A New Author Looks Back

It’s hard to believe nearly a year has passed since my book Good in a Crisis was published. Like many authors, I thought publication would change my life. I suppose it did change, but some things improved and others got worse more or less simultaneously so that I can say, overall, things pretty much stayed the same. I learned a lot though. I remember hoping that net-net, I’d see an improvement. But in fact it turned out to be character building instead. That goddamn character building really sucks and I am sick of learning life lessons. How old do you have to be to be for it to stop? I’m 54! Enough already. Unfortunately, I suspect it will never end.

So, in fact, life hasn’t changed much despite accomplishing this huge goal. Publishing the book was a kind of a microcosm of living in general—not what I’d hoped for, but beneficial in ways I never imagined. I learned new lessons about what assholes look like (I didn’t know this already?), and yet I was thanked profusely over and over by strangers from around the world for having written my story. I met many wonderful people. I found gratification in unexpected ways. So a balance—of sorts—has been struck. Yes, assholes seem to predominate in our world. But maybe they’re just louder or more annoying than regular people. It turns out that real people with real problems read books and respond to honestly written stories. Thank goodness. I think that’s what will save books, and authors, in whatever form they deliver their goods.

People I know constantly ask how my book is selling and I tell them I have no idea. I don’t look and I don’t ask. My stock answer is that FOUR people have read my book. That’s a joke, of course. But I have never once looked it up on Amazon. One time in the past year I asked my agent. And I instantly regretted it. The numbers were not impressive; they made me feel as though I should have been actively publicizing the book. Instead, I’ve spent the past eighteen months working on the next book when I wasn’t working. There are only so many hours in the day. And I would rather write than try to publicize Good in a Crisis. While I’m proud of it, and I think it’s a wonderful book, I’ve moved on to the next thing.

The holidays are a difficult time of year. In my field, everyone wants to get their elective surgery in before December 31st because their deductible will kick in again in January. You can’t blame them. Our days are crazy right now. Busywork for our malpractice carrier and continuing medical education credits come due, and the obligatory holiday parties pile on top of one another. Christmas shopping and gift giving and wrapping and the usual end of year tallying for businesses all join together to make this a less than festive time. And in the Midwest, the weather settles in for a long dreary spell. So what is there to look forward to?

Personally, I look forward to the New Year and to a happy look back at a particularly good year. I look forward to a time of calm and quiet when I can gather some wool, gather my thoughts, and finally make some progress on that next book. It feels more important to me than the last one. I have something new to say. The lessons learned have given me ideas, and I’ve built on them. Isn’t that how we move forward? By taking on the next project? By learning from what was not quite satisfying enough, and moving beyond it? I think that’s the joy and the job of the New Year. I’m looking forward to it. I have more goddamn character now. And that character has something to say.