There comes a feeling of anxiety, usually late at night when I'm having trouble sleeping, when I realize that I've opened Pandora's box and there's no closing it again. The toothpaste has been let out of the tube.
I can no longer live in the cozy confines of my brain with my small and friendly social network, my helpful, warm, and lovely cheerleaders who all believe in me and want me to succeed. I love them dearly, and I believe them when they say they like me, but it doesn't quiet those ugly vapors, that paralyzing stage fright, from taking hold from time to time.
We pine so hard to get an audience, so it's a little bit of a bummer that when the audience shows up, all we want to do is cower. Most of the time, knowing large numbers of people are reading your work is exciting. Exhilarating. It's the feeling that keeps you going. But there are some nights when that knowledge is a little like finding out a large group of strangers is rooting through your underwear drawer when your back is turned. I mean, shit, tonight I found that someone had filled in character names and setting info on Under the Scotch Broom's Shelfari page. I have no idea who did that. It was both cool and scary to find, because it means someone has made themselves as intimate with my story as I have.
Now's the time when the judgments are going to start rolling in, and they're not all going to be kind and supportive. Now's the time when I'm going to have the opportunity to be evaluated by the very readers I've worked so hard to reach. And some of them are going to lob rotten fruit at me, and I'll get to decide how much I'm going to believe them or not.
Now's the time when people are going to see that I'm a hack and a fraud. That there is nothing even remotely unique about my voice and talent. I'm an unmemorable middle-of-the-roader that people will forget. I won't be able to erase my stories from their Kindles and pretend like this never happened, either. Even if I swear off writing and take the stuff down from every ebook store out there, people are going to have my work, and they're going to judge me by it.
But that's just the paranoia talking, the ugly cacophony that lives just beneath the happy chorus of joy that happens in my heart when I find a new review or a big chunk of downloads on my sales page. If I keep moving, I don't notice it as much. But if there ever comes a moment of inertia similar to what I've been having the last few days, that's when the doubt starts to trickle in. The certainty that I'm a complete and utter tool, on display for everyone to see.