A lot of times, when writers talk about the things nobody told them about being a writer, we focus on the unpleasant surprises. This makes perfect sense. After all, we dream of being “real” writers for years and years before we get there. Of course the reality can fail to live up to our spun-sugar fantasies of fame, fortune and adoring pool boys feeding us grapes.
In fact, as I contemplated this month’s topic, I thought of a few of those. Then several things happened to remind me that my life is so different now, in unexpectedly delightful ways. So I decided to concentrate on those things, the wonderful aspects of being a career writer that I had no ability to dream about.
I often joke about stalking writers I love and making them be my friends. It’s only partly a joke, because I have literally done this very thing. More than once. What I didn’t expect was that this would happen in reverse, too. With each new book, it seems other writers seek me out and we connect on these profoundly satisfying levels. I feel like part of a greater community where these amazing writers actually want to know what I think about things – and want to cultivate my friendship. For an introverted girl, having people seek me out – and because of my art, no less! – has been just huge. I’m beyond grateful to have this in my life.
Who knew, right? Especially when you’re coming up as a writer and everyone warns you not to talk to reviewers. Never respond or even look at reviews. But the reviewers out there are the most passionate readers and it’s amazing getting to hear their perspectives. One incredible moment for me at RWA last year was at the Kensington party. I’m not used to being recognized by people I don’t know, though the hats make it easy. I was on my way to the cheese trays (as you do) when two young women ran up to me and said, “Oh my God, you’re Jeffe Kennedy! We LOVED The Mark of the Tala!” It turned out they were two of the reviewers from RT Magazine that voted the book for the June Seal of Excellence and Book of the Year. I really never knew to dream that smart, insightful and professional readers like that would be so supportive of my work. And now I consider them friends. I have a lot of friends who are reviewers and I treasure that interaction. So much so that I recently wrote a blog post about it.
I guess I’m on about the friendships, but wow – I just did not expect to connect with people this way. It might be partly the ever-growing circles of social media, but readers find me in all sorts of corners of the interwebz and say lovely things to me. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to tell stories, but I wasn’t able to conceptualize how richly rewarding it would be to have readers respond to what I write. It’s a crazy awesome and heady sensation, to have my words become part of someone else’s life.
My World Expanding
My world feels so much bigger now, particularly for someone who might not leave her own property for days on end. I have friends across the country I talk to daily, along with ones around the world. I talk regularly to one of my best readers and good friend in The Netherlands. People in France and Malaysia read my books. Absolutely not something anyone told me could happen.
Hot Damn, but It’s Fun!
Sure, writing is a business like any other and it has its downsides. Sometimes it’s a grind. There are parts that I don’t like doing. But, seriously, spending my days making up stories? It’s even better than I imagined. I was recently invited to participate in an anthology (see awesome writer friends seeking me out, above), on a topic/genre I’ve never done before. In brainstorming an idea, it occurred to me that I could finally do a retelling of a fairytale I’d long nursed a fancy for. And it counts as work! I don’t know that I would have tried this, without that stimulation. Now I get to be part of this fun, creative group.
The reality of being a writer might not match our dreams and fantasies, because we just don’t know before we get there. Instead, the real experience can be richly rewarding in surprising ways.
And good surprises are the best kind.