Tuesday, November 10, 2009

You Never Stop Being You

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.


  1. Okay, this post just makes me happy!

    The other day I said to my husband, "If I ever become an entitled, arrogant writer, it is your responsibility to smack me down." He said, "It will never happen. Success won't make you 180."

    It's nice to hear somebody else say that success, or even failure, won't change us. :)


  2. I think I'll print this out and wrap it up for my sons' Christmas gift Natalie. :)
    You are so right. If we aren't happy with what we're doing, no amount of money, fame, fortune, what-have-you, is going to change that.
    Thanks for the reminder.

  3. That starts-with-a-K-and-rhymes-with-Beersten sounds like a smart girl, who is clearly lucky to have you as a friend, as well.

    And it's true, yo. I've thought of doing a post on this but couldn't figure out how to do it and not sound ungrateful. Book deals are AWESOME, but they don't make your kids stop waking up in the middle of every.freaking.night, or fix family problems, or magically bestow endless wealth and solve all of your money stresses, or magically make the words flow perfect from your fingertips upon command.

    But they are totally fun.

  4. Your busting out of the woodwork with fantastic posts lately!! This is me super-impressed: :O

  5. I love this. Thank you for being so humble. Inspirational.


  6. There must be something in the ethers, because there was a thread running from my blog to yours today. :)

    Thanks for the great post and I think it's really wonderful that you have such good friends to travel the writing road with. I'm blessed that way, too.

  7. COOL RUNNINGS says it all: If you're not good enough without it, you'll never be good enough with it. You have to be happy, content, with where you're at in life and let the rest come as it will. Because it always comes. And it's usually far better than you could have dreamed/hoped for, anyway.

    Great post, as always:)

  8. Good post! I think it's hard not to believe that, because getting that book deal is such a BIG THING. However, you're absolutely right! Besides, if I don't really love my writing and love to write then I'm never going to be invested enough to get to that point anyways, so might as well enjoy the journey, eh?

  9. Very good thoughts! They help keep things in perspective. Change does come from within. Thanks.

  10. I recently read a commentary from a very successful YA author who said in many ways, her first published book was the one she enjoyed writing the most. It was before critics and reader response and all of that...when she was writing just for her. If only we could find a way to always write for us and shut all those other voices out.

    But no, it's never enough. Once you're published, you worry about staying published. Or hitting the best-seller list. No matter how high you climb, you're always worried you won't climb higher or you'll be knocked down to the bottom again. It's the same with anything in live, especially artistic endeavors. There's not a "star" in Hollywood who doesn't go through it as well.

  11. I'm so glad I found your blog! This post really spoke to me. I'm a very ambitious person and ambition is all about wanting more, more, more. I've dreamed about getting published since I was a little girl, but I haven't really given much thought to what I'll do if it ever happens. Will I still be me? Is that the finish line? What happens next? I'm discovering a lot of things about myself as I begin this journey for real. I've decided that even if the dream doesn't happen for me, I'm going to keep writing because I love it and it makes me happy. Publishing should only be my cake icing and not the whole cake. Thanks for this post! :)

  12. I just love this. It reminds me of the advice my mom used to give me. She would say, "You're never going to be happy married if you're not happy single." Okay, it was a little more in depth and sagely than that, but that's the gist. And it's so true. The same holds true for any aspect of our lives. We can't expect that getting something will suddenly make us into something we're not. This is a great reminder of that fact. I think eventually, when the time is right, a book deal would be awesome, but I certainly don't expect it to fix any problems or fill any holes in my life.

  13. "In fact, in some ways there is even more pressure to deliver perfection."

    Dude. Summed it up PERFECTLY. It's terrifying. Yet exhilarating. Yet horrifying. Yet happy-making. We just never know what to feel.

    "They're, like, the Positive Squad, fighting the evils of negativity in a town near you."

    Do we get uniforms? I want a blue one.

  14. Sara, you can have blue. I'm guessing Kiersten will call green, so I'll take orange, hehe.

  15. You've become my must-read-every-day. I come over here to see if you've posted and my feed just hasn't come in yet. Imagine my delight when you had. :)

    Thank you for this. It is exactly what I needed right now as I'm planning to embark on a journey toward some ambitious goals.

    Good thing to remember that the JOURNEY is the point.

  16. Wait, are you saying I'm not going to turn into a happy person when my book sells? Aw, crap! :) Awesome post, Natalie. (I call red)

  17. So true. I think there's a happy theme running through the blogosphere today. Ahhh...very nice.

    And Happy Congrats to the Squad!

  18. Well, I needed to read this post.

    I was just lamenting (to myself, mostly) about not being where I want to be as a writer today. It all started when I dared to compare my accomplishments to another writer's, and I thought I fell short. Then, I spent most of the afternoon imagining if that one publication would just accept my recent submission, or an agent would just inquire about that MS I've yet to finish (silly, I know), I'd be validated, for a split second....

    So, thanks for the reminder that a writer's happiness is an inside job!

  19. I agree with Megs- your blog has become one of my must reads too.

    I can't agree more with what you have said in this post.

  20. I was like that. I don't me I got an agent or anything *sigh* but I was gonna be happy when I got my teaching job/tenure/master's degree/engagement ring. Well that, my friend, is a hamster wheel!

    I'm happy now. There's stuff I want to do and stuff I want to accomplish but it isn't in my way anymore.

  21. Lovely post :)

    I have so many irons in the fire in my life, I find there's always at least one iron heating up well and therefore at least one thing to be happy about!

  22. All around good advice. Thanks, Natalie.

  23. Um, this really hit home today. As I've been searching for things these past few weeks, certain Wants have been diminishing. I'll hold to the "be happy where you are and who you are" advice any day.

  24. Beautiful how-to-be happy highly-applicable advice. Thanks for the reminder.

  25. I couldn't have said it any better! Beautiful reminder!!!

  26. "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."

    Yes. A thousand times yes.

    Actually I'm pretty positive and don't hinge my happiness on my career success (though OF COURSE that will make me happy and I want it!) but actually what I find hard is the people around me who sort of hinge *their* happiness on my success. People who think things will be better for me/them/us when I'm a bestseller. I keep trying to tell them not to do that -- to me or themselves -- but it's hard to make them see and believe.


    But thank you for this post. Reading it... felt good.

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