I’ve been in the throes of that delusion. If you’re a writer, you know the one, they’re almost all the same.
There I am imagining that the first time an agent sees my almost ready query bait, they’ll swoon with love for my awesomeness. I’ll hit send on my queries, and I’ll instantly get five (seriously, I can’t handle the idea of more than five active queries at a time, what a nightmare) requests. One of the agents will fall instantly in love with the manuscript and call to offer representation. (In my delusions, this part happens at the same time I’m defending my dissertation, but that’s just my own personal delusion. Should I ever get THE CALL, I’m sure I’ll be doing something entirely inappropriate for phone answering, like going to the bathroom, or changing a poopy diaper, or waiting in line at the Post Office). After the first offer of representation, I inform the others, and then they all offer representation. (Ah, the delusions are so much fun sometimes).
After picking Agent Fabulous—oh yeah, in my delusion, agent fabulous and I are like super awesome best friends—she doesn’t even want to change much in my manuscript, just a couple of typos (I’m dyslexic, there’ll be some typos). Agent Fabulous submits my manuscript and sells my book in a pre-empt to a major publishing house.
Oh, but that’s not all, my delusions are nothing if not thorough.
That house loves my manuscript soooo much, they decide to bump me up in their print schedule (I’m sorry, it took me a while to come back to my keyboard after laughing so hard, “move up in the schedule” how sweet). And then after it hits the shelves, it lands on the NYT Bestseller list instantly and has a lengthy stay, one so long the NYT decides to add a new category just so other books can be at the top of their list.
Ah isn’t that a fun delusion?
*sigh* I love having that daydream, but then it’s usually followed by another daydream—well daymare perhaps is a better term.
There I am, I’ve written the world’s greatest novel. I query for it, and I don’t get any requests. I revise, no requests. I rewrite: no requests. I trunk the novel in favor of my next novel. I get a day job I hate because I know success is just around the corner. I query the next novel, but no requests. I revise, no requests. I rewrite, no requests. I write the next novel, and start querying it, but after years and years and years of following the process—my dreams crushed into a fine paste perfect for topping muffins—I never ever publish. And worse, I know exactly why I don’t publish: I’m just not good enough. I have no talent. Everyone has just been sweet to me, telling me that they loved my work. My mother, no matter how much she liked it never could be trusted. It was all a delusion, every scrap of it, just like my dreams of being on the next US women’s soccer team (I was 16, and no I wasn’t close) or making the US Olympic team in swimming (I was 12, and no I wasn’t actually that good), or making the US Team in fencing (I went to nationals, but even that wasn’t very close). I’ve failed at other things, so why not writing too? I didn’t have enough talent/gumption/will power/drive/whatever in anything else, so why would writing be any different?
And this is why writers are crazy. We have in us these two diametrically opposed daydreams, secret wishes and darkest fears lurking inside us, just waiting for some outside source to confirm one of them. This is why people go crazy with just the littlest amount of reinforcement in either direction, it’s like we’ve quantized our dreams, it’s all or nothing, and then the truth falls short.
See in the first daydream, all doubts about talent, or ability are utterly abolished, and in the second all fears are confirmed. They are the extremes, and in reality, there is nothing so extreme.
The strange thing, is that early on, it feels like any failure, every rejection, means you’re on the second path, not the bestseller. Almost worse though, each new project is like a do over, you get to try on that bestseller dream again.
So here I am, nearing the start of another journey with a new query bait and I have my two dreams, both evil in their own ways. Sure I'm over here hoping for what's behind door number one, but I know better. I've girded the loins and battened the hatches, I'm ready for my rejections storm. All any of us can do is remind ourselves to brace for rejection, but be prepared for success (more on that later).