Wednesday, November 2, 2011

IWSG: Dreams vs. Expectations




Today is another entry in


            I’ve been following a common thread lately in some of my favorite blogs.  It expands on an ideal most writers postulate:  Getting published will make me happy.  What’s not to believe about this statement?  This is our ultimate goal, is it not?  We write.  We edit.  We query.  We submit.  We get published…maybe.  We know the road is laced with potholes of disappointment, but we believe in ourselves and our stories, so we carry on. 
Keep the dream alive!  Yeah!!



            But what if the dream is not what we expect it to be?  I first pondered this a few weeks ago after having lunch with my friend, Jennifer Hillier, author of Creep.  Not only do I hold Jenny in high esteem for her talent and skill, she is someone I relate to on a personal level.  We’re both women writers who write similar stories in the same genre, and we live near each other, so we chat about writing and blogging and books and all that sort of thing. 
            At the time of our most recent lunch date, Jenny was in the final throes of her last edit before sending her latest manuscript, Freak, off to her agent and editor.  She expressed what a brutally difficult experience it was, nothing like the first time when she wrote Creep.  She lamented that it would never be as enjoyable as it was that first time around.  She was under contract now and had deadlines and expectations to meet.  As I listened to her, I couldn’t help but think of that old adage, “Be careful what you wish for.  You just might get it!
            Then on October 17th, Natalie Whipple wrote a blog post she called Smelling the Roses. Or Whatever wherein she bemoaned how obsessed she had been over the last five years with getting published.  More than merely driven, but rather “maybe more like desperate,” she wrote.  She said she had put all her “feelings of self-worth into publishing” and she “would never, ever be happy if I didn't sell a book.”  Then, almost immediately, Natalie said that selling her book, Transparent, didn’t make her happy after all.  It seems that publishing wasn’t all she had expected it to be, that in the end, it’s really all about the writing—the book itself—not the publishing of it. 
            On Tuesday (November 1st), Rachelle Gardner wrote a post called Writing Ain’t Easy.  In it, she wrote about one of her less-experienced writer friends who wondered if her “lack of confidence would dissipate as she gets more experienced in writing,” to which another, more experienced writer friend replied, “The complete lack of confidence will likely persist and even become worse as you progress.
So, in other words, unlike most jobs where people become better and more comfortable the longer they perform their tasks, writing will always be difficult.  It will always be rife with insecurities and self-doubt.  Even my blogger friend Joylene Nowell Butler commented on my Bad News Isn’t Always a Bad Thing post last week, saying, “One day there is that sale, and while you believe wholeheartedly that your life is about to change forever, it's not in the way you think.” 
I’m getting the message that having my book published might not live up to my lofty expectations.  It might not make me feel any better as a writer.  It might not make me feel successful.  And, in and of itself, it might not be what makes me happy.  Writers who have had the same dreams that I have, and who have achieved them, now tell me it only gets harder, and I might not ever feel what it is I want to feel when I’m done.
But I suppose writing is like anything else.  When we reach our goal, we bask in our success for a short time then move on to something else, a new thing that will challenge us, that we can enjoy for the sheer effort.  Being totally satisfied means not having the need to accomplish something else.  Well, that’s not me.  I am many things, but static is not one of them.  So maybe I’m a bit jaded now, but at least I know what to expect.  Or what not to expect anyway.          

27 comments:

Eva Gallant said...

Interesting post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the thoughts of others.

Lisa L. Regan said...

Great post. Very thought-provoking. Like anything, the business side of writing brings with it a lot more headaches than people might anticipate. I think if you really love it, you would probably put up with the stress of deadlines, negative reviews and whatever other crappy stuff happens after you've published. But I think it is important for those of us not yet there to remember that getting a book deal is not going to make everything perfect. Life is not going to suddenly be mansions and bonbons with an embargo on stress. It won't ward off bad things. It's a goal to be met like any other. The real problem is you have to wait so flipping long to get anywhere in this business that you have too much time to fantasize about what will happen once you're published! :)

Cynthia Chapman Willis said...

