Name That Feeling
the worst game show ever
I couldn’t write this newsletter yesterday. I couldn’t do much more than monitor my email and read twitter and donate money to various abortion funds. I’m feeling a little better today now that the rage has simmered down some, but also, it’s my birthday. I’m 43 today. That’s old enough to realize that feelings are just feelings1 and it matters more what you do.
Feelings aren’t just feelings as in they don’t matter, because they do matter, greatly. But feelings aren’t everything. They aren’t insurmountable. They are overwhelming and all-consuming and very distracting but that doesn’t mean they are forever. How you feel this very minute won’t be how you feel in an hour or tomorrow2. You can’t banish your feelings (believe me, I’ve tried) and unfortunately, the primary way to deal with them is to feel them. It is very inconvenient!!!! Frankly, I would prefer not to. It is necessary, however, to feel things so you can feel and do other things. This will not be a just get over it!! tough love post, nor will it be a self-care you go girl overly-huggy post. But it will be somewhere in between. Because if I’ve learned anything in the lat 43 years is that things are usually somewhere in between.
These things apply to writing and publishing, too, of course. But also <gestures at world.>
What do you do when you are overwhelmed by your feelings?
First: name your feeling.
This can be tricky! Sometimes we’re mad when we’re really sad. There are probably real therapy/psychology-words here that are relevant, but I am just a literary agent, so you should not take this as like, you know, a mental health evaluation. There are some really common feelings associated with trying to write and/or be a person with a publishing career. You may think you’re mad that the query process is so tedious and arcane, but may really be anxious about having strangers read your work. Or both! It’s never one thing. The important part is to drill down on what you’re really feeling so you can name it and possibly address it. It might take a couple tries. Journal, make a thousand voice memos, give your feelings to a character, tell a friend, whatever works for you. But poke around to the bottom of things, so you know what you’re dealing with. It’ll help.
Unfortunately, you have to feel your feelings.
It is bullshit I know!!!! It would be much more convenient to just not!!!!! But those feelings will rear their ugly head at some point, so you might as well get it over with. I can’t promise it’ll be short, easy, or fun, but after you name your feelings, it’s best to get on with the feeling of them. Maybe it means taking a day off (if you can) or phoning it in on some chores for a bit or making do with breakfast for dinner or putting down the hard book and picking a lot of pleasure reading or going to bed early or watching (more) dumb TV or deleting twitter from your phone or whatever ever it is that gives you the space you need to just feel the damn thing. This is not a quick fix, but it’s a start. Unfortunately, I have not found a way to skip over this part.
I hate to inform you but moving your body helps.
This is even more bullshit!!!! I hate that the simple things actually work!!! It is so annoying!!!!!!!!! Take a walk or stretch your muscles or whatever suits your ability level best. You will hate it for like the first five to ten minutes. You will be this meme:
But then you will feel a little better. If you can get outside, do it. Sit by a window if you can. You don’t have to run a marathon. You don’t have to do anything physically ~~productive~~. Just move however you can. I’m sorry, but it works.
OK, Kate but what about writing-specific stuff?
Oh, because this is a writing newsletter? Right. Yes. Writing! Publishing! Agents! The number one thing to remember when you are feeling overwhelmed by feelings related to your book or writing or agent or lack of agent or upcoming release or marketing plan or whether or not XYZ thing is going to happen, is that one thousand other people have also felt this way in the last twenty-four hours. Like yesterday, someone else was feeling the exact same way you were and tomorrow someone else will, too. This doesn’t mean that something is wrong with publishing/writing/etc that must be fixed so no one ever feels this way again! (Or, that is possibly true, but unlikely to come to pass.) It means that you are not alone, that your feelings are normal, that they will pass or morph or change or evaporate. I don’t know about you, but knowing others are going through or have gone through or will go through the same thing I have makes me feel less alone. It is also NORMAL to have MANY, MANY feelings about the publishing process and almost none of those feelings are wrong. It’s ok to be nervous. It’s ok to be anxious. It’s ok to be mad. It’s ok to be scared. It’s ok to feel uncertain. Everyone does. I’d be more worried if you didn’t feel at least one of these things than if you felt all of them. Feelings can definitely be an indicator that something is wrong with publishing (I assure you things are wrong with publishing) but the goal is not the eradication of feelings in relation to publishing.
We all feel these things and we keep going anyway. We keep writing and reading. We keep talking to friends and other authors and our readers and community to get support or cheerleading or commiseration when we need it. There is no magic combination of book + agent + publisher + advance + marketing plan + accolade that makes all the feelings go away. You will still have lots of feelings even if you have a perfect version of all those things. So what you can do is feel your feelings, face them, get help when you need it, and know they will always be there with you, in some way or another. Make them your old friends. Oh Anxiety, you again. Ok, have a seat. Let’s get this over with.
Thanks for reading, friends. If you want to get me a birthday present, please tell a friend about this newsletter. It’ll make both of us feel good.
I am very much talking about run of the mill, common, manageable feelings here. If your feelings are not manageable, please reach out to your support community, doctor, or local aid organization.
Mental Health disclaimer number 2! Get help if you need help! Your mental health is important! You deserve it!