Debuting is hard.
This past year has felt, in many ways, like a crucible of anxiety. There’s so much build-up, so many expectations, and then such detritus left behind when the rush ebbs away. For someone already inclined to fret, this pretty swiftly became a Problem, and so a lot of the past year has been spent learning new techniques for managing my instincts for self-flagellation.
Last week, my extended family was down at the beach for vacation. I hadn’t seen some of them in years, nor any of them since From Unseen Fire came out. They were all so excited for me — after all, they’re the ones who’ve known me my whole life. They remember a precocious child who always had a book with her. They remember the awkward teen who carried her writing journals everywhere, even down to the beach, and who would be off in some daydream if left to her own devices for any amount of time. So more than anyone else, they know how much this meant to me, how long I’d wanted it and worked for it.
Their congratulations and compliments reminded me of something I’d sort of forgotten: I wrote a book, and someone published it, and that is cool. It’s an achievement all on its own! All the other metrics — reviews, sales, all of it — that’s all on top of the initial amazing thing I did. From Unseen Fire’s mere existence is a massive milestone and something I can and should be proud of.
It’s so easy to lose sight of that, especially when a lot of your community consists of other writers. For one thing, publishing a book feels a lot less special when most of the people you talk to on a regular basis have also done it. I know there’s no sense in comparing experiences — especially across social media, where you so often only see the flashy successes, not the quiet strife or submerged failures — but I also can’t help it. So many days just feel like an endless barrage of disappointments: lists I’m not on, events I’m not at, reviews I’m not getting, sales that aren’t what I wish they were, buzz that passes me by. The green-eyed monster is real, not in that I would ever want to detract from the attention other authors are getting, but simply that I want more of it for myself. I ache for this book to be what I dreamed: something people are excited about, something they talk about, something they recommend to others. I want recognition, and I feel like I spend most of my days just begging for acknowledgment from an uncaring universe.
But my family is right. I have a novel, out in the world, and that is incredibly cool. It’s a thing I’ve wanted since I was 11 years old, and it happened.
And there are people who are excited about my book! There are people who loved it. There are even a few people who proselytize about it. Knowing that brings such a warmth to my heart.
Going forward, my goal is to try and be more the girl my family remembers, toting a writing notebook everywhere and creating stories because it pleased her to do so. I need to get the rest of the world out in my head, which is another challenge of the debut year. You go for so long with a limited number of people seeing what you’ve created, and then all of a sudden, anyone’s allowed to have an opinion about it — and to voice that opinion, not always kindly. Even well-meant comments have a way of burrowing into the back of my skull, making me second-guess myself and my story. I need to clear that fuzz out of my brain and get back to writing for the sheer joy of it. I have a team to help me sort it out from there.
Debuting is hard, and I have no idea how people get through it if they don’t have a solid support system in place. I’m fortunate enough to have a large network of friends and family to cheer me on, and I’m incredibly grateful that I also got to be a part of the Debutante Ball. Lara, Kimmery, Julie, and Kaitlyn have become invaluable friends to me over the past year, and I know we’ll be staying in touch as we move into the sophomore phase of our writing careers.
I want to wish the very best of luck to the 2019 Debs as they begin their anna mirabilis et terribilis. It’s going to be a wild ride. Hold on tight, and try to keep your eye on the ever-fixed mark: You are going to have a book published, and that is awesome.
From Unseen Fire is available in hardcover, ebook, and audio, and will be released in paperback on April 23rd, 2019! If you’ve read From Unseen Fire, would you be so kind as to leave a review on Amazon?
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