Technically the term is "in print." I've been published for awhile, and that's not even counting Tiny Talks.
But whatever. Let's not quibble about technicalities.
So, how does it feel to have my first novel in the hands of readers?
It feels . . . like a lot of things all at once: panic, euphoria, pure disbelief, worry, smugness, exhaustion, relief, nostalgia, confusion, awe, and that uncomfortable feeling you get when you realize you've been humming along to your iPod in public but no one else can hear the music.
I'm not sure I've ever been through a more emotional week than the past one has been. Not because I've been particularly sad or happy or any of that. But my emotions keep fluctuating like crazy. One second I'm totally proud of myself, and then two seconds later I'm cowering in sheer terror over the fact that people can read my words now.
And not just my blog words. That's one thing. These are my fiction words. I made up this whole other world, and I'm kind of in love with it, but it's been mine and mine alone for a really long time. It's been my secret hideout, you know? And now it's like I threw open the gates and invited everyone into my own personal Disneyland.
Except it probably doesn't look like Disneyland to other people. I'm honestly not sure what it looks like because I lost the ability to be objective about it ages ago.
But okay. Here's another weird thing I realized in the past few days: from this point on, anyone new that I meet will never get to know the old Heidi. More than turning thirty, more than graduating from college, more than becoming a professional editor even, more than all that stuff—publishing my first novel has forever altered my personal identity. It's odd. I feel like I have more to live up to now somehow.
And I also feel like I'm going to have a harder time convincing people that I'm really a mess. From the outside, publishing a book makes it look like you've got it all together. But I don't. Really.
I don't know what I'm doing with my life. I don't have it all figured out. I don't even know what I want to be when I grow up. I'm taking this whole thing one day at a time and crossing my fingers and toes that I'll come out of it a better person somehow.
But I certainly don't feel like I'm the most creative person I know. Far from it. And I don't feel like I'm the best writer I know. I'm definitely not. I don't even feel like being published is that big of a deal. Except that it is. I sort of know that still, deep down. I guess I've lost the ability to be objective about this too.
So when I can't think straight anymore, I do the only thing I can do—I keep writing. Book 2 is currently 34028 words long. I wish it were longer. I'm not as far into it as I wanted to be by this point. Oh well. It'll come. If nothing else, this whole experience has taught me that I write books—a fact I was unsure about even up until last week. But now that I've done it once, I know I can do it again.
And when I forget that, I'll look at the stack of my books that's currently sitting on my dining room table and say to myself, "Look. You did that."