Jennifer Hillier

The pressure of expectation

Jul 27, 2011 | Uncategorized

One of my best friends is single, and the one question she hates – but gets asked all the time – is, “Are you seeing anybody?” She still hasn’t come up with a witty answer, because let’s face it, the question sucks. When you’re in your thirties, people expect you to at least be dating somebody. And once you’re dating, they’ll want to know when the wedding is. And once you’re married, when you’re going to have kids. And once you have a kid, when you’re going to have another.

Being single is like being an aspiring author. My first book just came out three weeks ago (so officially, I’m no longer “aspiring”), and although I’m still basking in the glow, the question I’ve been getting several times a day is, “When does your next book come out?” On the one hand, this question causes me great joy, because hey, I’m an author now! People are asking for my next book! But at the same time, it causes me great anxiety, because holy shit, I’m an author now! People are asking for my next book! 

Writing a second book is nothing like writing the first. The first was all about me. Nobody was asking for it. I didn’t have an agent. I didn’t have a publisher. I didn’t have a deadline. The only thing I had was a story I desperately wanted to write, and so I wrote it, for myself, exactly the way I wanted to. And lo and behold, it got published! There is no prouder feeling than seeing that book on shelves, because succeed or fail, that book is the best book I could have written at the time.

With book two, there is a contract. The contract is for a book I haven’t finished yet. I do have a deadline, and now there are all kinds of expectations. It needs to be like CREEP, but better. It needs to be like CREEP, but unique in its own way. It needs to be like CREEP, without being CREEP. Which is hard to do, because I’m in a different place now. I’m no longer writing for an audience of one. I’m no longer writing from a place of desperation. I’m writing from a place of expectation, and that’s an entirely different kind of inspiration, because now I have readers, and they want more.

As writers, we have to get used to this, especially if we want a career. As soon as one book comes out, there will be pressure to produce another. And another. And if you’re a thriller writer like me, that pressure means a book every year, lest you risk losing your audience. That’s the job I signed up for. Rather happily, I might add. Expectations are not a bad thing. On the contrary, it means people are interested, and that’s a good thing.

But I can’t pretend there aren’t days when I still wish I was single.

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