How Publishing a Novel is Like Completing the Hero's Journey

First, the Thrill

At last, I have held a book I wrote in my hands! I have felt the thrill of completing, and perfecting, and publishing a book, and it is both a miracle and an agony!

But then, all art is.

When I published Halfbreeds three years ago, it was certainly exciting, but ultimately anti-climactic. There seemed little difference between when the book was on my computer and I could email it to someone, and when that someone could purchase an electronic copy through Amazon. But now, what a difference when I can literally hand someone a copy of Trinian!

Then the Fear

I can actually hand a book I wrote to someone. I can even hold it in my own hands! Ahh, that brings a serious, deep, gratifying satisfaction.

Also a little fear.

Both my brother Tim, who edited the book, and myself, admitted that we were a little scared to read it now that it is irreversibly published. After all, what if we opened it and found a bunch of errors, or poor word choices, or flawed sentence structure? We can’t go into the word document anymore, make a few clicks, and solve it. But when I opened that book, it was as if a switch went off in my head. That editing switch that has always been on and operating, since the first moment, 12 years ago, when I began the book, turned off. At long, long last, I can rest in the work. Truly rest for, like Christ proclaimed from the cross, “it is finished.”

Artwork is supposed to reach a conclusion, and mine finally has. There is a giant, 747 page book lying in front of me, and it is mine. It is finished.

And Last, the Disappointment

All I want to do is take my copies and carry them out into the world – take them up and show them off to my friends!

But sadly, I cannot. My anti-climactic moment no longer comes from software and digital products… but from myself. My own flawed, broken body.

I have what is medically considered an incurable disease called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), and while I have learned to accept it most of the time, sometimes it just really bums me out.

Like today.

A side effect of the disease is that, when it’s really bad, excitement ends up draining the victim, and leaving them lying prostrate in bed. After ten years of living with this, I know better than to dance around, laugh too much, or speak a lot, but I can’t control my adrenaline spikes when I am legitimately excited and happy – I mean, who can? That’s a normal, awesome human experience! That spike helps to cement memories in our mind, brings us to appreciate the truly significant moments in life, and connects us to the people who experience it with us. It truly is a wonderful feeling, however, like I said, such a feeling will siphon all the energy from my bones, muscles, and nerves until I can barely lift a finger, and will temporarily leave me almost a vegetable.

While I might be used to it on a normal day, a day like today is tough. It stretches out the steps that would go into selling the novel. It delays showing it to my friends. And ultimately, it puts off sharing the joy. Needless to say, I went a little wild on social media to compensate, and I did a lot of sharing there this evening! But what do we do when the things we put our whole heart and soul into end up being anti-climactic? How do we find the courage to keep creating?

Art is a process with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning is hopeful, the middle is arduous, and the end… well, the truth is, the end isn’t really for the creator.

When the art is completed, it stands on its own. When it no longer needs to be edited, designed, or perfected, it takes on its own nature, and we can only sit back, rest, and appreciate it.

The Hero's Journey

Finishing a novel is like reaching the end of the hero’s journey. In Joseph Campbell’s famous diagram, the hero goes on his quest to find a ‘magic elixir’ which he brings back with him to the ‘normal world.’ Sometimes, on the journey, he might receive a ‘special boon’ which can be a reward for him, but the thing he set out to find in the first place, the elixir, is ultimately not for him. He secures it for the ‘normal world,’ and the ‘special boon’ is only a bonus to that goal.

In the same way, completing our novel is not for us. We did not create it in order to be rewarded, congratulated, or applauded. We created it for our readers, and any ‘special boons’ that come our way are only a plus.

My condition has only served to remind me of this truth. It does not make the truth.

Creating the novel was agony, completing it was joy, and now, experiencing it is a blend of both. I have come to accept that nothing in life is perfect, not even those things on which we hang the entirety of our being, and that that’s ok. For when we have finished pouring ourselves into our creations, those creations take what we have given them, and become their own entity.

Why the Thrill, Fear, and Disappointment are All Worth It

They stand apart, and in the end, it is we who applaud them. And a true creator will see that that is enough; see it as fulfillment, as a true completion of their hero’s journey, no matter what the set-backs were, or what they lost, or what they will live without, and they will dive right back into the next project! No matter if the end is anti-climactic, no matter if letting it go is agony, no matter if your ‘special boons’ seem few and far between – art is always worth it!

So dive with me! If you are a creator, get create – it is your destiny! If you are a reader, or admirer of fine art, or fine music, or photography, then please, keep appreciating! For we create for you. We create in order to fill your world with the goodness that we seek to make. Such creations will always be imperfect, like their creators; but like the persons who created them, they will proceed to shine their own unique light into the world!

4 thoughts on “How Publishing a Novel is Like Completing the Hero's Journey”

  1. Pingback: How Publishing a Novel is Like Completing the Hero’s Journey – The Fairy Tale Blog ~ WISDOM

  2. Your cover art is truly beautiful and congrats on your heroine’s journey! The truth is writing a book, especially with indie publishing, you have to redefine the climax. Some days no one looks at my book–other days I get a little thrill when I know it’s been added to someone’s TBR list or when a purchase is made. Little moments make a whole!

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