I’ve been thinking about my journey lately, and I can’t really complain. I’ve published three books. I have a sequel in the wings (not until at least 2020, alas). Working full time has definitely slowed my process, but even there, I still have no complaints. I’ve put together a book a year since 2009 plus a handful of extras.
I don’t know how others are doing, but things seem to be going cautiously well for me. I feel like that’s a somewhat controversial statement in our current political climate, my home state going through disaster after disaster, and the actual climate, but things are okay. I know it’s crazy to say, but I have finally sorted out something big.
When I first started writing and querying, I would always wonder if my writing was “good enough.” I’d get a rejection and it would say something like “sorry to say, I’m passing at this time,” and I would say to myself, “was it the project or was it the writing? Can someone tell me if it’s the writing or the project, please?”
The funny thing there, is that people did. They did say “your writing is great, but not this project.” Agents and editors said this a lot, but it wasn’t enough. It never passed through my thick skull. I always assumed that the agents were just being nice. When I read reviews of my work, I only ever found resonance in the negative, letting it outweigh the good reviews, even though there were more good reviews by a factor of ten.
The problem for me has always been my own demons, but I feel like I had to go through those things so I could be in this position where I’m writing what I need to write. I’m telling the stories that burn in me, and if I’m not marketable right now, that’s fine. The only thing I can control is the thing I create. Everything else will come, or it won’t. I have no control over editors or agents. I certainly hope I will connect with them through a book, but I can’t control that.
I’ve spent my time focusing on craft. I’ve sought out critiques anywhere I could get them, and bit by bit, I’m starting to understand how much I have sought agents and editors for validation of my writing. I can definitively say, that’s the wrong approach. If my words are finding fertile ground in your heart, I have another gem that’s finally started to sink through my thick skull: if there is a hole in your heart, no amount of accolades that can fill the hole. No amount of external positive things can actually give you self worth.
I know, this got deep fast, but hear me out. I’d been using publishing as a way to fill something inside me that was empty and broken. Publishing couldn’t fill that hole. At first it felt like it did, but as time went on, it became increasingly clear that I was playing a shell game with my heart, skipping from good review to good review like I could tie the sinking ship of my heart to the words of a stranger and that could somehow right the ship of my life. Inevitably, each sank as the feeling of joy wore off, and worse, my ship got bigger and heavier so the next positive thing I needed to keep my head above water had to be bigger than the last. It’s a bad cycle.
The truth is, if you don’t feel like enough without an agent or publishing contract, you certainly won’t feel like enough with it. I’ve talked about this before in other IWSG threads, but it bears repeating. It’s something I still struggle with, even as I move forward. So that’s the big one today. (I’m super excited about my current manuscript! I really love this story. It’ll be interesting to see how this next part unfolds.)
Jump on the link, hop over to the Ninja Captain, Alex, and say hi to this month's co-hosts: J.H. Moncrieff, Tonja Drecker, Patsy Collins, and Chrys Fey!