Well, “Here” is where I am: waiting for an editor to make an offer on my first book.
My brilliant agent has carefully selected specific editors, then pitched my manuscript in a way that accurately represents both me and the story.
And now we wait. Now we hope. Now
we I eat bowls and bowls of Chocolate Chex cereal and get snippy at my husband for things that aren’t his fault. Now I forget to write important meetings on my calendar yet I show up for dentist appointments I don’t have. Now I feel simultaneously tired and like I have just snorted and mainlined and smoked Arabica roast. Have I snorted coffee grounds? Maybe I have and just didn’t realize it.
Even better, The Doubts take this opportunity to throw loud and raucous parties in my head. They invite all of their friends and cousins and colleagues and yell, You’ll never get published! and Your book’s totally lame, and so are you! and Hey Big Butt, lay off the Chocolate Chex!
It’s good times at Casa Callender. Indeed, I’d like to be some place else other than Here. I’d like to be There. Or Over There. Even Way the Heck Over There would be better than Here.
But alas, I know, from the stories of other writers, Here is a place where I need to become comfy. If I’m going to stay in the biz, I might as well kick off my shoes, hang up my coat, and make myself a chocolate sandwich, hold the bread.
Why? Because being a writer’s a whole lot like being a human: there are really great days and really lousy days. There will be times (finishing a chapter, finishing a novel, getting an agent, getting another agent when your first agent leaves agenting, getting a book deal) when we are certain that being a writer is the best gig ever.
There will be other times (when your first agent leaves agenting; when you can’t figure out how to end your novel; when you start to believe The Doubts are right; when your publisher ignores you; when your publisher drops you) when we are certain that being a writer is the worst possible endeavor.
We may love to write, but that doesn’t mean we will love every day of Being a Writer. Hard, messy stuff happens in life, and hard messy stuff happens in our writing life. When it does, there’s no fast-forward button. We can’t skip ahead to the next happy, easy moment as if we were iPods.
And it would be a mistake to do so. I’m convinced that in the most difficult writing times, seeds of good are still being sown and fertilized. Our writer’s brains are being watered and weeded. But (this is the real big butt of my post today) these seeds of good don’t do any good if we don’t take the time to notice them.
None of us wants to splash and frolic in the discomfort. Reveling in discomfort is counter-intuitive. We are hard-wired to eschew discomfort. But as I attempt to get comfortable with the discomfort of waiting and wondering, I have realized some surprising things that, if I pause to notice them, keep me sane and productive. Little seeds of good.
First, rejection isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, I feel like I am walking around with a big bulls eye on my forehead, but I’m still walking. Most days I even walk without a limp. In cute shoes.
I also see that any rejection I might receive now is just a skin-thickener. NY editors are far kinder and more thoughtful than the nutball Amazon reviewer who hates my book because he was once dumped by a girl named Sarah. Dude, who hasn’t been dumped by a girl named Sarah?
This time has also
forced me given me the opportunity to figure out why write. Why I really write.
I’d recommend that examination to each one of you. You may think you are writing to get published, but perhaps that’s only a sliver of the reason. Maybe you write because if you don’t write, you feel creatively constipated. Like you haven’t pooped in three months. And once you realize that writing is as necessary as pooping, you realize that while you want to get published, you don’t need to get published; you just need to write. That’s quite a liberating realization, and I bet it’s the conclusion you’d come to, too.
All this said, please do not think for one moment that I am sunny all the time. The waiting and wondering makes me snippy and quick-to-tears. The waiting and wondering has caused me to punch my fist into the air and proclaim, “Screw this! I’m just going to get a regular job!”
The waiting and wondering has made me feel like a stalker, as I have been known to Google an editor who has my work, hoping that I’ll stumble upon a Twittery admission: Going to make an offer on Sarah Callender’s debut. Hoping she’ll accept six figures!
I hate feeling like a stalker. But the waiting and wondering turns me into one.
When, however, I’m not snipping and crying and stalking, when I can remember to search for the good in this moment of I Am Here, I am genuinely grateful for the discomfort. I can see that indeed, good does grow. That I need this time of uncertainty. That I will be a better, stronger writer for it.
Remember: being a writer’s a whole lot like being a human. When life is difficult (and it will be), we need to muddle through with as much grace as we can muster. When our writing life is difficult (and it will be) we also need to be graceful muddlers.
Your turn. In a dark time of your writing life, what seeds of good have you discovered? How do you cope with times of doubt, with The Doubts and their very loud parties? Have you tried Chocolate Chex? Because you really should.
Photo courtesy of Flickr’s Roo Reynolds.