Lately I've been hearing the question, "So what does it feel it like to be a published author?"
To which I reply, with an excess of volume, "I'LL LET YOU KNOW IN A MONTH!"
This is because I'm a jerk. Also because I'm nervous and OH MY GOD WHAT IF YOU JUST JINXED ME. (Seriously, I keep having dreams where my editor calls the whole thing off. Tomato, tomahto.)
But there is an Actual Answer to this question, and that is:
It feels the same, but different.
What's the same? For better or worse, the writing process doesn't change. That feeling of What-the-hell-am-I-doing hasn't gone anywhere, nor have the legitimate joys of discovery I sometimes feel at the desk. My insecurities, too, are just as healthy as ever, and the hall of mirrors that is Impostor Syndrome ensures that, should I give them the time of day, they'll never want for sustenance.
Also, I can still mix metaphors with the best of them.
But something's changed. It's like the water level of my ego is higher. I don't mean that I'm walking around like Yeezy all the time; see above and OH MY GOD WHAT IF I JUST JINXED ME. (Seriously. Did I?) It's more like, and excuse the grandiosity but what do you expect from me, the central quest of my life has been accomplished, and while I'll never want for things to worry about, I don't have to worry about that any more.
To a degree that I find a little disturbing, my life has revolved around publication. When I was starting novels but not finishing them, I truly believed it was all about expression, that if I could just get a book out of my head, I'd be at peace. But once that first book was done, it became blazingly obvious that I wasn't going to rest until I figured out a way to get it into the world.
Self-publishing wasn't going to do it. Forgive me, people: I needed the pat on the head.
Between the time I finished Dead Boys and the time I signed that contract, I didn't allow myself to have a birthday party.
That's messed up. I couldn't convince myself I was worth it. I didn't feel like a grown-up. However amazing things were -- and I'm aware of what a lucky son-of-a-bitch I was in all other respects -- I couldn't shake the feeling that I was a failure.
This year, though, I let my wife throw me a party.
We had chicken wings.
That's what publishing a book feels like: chicken wings on my birthday. Nothing Earth-shaking, but after all these years, it sure is nice.