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How To Keep Your Spirits Up
During ~~all this~~
Maybe it’s because I’ve been listening to a lot of self-help audiobooks, (my preferred way to consume this category! Improve your mind AND do the dishes!) but I’ve been thinking a lot about the mental/emotional/psychological side of writing and publishing. I am OBVIOUSLY not a doctor of any kind whatsoever, so this isn’t, like a replacement for therapy if you’re really struggling, (Get help. It’s ok. You deserve to feel better.) but I do have a lot of experience thinking, watching, and dealing with the various emotions writers have—myself including—and I think I have some things to share. I’ve already been doing that here, but I’m thinking about it in a more formal way now.
So, how do we, as writers and people trying to make books, deal with ~~~all this~~~? And what is ~~~all this~~~? All this is whatever nugget of panic resting in your chest right now. It’s the thing you think is getting in your way, stopping you from doing the thing you want to do, whether that is finish the thing, read the book, get the job, get the agent, get the deal, hit the list, whatever. It’s the person who hasn’t written back or read the thing (sorry if that’s me!). It’s the rejection you just got. (Sorry if that was me!) It’s the offer you’re disappointed in. It’s the publicity you think is not coming through. It’s the blurb that didn’t happen. It’s the decision you can’t make.
I am, on the whole, a pretty positive person. In one way, I feel like I have to be or I’ll just crumple in a pile on the floor, but also, I am so practically minded that I can’t justify worrying about things I cannot change. I still do sometimes, but not for too long. I have friends who are so sad about the things we’re missing out on because of the pandemic that they can hardly breathe. I miss movies and friends and restaurants and travel and hugs from people who don’t live in my house too! But I can’t have those things right now. I just can’t. So pining for them just makes me feel bad. So I don’t. When we can have them again, I will be so happy! But for now, I can put that on a shelf and not think about it too much. Is that good? I don’t know! But it helps me get through the day.
But about writing and publishing, there are so many things you cannot control. On the whole, you cannot do anything about the overworked agent with 5 minutes a day to think about queries, when yours is 100 deep in the slushpile. You cannot do anything about the editor with 5 minutes a day to read submissions, and yours 50 deep in the submission pile. You cannot do anything about someone losing their job or moving to a different house or a publisher closing up shop. You cannot do anything about the ever shrinking books coverage media landscape. You cannot do anything about blurbers who are stretched thin and can’t read your book. You cannot do anything about closed bookstores or conservative bookstore orders. You cannot do anything about a global pandemic, outside your own house or community.
You can self-publish, and not deal with most of this, and if you want that, do that. It’s wonderful! You control everything! But not everyone wants that.
You can keep worrying about those things. But worrying will not change any of those things. Most of them you cannot change at all. I’m sorry.
I hope that doesn’t make you panic more! To me, it makes me panic less. If I cannot change those things, then there’s no use worrying about them! You just have to weather them! I’ll go worry about the things I CAN change.
What can you change? Your writing and reading practice, most of the time. SO many factors are in the way of writers getting time to write, systemic racism and the patriarchy, just to name a few, but ultimately, often, at least some of that is in your hands. Only you can do the actual writing and reading. Worry about how to make that more possible in your life, instead of how soon an agent can write back.
You can control how you talk about your book in the world. Do you have one coming out and are you on social media? You can work to discover the right way for YOU (no one else) to talk about your book online, whether that’s directly (BUY MY BOOK) or indirectly (engaging in conversations that bring eyes to you/your subject). No one sees all your tweets. You can tweet BUY MY BOOK 10 times and the average follower is only going to see it like twice. It all counts. It’s all promotion. There’s no one way to do it.
Here are some other things to remember as you go through this process:
A rejection doesn’t mean you or your book sucks. It just means that agent/editor wasn’t right for it.
That rejection this is REALLY REALLY TRUE. It is not just something pat we say to make you feel better.
No one is getting reviews/success/sales/deals/agents AT you. Another’s success has no affect on your own.
The path of one book/submission/deal has nothing to do with the path of another book/submission/deal. Just because one book got A Thing doesn’t mean your next book is doomed if it doesn’t get A Thing, or guaranteed to get A Thing.
Writing is hard and it being hard or harder for you doesn’t mean you’re bad at it.
There is no One Thing that will make or break your book. Seriously. Not a specific cover or release date or 25 offers of representation or a big deal announcement or a having “girl” in the title—none of those things spell success or doom for your book. A book is not One Thing.
It’s going to take a lot longer than you want it to. Yes, you know that person where everything happened in like a week, but that’s was THEIR book and their book is not your book. Their book is not automatically better because that happened! It just happened. Focus on your book.
Take the long view of your work. Everything does not hinge on your one book. What’s your next book?
I’m going to write more about this as I think more about it (publishers, you know where to find me). But really, try as much as you can to approach your work and your publishing journey with calm and perspective (LOL I KNOW.) We all want what we want out of writing these books, whether it’s fame or just paying the rent, a few truefans or millions of readers. The road to that is long. Try to keep your wits about you along the way.
PUB DAY ALERT!
Happy book birthday to Jess Verdi and FOLLOW YOUR ARROW!!!! This swoony and charming YA is about break-ups and defining your own life and being Very Online and #BiIdentity and you should read it right now! Join Jess and You Should See Me in a Crown author Leah Johnson in conversation TONIGHT March 2nd at 7pm EST on YouTube! Visit bit.ly/FYALaunchEvent to watch!
Stay safe friends. Get a vaccine. Help your friends get a vaccine. Wear your masks.