“Oh dang it, Mimi. Can’t you blog about something happy just once?”
Now, now, five of you reading this but mostly my mother, calm down.
I know this headline might have you believe that I’m about to throw a pity party for myself with a big ol’ sad piñata, but that’s not the case. I don’t even have the kind of confetti needed for that sort of thing, OK MOM.
Really I’m just here to process, as always, the strange and challenging parts of my life on a page that I will upload to the internet so that everybody else can look at it and not me. Because that’s how this whole thing works, mmkay? Which leads me to…
Truth #1) You are going to fixate on all the weird shit in your head until you put it on paper (or in my case, word doc).
It’s not an exact science, but authors are really just creative lunatics hidden under a bunch of trench coats and fancy detective pipes.
We have one million ideas a day (not unlike the everyday person), except our thoughts become full-blown screenplays, memoirs, and novellas. It’s exhausting, if you ask me, which you didn’t, but anyway.
When an author truly relieves themselves on the page it’s like inhaling a really good candle, or peeing after you’ve been holding it in for a whole day.
If this sounds like a lot to process then…
Truth #2) You better get yourself some damn therapy.
I went to therapy one time. OK a few times. It was in 2016 at the start of my second year of teaching and I was in a particularly tough spiral downward after a breakup. I remember going in the first visit and having to answer these questions on a little electronic block about how much alcohol I drank and if I was attempting to jump in front of a bus anytime soon.
I kind of felt like therapy was something other people did. Messed up people. But sure enough the second I sat on “the couch” I burst into tears about approximately one billion things that were flying around in my broken head.
I told the nice lady about my book that wasn’t really a book yet and that I was really traumatized still by being in a classroom and by the time I left for New York City I don’t even think we skimmed the surface of all my B.S.
And that’s OK. Because someday I’m going to have a grown up job with grown up healthcare and that will be the very first thing on my list of awesome grown up things to accomplish.
Truth #3) You are going to bankrupt yourself on your first book release.
The images you had of swimming in bathtubs of all the money you’re about to make from your best-seller turned Hollywood blockbuster can stay safely tucked inside that delusional brain of yours because that’s just not gonna happen.
In fact, you will be spending your own money, and a lot of it. So much so that you will have to start a GoFundMe page* and frantically bother every single person you know to donate to your extravagant book launch party.
Did you really need that mac and cheese food truck? Yuh know what, no, you did not. But nobody gets mad at a bride for picking a three-story wedding cake shaped like the statue of David, OK?
You enjoyed the fuck out of those three bites of mac and cheese that you inhaled in between signing 100 books back to back to back to back…
*Thanks again everyone who donated! I thought about sending each one of you individualized thank you cards but then I got really overwhelmed and didn’t….so THANKS!
Truth #4) You are now a salesperson.
Surprised? Oh yes, I bet you are. Skills you don’t really possess, like convincing someone to purchase an intimate story about your life, will now be entirely necessary if you plan on selling any books at all.
Me: “Hey there! Would you like to look at this story I wrote about my miraculous recovery from a traumatic brain injury?”
Lady: “Oh, that’s nice. I was kind of looking for a cookbook though.” *walks away*
What am I gonna do? Follow her around the damn Barnes and Noble and continue to shove my little blue-green cover in her face? That’s just not my vibe, yo.
It was the vibe, however, of the other author I was sharing the signing with on the opposite side of the store. He’d shout “WHO’S YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR?” and point his finger at his book aggressively until that person walked toward him, which I guess is one way to go about annoying the shit out of everyone you meet. To his disappointment, three of my friends walked through that entrance and immediately said “MIMI HAYES.” He pointed sadly to the other side of the store, “She’s over there…”
He may have been the more aggressive salesperson. But I have friends. Speaking of which…
Truth #5) Your friends and family won’t leave you Amazon Reviews.
Now I know about nine of you are like, “HEY I LEFT YOU A REVIEW” and I am so happy that you love me on that level. But the truth is, even your closest friends (and even your Mom!) might not get around to that glowing 5-star review in time for you to not lose your shit every time you refresh your Amazon page.
Why do reviews matter? Well, if you’re me, your book is about something very personal and traumatic that you oddly chose to share with the entire world with an accessible bookstore or WiFi connection. This means that every time you see a nice paragraph about your work, your art, you feel so happy and full that you could die in that moment and be totally OK with that.
