Find the Joy…Even at Mile 93

Calling Debut Authors! Now Accepting Applications for the 2018 Debutante Ball! Read this post to learn more. Hurry! THE DEADLINE IS JULY 28!

This week we are writing about what we’ve learned in our debut year and what advice we’d give to forthcoming authors. My advice is simple: find the joy in this journey.

One of the most surprising things about being a debut author is that in some ways, the stress is just beginning. You’d think that after everything it took to write a book! Find an agent! Land a publishing deal! The actual publication would be the easy part. Alas, it isn’t. The stress tends to accumulate, unfortunately. All of that difficulty in arriving at this achievement makes the expectations for the book launch that much higher. We want – no, need – for the work to pay out.

The truth is, going into book launch, you can’t predict what the outcome will be. You can’t predict how much publicity you’ll get or how friends will support you or how your book team will work together or if the book will ultimately sell. In the end, will you profit? Maybe more importantly, will anybody care about your book?

If you don’t combat it, the anxiety can easily take you over.

I’ll admit, I let the stress consume me for far too much of this process. During the months leading up to launch, I was a national disaster. I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t not sleep. And, by the way, when I’m stressed out I become an angry person. It isn’t pretty. Venturing on a climbing trip in Argentina the month before launch was the best decision I could have made for myself. I came back with a slightly tighter grip on my sanity, and I was able to enjoy launch week far more than I had anticipated. I enjoyed the small things of launch week – the publicity, the friends including the Debutante Ball writers I got to hang out with, the chocolate cake…

Yes, I was a mess worrying about the consequences of publishing such an intense, vulnerable memoir which could be construed as taking on one of the nations most beloved military institutions – and the military itself. Don’t get me wrong, there have been the hard parts in all of this too. But what I’m talking about is choosing every day to focus as much as possible on what is awesome. During launch week, I’d say I was 50% in the anxiety and 50% in the joy. For me? I’m calling that a win.

Since publication, those figures have shifted to about 60% anxiety, 40% joy. Some days I’ve been taken down by the grief of all the reader’s emails I’ve received. Other days, I’m able to bask in that I ACHIEVED MY DREAM. What can I say? My mental state is a work in process.

Warning: I’m about to talk about ultra running!

When I ran (read: crawled) my first 100-mile ultra-marathon, my pacer (a friend who stays with me to keep me safe through the nights and delirium, and to keep me on course and on track time-wise) kept saying, over and over, “Lynn, find the joy.” I was an angry, hot mess. Hurting in every little cell and exhausted in a way I hadn’t ever experienced. I wanted to scream back to him, “There’s no joy at mile 93, Anthony!!”  But of course, I didn’t have the energy to yell!

He was right. I was wrong. There WAS joy at mile 93, it was just hard to find in the thick of so much suffering. There was joy in that I was living out one of my dreams. In that I had a body capable of going so far. In that I was in Colorado’s beautiful mountains with pine trees and blue sky. In that a group of my friends loved me so much they had gathered to see me through it.

When you are leading up to book launch, you are going to feel like you are at mile ninety-f*cking-three. But don’t be an angry mess like I was. You’ve worked too hard to get here to let that happen.

Every day, remind yourself that your book is forthcoming. Remind yourself that you love the title or your characters or that one line on page 142. Remind yourself of the passion and skill your team brings to your book. Remind yourself of all the writers who would murder their own words to be in your shoes.

Find. The. Joy. It’s there, I promise.

 

 

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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