If you follow me on Twitter, you might have seen this exchange:
When people say things like this, I feel great. For a while. The monumental effort involved in this endeavor, especially when contemplating the vast desert expanse before reaching publication, is enough to crush even the most positive mindset. It’s fragile, and the slightest jar can be enough to shatter it.
Writing (or any creative profession, really) carries a lot of feelings with it. Some people have great difficulty dealing with them. If you’re inclined toward addiction, you might cope by self-medicating. I don’t do that, but I’m quite sure the stress will cut years off my life.
In no particular order, here are some of the feelings writing has been poking me with lately.
Publishing takes a long time. I’m not the most patient person on earth, and I’ll never be any more so than I am right now. I find myself saying, Enough already, Universe. Let’s get going. It would probably help if I had something in my personal life, but alas, the Big U has implied that the books will come first. This vague revelation leads to hurt, because I’ve waited long enough, thank you.
Did I cross all my I’s and dot all my T’s? Is that query letter as good as it can be? Answer:
It can always be better, but the time to realize that is not after you’ve hit Send.
This strikes at odd moments and may be unrelated to writing, since I’m going on vacation soon. I booked my train tickets this weekend. For two days, I walked around with a heightened sense of anticipation that sent energy surging through my body, almost like an adrenaline rush but without the shakiness and rapid heartbeat. Elation makes me hyper-aware of things—if I listen to music, I hear every note, every chord. The sky looks bluer, the future brighter, and at those moments, anything seems possible.
Elation also leaped up after Brian posted that tweet (seriously, a horror Grand Master said he likes my book!), but then I stared, unseeing, at the screen and it all turned to pressure and stress. What to say next? How to say it? Why can’t I put what is in my head down on the page? I know what’s going to happen. Why am I so goddamn tired?
Creative people do get jealous of each other. Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha made me so jealous I could hardly see straight. It helped that I thoroughly enjoyed the story. The best way to deal with professional jealousy is to examine the work and observe successful elements you can translate to your own work, to make it better.
I have little to say about personal jealousy, except that if it leads to obsession, you better get rid of it fast because you won’t be able to concentrate long enough to write a coherent sentence.
I’ll never be good enough; I’ll never be published, and no agent / publisher / reader will ever give a shit about me. Here’s where the dearth of personal involvement cuts deepest. It hurts when no one you’re not related to is there to say “Hey, I love you no matter what, and I think you’re brilliant.” The evil little voice inside my head says that since no other person wants me, clearly no agent ever will either.
This is the cruelest one of all. It makes you delusional. You feel that possibilities are endless. Writing by its very nature forces you to imagine them, and this hones your ability to hope. It becomes a tool that can turn on you in an instant and cut deeper than a surgeon’s scalpel into the most tender and vulnerable part of your psyche. Reality is hope’s most dangerous predator.
And then there’s this. Although I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t feel the same, you never can tell. Dreams up close can be rather frightening.
Feelings aren’t always rational, and neither are the thoughts that go with them. They aren’t good or bad, either; they just are. What you do with them is what matters.
Writers can use healthy mental exercises to curb thoughts like “I’m not good enough.” If they are actively practicing their craft, they will get better at it. I guarantee you Brian would not have said he liked a manuscript of mine two books ago. The fact that he’s saying it now lets me know that I’ve grown as a writer. By doing what? Wishing? No, by writing.
You know that thing the Universe has apparently sent to someone else (grr)? Well, wishing might help here, and praying might also, but so will preparing myself to receive the opportunity if the Universe should reconsider. And that’s what I have to do for writing too.
When it’s your turn to cycle through these emotions, don’t try to push them away. Let them come. Clamping a lid down on feelings only ensures their eventual explosive release. And don’t let them talk you into giving up. The only book that is never published is the one never written.