I love that adage “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it!” It's so true. There are lots of things to weigh a writer down at every stage of writing and publishing. The book sells and wow is that exciting, but then come the frustrations and worries regarding reviews, promotion, sales. . . The bottom line is that we love to write and so we do. If I stay focused on that passion, the rest is a little easier to wade through.

Laila Knight said...

Way to persevere, Nancy! I find that while I strive to perfect my MS, althought dreams of publication hang in the air, I can't rely on writing or anything else to make me happy. I have to be happy first and write from the depth of that happiness, so whether I get published or not, I'll still have everything I ever wished for. :)

Jessica Salyer said...

Wow, you gave me lots of things to ponder. I never really thought about some of your points. Guess I'll be doing some self reflection. Great blog.

M Pax said...

I changed my goal and began publishing myself recently. It does make me happy. It's a lot of work, but I've found it rewarding so far.

Maybe it's handing your fate over to someone else? I can see how that might tarnish things.

Joylene said...

I think the thing we published authors forget to add is that no way do we want to go back to before it happened. I think it's just such a shock to realize nothing has really changed, that we find ourselves justifying that realism to others.

Nobody told me having a baby would hurt as much as it did. Nobody told me that publishing a novel wouldn't solve all my problems. But if they had, I still would have struggled, and bleed, and cried my way through the entire process.

You could very well be the exception, Nancy. Don't forget that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

You echoed my sentiments today! Be happy in the process. It's the journey, not the destination.
And there is a lot that comes with publication that we're not expecting. And new expectations on us. I had a bit of a surreal freak out this morning when I realized that in the past few weeks, thousands of people I don't know have downloaded and read my book. This whole thing with Amazon has been great, but now it's added new fears about my next book - and the one after that I have yet to write.

R. Jacob said...

It is easy to get wrapped up in the victory. I am in sales and realized though difficult as it is to ignore the highs and lows. To keep everything on an even keel. Celebrate the big win for a moment because a new game starts all over again

Al Penwasser said...

I'd like to be published. That would be great. But, I like to make people laugh more. Hopefully, I do this here (I've set my filters to automatically delete all the "You suck!!" comments. From my mom). Of course, getting paid to do so would be fantastic. Then, I probably wouldn't be here all that much, which would make me sad. But, if I got paid, then I could quit my job of being a traffic cone on Philadelphia's Cottman Avenue exit off I-95 (yeah, that's me).
By the way (CAUTION: Shameless Self-Promotion ahead), you've got two comments back at Penwasser Place.

Hart Johnson said...

Great post--I think it really IS--the more you know, the more you know you don't know... your increasing awareness makes you SO MUCH harder on yourself! And I've written to contract deadline and for the love of the book, and the latter is DEFINITELY better. I think it is a lucky person who doesn't sell a book until about their 5th or 6th and so has some books to revise if the other just isn't coming.

Lynda R Young said...

Wonderful post. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking all the hard work is done once we are publish, that we'll find happiness at last. I keep reminding myself to keep a level head and to ENJOY my writing while I have the freedom.

Pk Hrezo said...

It's a good point, Nancy. I think on this all the time. It seems some authors get their brand new debut all hyped up and then it releases, and... fizzles. And I think, "Wow, that's it."
Success is a state of mind. And I've already decided that I'm going to keep writing stories regardless of whether an agent takes me on. So the very opportunity that I have to keep writing is what makes me a successful writer. It really is all about the journey of each story. And some famous authors didn't become celebrated or appreciated til after they died. Crazy.

Ellis Shuman said...

Nancy, you write so well and this post came across very clearly, strongly encouraging thought and reflection.

I am drawn again and again to this line:

"you believe wholeheartedly that your life is about to change forever, it's not in the way you think"

I think achieving publication will be a milestone event, even if it brings no material rewards. Guiding a creative project from the idea stage to the stage when others can read it in published form, is a true accomplishment.

