I was chatting with a friend yesterday (her name starts with a K and rhymes with Beersten), and something really interesting came up between the jokes about boys in skinny jeans (Seriously, teen boys, STOPthisyoulooklikeGIRLS!) and book brainstorming (I finally have cute orange VW van guy's name! wee!).
Basically, you never stop being you.
If you haven't noticed, many of my friends have been seeing some serious success as of late. Book deals. Agents. Getting bumped up a year. Blurbs. Visits to New York. It's totally crazy stuff—stuff that many an author dreams about on an hourly basis. I am in awe of it all, that I even have any part in it. I feel lucky and blessed and sometimes even undeserving.
I think writers sometimes imagine that when they get insert-major-accomplishment-here they'll finally stop worrying. Or finally be happy. Or change the way they view their work. Or whatever. As if getting an agent or publisher or hitting the bestseller lists or receiving awards will fix whatever they want fixed.
I know I thought that at one point. My dreams turned into phantoms, bringing me more pain than anything else. Sometimes Wanting can be poison, and it taints every accomplishment because nothing is ever enough. Wanting is not just a writer thing; it's a human thing. Unchecked Wanting can be dangerous because it gives you this illusion that Getting will make things better. And in the mean time, you withhold your own happiness for no good reason.
But here's the thing—my friends' successes have not changed how they act or feel. Getting an agent didn't transform them all into happy, perfect writers. Getting book deals didn't stop them from worrying about the quality of their work. In fact, in some ways there is even more pressure to deliver perfection.
I'm not saying all these accomplishments mean nothing. Please don't think that. And I'm definitely not saying that my friends are unhappy—because they are the funnest, most grateful, happy people I know. They're, like, the Positive Squad, fighting the evils of negativity in a town near you.
I guess I'm just saying they were like that before, too. Of course we've all had our low points and struggles—hard times are unavoidable. But it's all about your attitude. If you aren't happy now, getting an agent or book deal or whatever isn't going to change that in the long run. You'll just Want something else and withhold your happiness until you get that. If you are critical of your work now, having validation won't stop you from picking apart your words. If you hate revision now, working on them with an editor won't make them fun.
Okay, that might sound a little depressing. Oops. Let me spin it the nice way, too. If you love your characters, endless revision with an editor won't change that. If you truly want to be a professional writer, all the hard parts that come with that won't stop you. If you choose to be happy now, you will be happy in the future.
You never stop being you. And if you do want to change, that ultimately comes from inside, not from Getting want you've been Wanting.