I am not my book

My debut novel, All Four Stars, is just about two months away from publication.

Its lovely jacket arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago.

All Four Stars full jacket

Its first trade reviews have started to roll in.

The book’s New York launch party is confirmed (please come!), and its Colorado launch party should be set up within the week (please come to that one, too!).

I wrote those last three sentences very carefully. Note that I didn’t say that “my” jacket arrived, or that “I” got reviews, or that I’m planning “my” launch parties. I did that on purpose, because—as I’ve been trying to remind myself daily of late—I am not my book.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m incredibly proud of All Four Stars, and I’m proud of myself for having produced it. I worked on it (on and off) for seven years before it scored me an agent and a book deal. My main character, Gladys, is in some ways a lot like me, and her story is very close to my heart.

But, the book is just something I made. Actually, thanks to the long publishing process, it’s something that at this point I can say I finished making quite a while ago. I’ve written other books since, one of which will come out in 2015 (hooray!), and I’ve got plenty more stories in the pipeline. I’m dedicated to my work, and most of the time I love it, but I try to be careful not to let it be the only thing it my life that can bring me joy or fulfillment. (I succeed at this some days better than others.)

Being a writer is more than just a job. The work we do as writers is often inspired by and bound up in our lives and experiences, so it can be hard to leave it behind mentally even when we’ve left the writing space for the day. And then, when it’s finally time for that work to find an audience, it can feel impossible not to take each and every reader’s reaction personally.

But I’m trying. I’m trying really hard, because the alternative is to let everything in, to believe every contradictory review, and to let them drive me crazy. And as much as my writing is part of me—a big, important part of me—it isn’t all of me.

Since this post has gotten a little heavy, I will leave you with a few lines from one of my favorite musicals, Avenue Q.

There is life outside your apartment.
I know it’s hard to conceive.
But there’s life outside your apartment.
And you’re only gonna see it if you leave.

-From “There is Life Outside Your Apartment” (whose other lyrics, I warn you, contain a delightfully hefty dose of profanity)

Over the next couple of months, I may have to make this my theme song (replacing “apartment” with “book”…or, better yet “first novel,” for the sake of meter). As much the debut process will surely try to take over my existence, I know that there is a life outside of it, a “me” who is not her book—and for the sake of sanity, I’m going to make sure to keep her around.

Tara DairmanTara Dairman is a novelist, playwright, and recovering world traveler. All Four Starsher debut middle-grade novel about an 11-year-old who secretly becomes a New York restaurant critic, will be published on July 10, 2014 by Putnam/Penguin.

Find her online at taradairman.com, and on Twitter at @TaraDairman.


Filed under Advice, Advice - Helpful or Otherwise, Anxiety, Happiness, Helpful or Otherwise, Launch, Panic

19 responses to “I am not my book

  1. True and true. Maybe we need to get temporary tattoos of “I am not my book” made up to pass out to all author friends. “Apply to forehead after lousy reviews or other tremor inducing events. Look in mirror.”


  2. The Avenue Q lines ring true. And thanks for a post that I know I will refer to as I move forward in this process. It has been so great to read posts from you and the other fellow EMU Debuters. So much wisdom!


  3. Lindsey Lane

    Oh my, yes. Well done and well said. It is so hard not to mash up our identity with our books. Thank you so much for these words of wisdom.


  4. Sweet Cow in Louisville has cinnamon chocolate back. Life outside your first book. Just sayin’.


  5. Pingback: Over at Emu’s! | tara dairman

  6. Sage words. Thanks for the reminder.


  7. “But I’m trying. I’m trying really hard, because the alternative is to let everything in, to believe every contradictory review, and to let them drive me crazy. And as much as my writing is part of me—a big, important part of me—it isn’t all of me” This is so wise, and I hope I can follow in your footsteps. And I don’t think this is too heavy at all – I love hearing what people are really feeling as they go through this process, because it reminds me I’m not alone. Thanks, Tara.


  8. Oh, Tara, I love this. How wise to find this grounding before the book officially releases. Like Megan, I plan to refer to this often as my own debut nears release. Brava!


  9. Love this! Great advice, Tara, and I hope to make it to your NYC launch par-tay!! Woot! xo


  10. Awww, I love this post! Full of truth and good advice.


  11. Rebecca Van Slyke

    While you are not your book, you ARE truly a FOUR STAR writer! (Or maybe FIVE stars!) I’m halfway through the book, and is it ever delicious!


  12. Pingback: I am not my book… Or am I? | EMU's Debuts

  13. annbedichek

    This is such a fabulous post! And I love that you’ve given debut authors a theme song to sing when dealing with bad reviews and the like. I can picture this being sung very loudly at times!


  14. Reviews are only that. Some are helpful, while others crush. Be strong and best wishes on your novel.


  15. I’ve been working on my story so long that I sometimes wonder about this. Is this story the only one I have in me??? I have to remind myself that I have lots of other ideas swimming around.

    Thanks for the insightful and encouraging post! Especially as I’ve just sent said story to many readers for feedback. ::chews nails:::


  16. Wise, wise, wise. You’re well on your way toward getting through launch with your sanity intact. 🙂


  17. Pingback: I am not my book… Or am I? | Laurie Ann Thompson

  18. Pingback: Time to take the next step | EMU's Debuts

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