Your post gives me, and hopefully others, encouragement to continue, doing this with eyes wide open.

Heather M. Gardner said...

Great job on this post.
After reading a zillion blog posts from unpublished and published writers I have had the same epiphany.
For me it is no longer the goal of publishing but for finishing. I don't want to be a one hit wonder. If I can finish book two I will have accomplished something very important. If I can get anyone to read it that will be icing on my cake.
Thanks for coming over to visit.

Eve.E said...

Hi Nancy
Thank you for stopping by my blog. I hope you are well. :) Some great points made in your blog, it certainly gives me a pause for thought.
Yeah bonfire night is an English thing, like you say what with Guy Fawkes and all that.....lol.
Oh what you said on my blog about the insecure writers group, is very true and it's such a good thing that we can all support one another isn't it? I also love your attitude that you don't let people bring you down.x

Tara Tyler said...

its like everything else, we have to take the good with the bad. the bad is easier to accept when we know what's coming =)

The East Coaster said...

Dude, all I can do it clap at the truth of this...and forward your it to everyone who needs to read your post.

Lindsay Mawson, Thriller Writer said...

Because I tend to be a pessimist, I guess I am one of those people that always has to find 'the catch'. That's why I self-publish. I can take my time and be thorough, and enjoy writing my books without the stress of any deadline but what I set for myself. But I am also strict on myself (oh, and hard on myself), so I don't just say "oh, I'll do it tomorrow". I love writing, and if the pleasure was taken out of it, I don't think I'd want to do it anymore.

If I fail to meet a deadline or fans' expectations, the only person I have to blame is myself for not working hard enough, or taking enough time.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

"Being totally satisfied means not having the need to accomplish something else." <-That's a gem of a sentence within a wonderful post, Nancy. This provides much food for thought. I appreciate it.

Thanks for stopping by too.

Sarah B said...

Wish I would have found this yesterday when I got the rejection. At least I found it today when things are looking better. Great post.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've read posts by published authors about this--it does shed a different light on being unpublished.

Joanne said...

What a great post! Thanks for the insight. :)

Kittie Howard said...

Hi, Nancy! Thanks for stopping by. About Section 8 from an investor's perspective, it didn't make sense to us either, until we learned a shady investor (with a Big Dog resume) didn't want to ante up for an assessment to replace siding and found the loophole that would keep his wallet closed. Although all ages live here, a voting block of retirees want taxes as low as possible. Please don't think 'poor' or 'struggling'. This group has money!! This is a luxury condo complex but a perfect storm has come together and challenges. With the management company presently in place, it's like pulling teeth to see the budget. The company follows the laws, just barely. A position is opening up on the Board. (They preferred decorating to dealing with issues.) Our goal is transparency. The Board refused to enable digital transfer of minutes, etc. We want residents to have a password protected site where information can be shared. We're tired of vendors ringing doorbells to say they have to do This or That. And so it goes.

Valentina Hepburn said...

In my experience, it's often the journey that brings the most joy, rather than the actual arrival. I've wished for so many things in my life, and apart from one that was more of a prayer than a wish and actually came true much to my utter joy and surprise, nothing seems to be as good as the anticipation, or the dream.
In our dreams we can control things--make things happen the way we want them to. My dream is to be published to a great fanfare, then the film, then the glittering premiere where I'm a stock size 10 (prob less in the US) as I walk the red carpet on the arm of Matt Damon, who is a star in the film of my novel. I often have this daydream and it keeps me happy. I'll keep writing, and if I ever get to meet Matt Damon, I'll let ya'all know.

Julie Musil said...

You make such excellent points. I once heard a wise person say that if we aren't happy where we are right now, then we'll never be happy. It reminded me of all the good things in my life I should be thankful for. Publishing will simply be the cherry on top.

Patti said...

I think being published scares a part of me and could very well bring out more of my insecurities, but you never know.