On “Making It” — Time For Some Tough Love, My Friends

Tough-love1This week I’ve been thinking about the beacons of light that dot my writing journey — writing “the end” for the first time, receiving that first agent request for a full manuscript, announcing KILMOON’s publication date to everyone I know.

But you know what? Those fabulous moments are fleeting, and you can’t count on them. I hate to be the Grinchy deb as we end this week filled with holiday festivities and friends and family — but this is, ultimately, the truth:

If you’re looking to “arrive,” you’d best cool your jets and keep writing. Because here’s the thing, much of the time you’ll already be on to the next challenge when the glow of success shines its light on you. You finally received a publishing contract? Woohoo! Celebrate that puppy big time — but hopefully you’ve been writing all the while and hopefully you quickly return to thoughts such as: Crap, I have no clue what I’m doing for the next novel. ARGH!

I once took a hike with New York Times bestseller Susan Wiggs. She’s so successful she’s a light all by herself. Of all the topics we talked about, one sticks to this day: rejection never ends. Yep, even she still got rejected on a regular basis. She’d pitch story ideas to her editor and get the thumbs down all the time.

And then there was the time I chatted with another successful author, literary novelist Gail Tsukiyama, and she said that writing had gotten harder over time. Why? Because she knew fiction craft SO well that the days of just writing didn’t exist for her anymore. And there was more at stake too — I imagine that can feel scary.

And, let’s take little ol’ me. KILMOON comes out in less than three months. Do I feel like I’m standing in the light? Nah. I’ve been in “my novel is coming out” mode for months. I’m on to the next tasks: cleaning up my next novel and navigating the world of self-promotion — both of which are vexing me mightily. This doesn’t exactly make me feel like I’ve made it.

Do you lose time when you write? You glance at the clock and an hour zipped past in what felt like five minutes? I love this feeling more than anything. It fills my soul. It’s euphoric. THAT’S when I feel like I’ve made it. The rest of the goodies are the externals — and they’re great — but they don’t keep me coming back for more.

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

18 thoughts on “On “Making It” — Time For Some Tough Love, My Friends

  1. Lovely post, Lisa. We wait so long and strive so hard to be selected for the turn to jump in the barrel for the tumble over Niagara Falls, then one day it happens, we’re shoved in, and the ride begins and we are tumbling fast and furious, and wondering how everything is happening all at once, and the law of perpetual motion has been put in place and there is no turning back. I totally get what you are saying.

  2. Well said. It is not about the destination; it’s about the journey. If I just keep that one saying in mind all else falls away and I’m able to get off of the “expectation” roller coaster and just enjoy the wild ride, whatever that may be. So looking forward to reading Kilmoon!

    • Thanks, meco6! To be honest, expectations are my downfall — I have to be very careful not to build things up too much. The only answer is to keep writing — or painting — right?

  3. I so agree. There are milestones, of course, but I think that anyone who truly loves their work never feels like they’ve “arrived.” Only that they’ve set their sights on the next task or the next question to be answered.

    • And there’s always a next task and a next question. With all the externals pulling at us all the time, the journey (for me at least) becomes how to stay grounded and focused and steady-as-she-goes. ACK — we’re next after Heather! (breath, breath … ) 🙂

  4. It’s true that writing is a journey, rather than a destination. My solution is to derive the joy from the journey. My agent once told me to “enjoy these days” – because even though they are hard work, and busy, and it’s easy to get distracted by what seems like a never-ending carousel of obligations, this IS what it means to “live the dream.” Wise words, from a wise woman – and I try to take them to heart every day.

    • I keep forgetting to enjoy these days, Susan! Thanks for the reminder. At Bouchercon, someone I’d just met … Reed Farrell Coleman! … said the same thing. He said that we only have one first novel and to enjoy this part of the journey.

      You’re an inspiration, I have to say. You get so much done and seem to be enjoying all aspects. I love that.

  5. I’m with you, totally. There’s already so much looking forward, past the debut novel release. We just need to remember to take a minute once in a while to enjoy where we are and how much we’ve already accomplished. Maybe get some champagne in.

  6. Thanks, Lisa. I have this bad habit of spiraling into the pit of despair at the end of the year as I look back and see only what I’ve failed to accomplish, completely discounting the published novel, finished novel, finished novella, stories, and another nearly finished novel. It’s the expectations and societal pressures that knock me on my ass.

    • Oh, I hear you — the externals will get us every time. Expectations drive me crazy!

      I hope you know that you are a great inspiration to me and a bunch of mutual friends who shall remain nameless. We talk about you in exalted terms behind your back — just so you know. 🙂

  7. I’m so with you on this. My agent told me to have a big celebration when I signed with my publisher, because after that the goal lines become slippery–you cross one, only to see another in the distance. Recognizing the wins along the way has become important to me so it is not an endless hard slog.

    • Hi M.P.! God, it’s endless, isn’t it? Squinting into the distance, I think I see the third novel out there … Yikes, I’d better start thinking about now. I’m so behind! sigh … Slippery like sliding down the mountainside on my arse. 🙂

      Hope to see you around the conference circuit in 2014!

  8. So true! If the most rewarding part of this isn’t in the writing, then what’s the point of all of it? I try to remind myself of this when I get too stressed about future plans and what ifs. At the end of the day, we’re all working as hard as we are because we want to be able to lose time writing always.

    • The weirdest thing right now? My friends and family are so excited about KILMOON — which is great — but I’m not anymore. Or rather, I’m not at the moment because I’m trying (operative word) to get other stuff done. I have moments of woohoo, and when launch time arrives I’ll be pumped up again … but for now I’d like to just get quiet with my current WIP. It’s very bizarre.

  9. Lisa, I know how you feel. I’ve been so worried about my next book that it’s been difficult to focus on my launch–until last week. When last week hit, so did all of the revving up of social media and advertising and inbox explosion and I just couldn’t help but be excited again about Josephine. I suspect the same will happen to you. I can’t wait to see it happen to you! 🙂

    • Thanks, Heather! (I’m next, yikes!)

      I’ve been wondering how you’re doing. 🙂 I could learn so much from you about how to navigate the social media/promotion side of things. You’re a natural.

      Let me just say once again — I’m so happy for you. It’s exciting for me to be in on your journey. I’m loving your good reviews like they’re my own!

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