Yes, I’m talking to you. The one over there, not meeting my eyes for fear I’ll see the self doubt and despair that have begun to edge out your sense of purpose and confidence.
And you, there in the corner, looking everywhere but at me, afraid to believe that your time is almost here. It is. You’ve been working hard, for long years, carving out time, pouring your heart and soul into your work, perfecting your craft, and, maybe most important of all, not giving up. So yes, your turn is coming. It’s just around the corner there where you can’t see it, but it’s heading your way. It might be here in two months or maybe two years, but it will be here. Unless you give up. Then it will never arrive, so whatever you do now, don’t give up.
I would like to sneak in before the crowd and be the very first to congratulate you on your impending publication, so CONGRATULATIONS!!
However, since I probably won’t be there when you receive the actual news, I’d like to take this moment to share a few survival strategies with you, ones that have served me well over the years.
- If you’ve been searching for professional validation, a sign that all your efforts have not been in vain, being published will feel wonderful. It will shift something in your internal landscape, un-pop a highly pressurized cork and your long held in elation will finally have a chance to bubble free. You will cross a threshold that you can never uncross—you will have entered the ranks of Published Authors. Whether or not you go on to publish a second or third book, you will have done something that many aspire to, but few actually achieve. Nothing can take that achievement away from you.
- You will experience a series of firsts—first phone call offering representation, first phone call with an offer of publication, your first contract, your first check, the first time you hold the physical book in your hands. All of these are huge milestones, so be sure to take the time to savor them. I mean, really savor them. Let the weight of all the dry years, the lonely years, give resonance to the sweetness of your victory. This is hugely important and something that even well-seasoned authors don’t do nearly enough.
- Remember, you have not left all your problems and heartaches behind. You have simply leveled up and traded one set of problems for a new set. But also remember, you eventually overcame all those obstacles to getting published, so these new problems can also be managed.
- As your actual publication date draws near, anxiety may very well be your new BFF. Relax. This is normal. Accept it and don’t feel anything is wrong with you because of it. It is simply the nature of publishing, of a career in which you are actually in control of very little.
- Find—as soon as you are able—a way to separate the act of writing from the business of publishing.
- Avoid developing the ego-surfing habit if at all possible, or ditch it as soon as you are able. Unfortunately, this will often be right after you’ve just seen something that will devastate you.
- When you wake up in the dark hours of morning, or toss and turn unable to sleep for the fears and insecurities nipping at your toes, find a way to pour that into your writing. Let it feed your work and give it urgency. I said urgency, not desperation. One is born of plumbing the authentic emotions that you feel and the other is drawn from the fear of having to feel them again.
- Someone in the world desperately needs that story you’re struggling to tell. It might not even be the one you’re working on now, or your first published book. Those might just be building your writing muscles so you can do justice to the real story you need to tell.
- Don’t spend every physical, emotional, and financial resource on doing ALL THE PROMOTIONAL THINGS. Some publishers would like you to believe that your book’s sales will rise or fall with your efforts alone, but that is not true. Pick a handful of promotional activities, hopefully some of which you actually enjoy, then save the rest of your energies for pouring into to your next book.
- Find writing rituals that bring you pleasure—lighting a candle, a cozy coffee shop, a kick ass laptop, a special pen or fine notebook. The more you honor the act of writing, the easier it is to stay connected with why you’re doing this.
- And remember despair? That old friend from your pre-published days? You may be surprised at how often she comes knocking at your door, wanting you to come out and play. Sales numbers, promo dollars, list position, author envy, deadlines, artistic frustration, and never-good-enough-itis, all will do their best to get you to open that door. Resist. It is not a race. It is not even a competition. It is simply your life, one that revolves around capturing your artistic vision truthfully on the page and in turn sharing it with others.
- Be a little bit humble. Gratitude and a little bit of humility are your friends. They are also excellent for the soul.
- When people connect with you over your writing, whether by sending you a review they wrote or emailing you their reaction, save those that make you giddy with joy. Print them out or cut and paste them into a master document to read when needed. This is not an exercise in ego-stroking, but a reminder of how magical it is to connect to another human being through our writing.
- When you feel wrecked and broken and raw from the writing life, use it. Take those feelings and explore them. What personal hardwiring or psychic part of you made this so hard, tragic, joyous, or triumphant. Dissect yourself and your feelings to better understand not only yourself, but human nature, then use it to further enrich your writing.
- Also, exercise. That will help with the stuff you can’t pour into your work. It is also a great way to diffuse the physical manifestations of anxiety.
- You may achieve wild success or you may fail spectacularly. While of course we all hope for you the former, be aware that either one will upend you and turn your inside out and cast you so far from the shores of your own familiar self that you will hardly recognize yourself anymore.
- But here is the secret to that: If you can find your way back to the work, the work that you love and that lured you onto this journey in the first place, then you will always—always—be able to find your way home and re-center yourself.