Since becoming a published author, I have a new category of complaints in my life. They all come under the heading of Nice Problem to Have.
It goes like this. I whine, “I’ve got two books due in the next couple of months.” You: “Nice problem to have.”
Me, “I’m spending all my time answering fan emails.” You: “Nice problem to have.”
I say, “I’m running out of ways to murder people.” You: “Nice problem to have. And please shut up.”
So let me say it first. This post is about a – all together now - “Nice problem to have.”
The Launch party for Wild Goose Chase was held this week. I signed books for two hours straight. This was not a hardship. I loved every minute of it. My fans are sweet and wildly supportive. Proud of me, even. I basked in their smiles and generosity.
But signing books is not the relaxing pastime I’d envisioned when I was daydreaming at the coffee shop, while avoiding writing the middle third of my book. Something happens. A phenomenon that no author, not a fellow Inkspotter or a Sista in Crime or MWA member, warned me about.
Writing on-demand. Dedications. Readers expect you to personalize their book. Be warm, witty. Meaningful, even. At a moment’s notice. With a line of people behind them!
I’d worked out a relevant tagline that would work for 90% of my readers. I’d pre-tested pens. I’d practiced writing my name so it was legible, flowing and distinctive. And then, someone handed me a book, and said, “Write something good. Really good.”
Dedication anxiety set in. My palms began to sweat. My limbic nervous system shut down. The request freezes my brain faster than a Pomegranate Paradise Jamba Juice. My hand moved across the page as if writing, but the tip of the pen hovered six inches above the book as I trolled my now-inaccessible memory. I can’t think of anything interesting to write, and indeed, can’t recall where I know this person from. Oh, we shared a womb? Now I remember you.
And to make matters worse, D.A. (I expect to see an entry in the Dsm any time now) is especially present when you’re writing a dedication to the people who mean a lot in your life. I’d love to write something marvelous. I really would. I want to be sure the person knows how grateful I am for their support, and how much it means to me that they purchased the book. We smile at each other. The book is slid under my hand. Go! I have ten seconds to come with something unique, catchy and funny. Flight or fight response kicks in, and I resist the urge to throw up.
Please forgive me if I signed your book with a dedication that was less than you expected. I meant to say so much more. But it’s hard, people. I’m a writer. That translates to rewriter. I put down words, erase them, start over, find a better way to say that. My critique partners chime in with clarifying language. I get plenty of do-overs. We call them drafts.
Sadly, there’s no delete button on my pen. What I write on a dedication is there for all to see. Forever.
I know, I know. Nice Problem to Have.