after a lot of soul searching I’m now happy about it, joyful even. So the lesson I’ve learnt is to take a moment to shed a tear or two in recognition of what you’ve been through and achieved. And drink a glass of wine or three to celebrate.
2. Becoming published will provide you with unique insight into the state of your friendships and relationships. This was a more surprising lesson. As you’d expect, true friends will celebrate with you and support you on your journey as a writer. However, the people who are jealous or threatened by your journey will reveal their true feelings to you. I’ve been lucky in that most of my close friends have been beautifully supportive. For example, my friend Matt, with whom I used to regularly swim the River Tweed (the experiences which inspired the novel), wrote me the most heart warming email filled with joy, love, and support for my novel. But not everyone in my life was as supportive. One of my family members has done nothing but downplay the step of becoming a published author and all it entails for reasons specific to her. So my lesson learnt is to pay heed to the way the people in your life react at big moments like this. This knowledge is a gift.
3. You discover how few men in the world are genuine readers. It’s well known that the women of the world are better at reading and empathizing with different people and perspectives. Most estimates suggest that around 70% of readers are women which means men are dragging the chain in the reading world. However, as a man, you want to believe that men are capable of so much more because reading offers so many incredible benefits. But reality bites when yet another man asks when your book will be made into a Netflix series. Come on guys, pick up a book
4. These days there’s considerable weight on authors to raise the profile of their novels themselves. That means embracing social media in all its glory. For tech dunces like me, it’s a humbling journey. I’ve had to learn about Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. I thought I was making great progress with it all until my wife asked me if I was hash-tagging each of my social media posts. “What exactly is a hash tag?” I asked her as she gave me a pitying look.
5. The book world is full of eccentric characters, but also of beautiful people who believe in the power of story-telling. I’ve had some inspiring conversations with amazing people which have reinforced in my mind the importance of stories. At a recent book event I was presenting at, the book shop owner talked to me about the impact stories had on her local community. Stories, she argued, are the single most powerful way to inspire positive change because people will listen when the lessons they need are being taught to others in a world in which they know they are safe. What wise and inspiring words.
So it’s been a lesson-filled two months since Secrets of a River Swimmer was published. I’ve loved the whole experience, including opening myself up to all the lessons it has offered. At this point, one thing is for certain about my future as a writer: there are many more lessons coming my way. As a writer, you are constantly being challenged to learn and grow, even when you feel like you’ve got no more learning and growing left in you. I’ll look forward to checking back in when I’ve got some more hard-earned lessons to share.