Friday, March 9, 2012

Happy Writers: You Can't Read The Future

It's an unfortunate truth that none of us really know what tomorrow brings. The funny thing is that, despite all of us understanding this, we all seem to try anyway.

I do this far more than I want to admit, and it usually comes in the form of assuming NOTHING will EVER CHANGE. I use all caps because I tend to think this falsehood with a ridiculous amount of drama. And it applies to my whole life, even when I know it's not true. Like if I have a cold, on day two of sore throat and cough and sniffles I'm always like, "This will NEVER end! I will be sick FOREVER and I hate being sick WHY is the universe doing this to ME????"

Sounds pretty stupid, right? It totally is. And yet every time I get sick, I do this. Even when I know I won't be sick forever. Even when I know it's not that bad. Even when I know 100% that I'm being irrational.

Here's a few things I've said to myself over my years in pursuit of publication that were equally as silly:

"I will never finish this book."

"I will never get this book right."

"No one will ever notice me or care about my writing."

"I will never get an agent."

"I will never sell a book."

"I will never get another book deal."

"I will never win awards or hit the list or make back my advance or get blurbs or good reviews or fan sites or whatever-else-I-feel-like-whining-about-currently."

Why do I always base the future on my present circumstances? I don't know the answer to that question, but I do it pretty frequently.

I remember vividly when I was querying and then going through submissions to publishing houses. My outlook was directly influenced by the last few responses I'd gotten. If I had a couple requests from my query, I'd be all, "I AM GOING TO BE A BESTSELLER THEY LOVE ME." Two rejections later it would be, "I AM NEVER GOING TO SELL ANYTHING I SUCK." When I was on sub, if an editor rejected because "they didn't connect with the characters" or "they didn't see a place for it in the market" or "it started too slow" or "it started too fast," I would automatically assume every other editor out there thought the same thing. I was doomed. FOREVER.

But the truth is—You do not know what's going to happen in the future.

My book is debuting in paperback. Does that mean all of my books will? I don't know. My book is a standalone. Will all my books be standalones? Will I only write in one genre? Will I stay with the same publisher? Will I sell more books? Will people even LIKE my books? Will I be in this pre-debut stasis forever and ever? No, of course not. Things can change overnight. OR, in most people's cases, they change gradually, until you're looking back and wondering how you even got to where you are when it felt like you never would.

I feel that way a lot now, remembering the long hard journey that was my five years querying and being on sub. I look back and wonder how I even survived. How I got here. But there's one thing I know for sure—I never would have guessed it would turn out like it did.

We all want to find reasons for why things happen the way they do. I think writers especially want to, since stories are built on such things. But sometimes there aren't reasons. Why did it take me five years and another author only two? Why is that book being published and not mine? Why did that agent love this book but rejected mine? Sometimes the frustrating truth is the good ol', "Just because."

Try not to let the whys and the what-ifs get you down. They are so far out of your control it will only drive you crazy to try and answer those questions. Just remember that the future, no matter how bleak today seems, can still be bright. A rejection today doesn't mean one tomorrow. Failure now doesn't mean failure always. And good things work the same way—they can go away, too. None of that means your dreams won't happen. If you keep going, one day you'll be looking back at the long road you've traveled, marveling at how far you've come...

...and how far you still have to go.

16 comments:

  1. Oh the future... it is rather frustrating.

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  2. This is so true, and a lovely reminder. Thanks Natalie!

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  3. So often the future turns out far better than I imagined... so I'm really glad I don't get what I expect. Life has been better to me than I'd hoped for!

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  4. Very hopeful - I concur. Nothing is certain... but then again, nothing is static, either. Things change. Thanks for this post.

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  5. You know what, I'm glad your book is coming out in paperback! I don't know a lot about publishing, so maybe that sucks?? I don't know, but if I'm standing at the bookstore, wanting to buy ANOTHER book that I can't really afford, I'm probably going to have to purchase a trade paperback. Nine times out of ten. I think more young girls have trade paperback budgets. Also?? I like holding and reading paperbacks better. So, yay!

    I loved this post. I do the same thing to myself, reading your journey has been inspiring. :)I wish I could learn to start appreciating the "now". Thanks for the reminder.

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  6. Replies
    1. Lol. Ditto.

      Love what Hannah's mom always tells her too. (See comment below.)

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  7. I definitely needed this today. It reminds me of something my mom always tells me when I start to worry about stuff that hasn't even happened yet.

    "Yesterday is in the past, and tomorrow may never come. Worry about today."

    And on that note, I better get back to my edits. Thanks for the pep talk and the spur to keep going. I'll definitely keep this post in mind today when I feel like throwing in the towel. :)

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  8. So glad I'm not the only who hears the conflicting, "it starts too fast" vs "it starts too slow."
    Great post.

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  9. Thank you, as always, for the comfort, validation & encouragement. This week I've been in one of those dark slogs. Finished major revisions on one novel and sent it out. In the long waiting game on a bunch of short story submissions. Sent out another ms to some beta readers - got feedback from one and silence from 2 others. I hate this part, when the things you pour your heart into are out there in the cold world all alone and you don't know anything about their fate and one minute you're proud of them and the next you think you were completely deluded to believe anyone else would give a damn. Meanwhile, you're supposed to pour energy and soul into something new that you know will eventually have to be set adrift on the sea of waiting. Bleh.

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  10. I feel it's less the case that there aren't reasons and more the case that the reasons are so complex, and our interests and attentions so narrow, that we seldom wholly appreciate what is happening. I try to keep an open mind about opportunity and failure. Discouragement is easy, but there is more potential to life.

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  11. What a great post! I've just been feeling that about the sick thing . . . but okay, okay, I'll get better. Really.

    And I'm just like you . . . my writing confidence definitely varies depending on what I got in my query in-box that week. :)

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  12. Such a terrific post! I needed to hear this one today.

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