The inverse is also true because when you don’t get reviews, especially from your friends, you interpret that as your friends not caring, which you know isn’t true but it still stings your mushy human organs. “I can’t believe they don’t even bother, it’s a paragraph, how hard can it be?!” Well, time for a reality check tootsie roll because…
Truth #6) Your book is not the most important thing in the world.
I know, I know. This is a hard pill to swallow, you literary genius! Just because you spent four whole years hiding in dark corners of coffee shops and scribbling chapter headings on note cards and tacking them all over your apartment like a literal sociopath, doesn’t mean anyone else is going to give a damn.
Now that’s not to say your mother won’t call you a, AND I QUOTE, “powerhouse” over the phone on multiple occasions.
That’s not to say your best friend won’t follow you around at your book signing and snap candids of you penning your John Hancock all over a stranger’s book.
But you must understand that this is your life. And everyone else has their own life which probably doesn’t include you pretty much most of the time.
You are allowed to be proud of your work and it feels really great when others express that too, but sit down, stay humble, Kiddo.
Truth #7) Your publicist is (probably) dead.
Contrary to what the movies may have lead you to believe, publicists are not snatching at the back of your ratty coattails looking for every opportunity along the way for you to make it big. In fact you’re not entirely sure what your publicist’s name is because they only emailed you that one time over a year ago and you kind of haven’t heard from them since.
Truth #8) Everything you get, you will work for.
Due to Truth #7, you’re going to have to work extra hard to get any attention for your book. You will call up magazine editors, cold-email conventions to speak at, and haul a suitcase of your own books to a signing at a Barnes and Noble that you asked for and nearly didn’t get because the other author was booked months before and they didn’t order your books in time.
You are going to appear on local TV channels and interview with international radio stations not because of someone else, but because of you.
Truth #9) Everyone is going to underestimate you.
If you got paid in the amount of times people asked you if you’re self-published you’d be a god damn millionaire by now.
This isn’t to say that self-publishing is shameful. It’s actually probably way easier to navigate than traditional publishing. But the assumption underneath “you’re self-published, right?” is that surely you couldn’t have a legitimate publisher, because that’s incredibly hard to do.
Everyone thinks it’s cool that you wrote a book, but few people will piece together the fact that you built everything you’re standing on.
It won’t be until you fill a gallery full of your closest friends and family during your launch that people will start voicing their surprise at your work ethic and commitment to finding the best mac and cheese food truck in the Denver Metro.
“Wow, I had no idea,” they’ll say as you squiggle your name on their book nonchalantly like you didn’t just sell your first unborn child for that food truck back there.
As annoying as this can be, especially while you’re putting in all the backbreaking work to an audience of none, this will actually play out in your favor down the line as you become a walking cliché underdog narrative.
Truth #10) You are going to lose friends in the process.
Somewhere down the line of writing your first book, you’re going to start a separate file called “Acknowledgements” thanking all your friends and family for supporting you during this whole grueling ordeal. You’ll list as many people as your editor will allow and include exactly how those people helped you get this stupid word document made into a full-blown book.
After the book comes out, you’re going to notice that a few of your friends in that very word document are not responding to your text messages and phone calls anymore, which makes you the saddest schmuck ever.
You’ll text them some more, leave a slew of teary voicemails, and eventually write and publish a whole think-piece about one said ex-friend which she will probably never see anyway but at least you let some shit off your chest for a second until the next friend inexplicably dips out of your life.
The good news is, the ones that stick around are fucking awesome and will never stop supporting your crazy ass no matter what you do.
Truth #11) Even though being author feels like being on a roller coaster with a broken off-switch most days, you wouldn’t choose any other job in the world.
Why 11 Truths? Because 11 is an extremely frustrating number.
And you’ve closed your eyes at 11:11 PM and wished for Michael McToddferson, (or whoever the hell you’re obsessing about at the current moment) to kiss you for no damn reason in math class tomorrow too many times with zero positive outcomes to have any respect for the number eleven.
But more importantly…
On days when you’re knee deep in a sticky chapter rewrite or hammering your head against a wall because you can’t seem to focus on a single manuscript for more than five minutes at a time, you’ll flash back to that little windowless classroom.
You’ll see a fleeting image of you crying in the teacher’s lounge in between classes or stepping in the world’s largest wad of gum while simultaneously slamming your toe on the corner of a desk and you’ll think, “I’m so glad I’m not back there.”