It Sucks Until It Doesn’t: Staying Grounded through the Good & Bad

Image courtesy of the Tillman Project
Image courtesy of the Tillman Project

“It sucks until it doesn’t.”

That was advice given to me by one of my critique partners when I was stuck in the query trenches, trying to find an agent. I was adrift on the query sea, which looked a lot like this: send a query, cross my fingers, get a rejection, try to (over)analyze it even though it’s clearly a form letter, send another query, cross my fingers…get a request for pages! Cheer! Pat myself on the back! Email all my critique partners! Send off the pages! Cross my fingers! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. Get a rejection…

It’s tough to stay positive when you’re floating in that query sea and all around you it seems everyone else is getting an agent, a book deal, a second book deal.  Or when you’re on submission, which is a whole different kind of “drive yourself crazy” experience, and you’ve been told it could take anywhere from a month to never to get a deal. Or when you’re 50,000 words into the first draft of your next book and you realize you created a plot hole so big it can’t possibly be filled in.

Of course, it’s also important to stay grounded when there’s good news, too. Getting an agent is exciting, and getting a book deal? Well, it’s exciting and then some. And yes, you should talk about it, celebrate it, pat yourself on the back until you bruise, but also remember it’s just the beginning, and you still have much to learn. Because the drifting will continue…after you fulfill your first book contract your still need to write, and sell, another book. And then another. And another after that. Because that’s what you do — you’re a writer, and you write books. Just like every other author out there. Special snowflake syndrome is a real thing, and definitely something to avoid.

So while staying grounded and grateful through good news and bad can be tricky, here’s what I focus on so I never find myself without an anchor:

Be nice. Also known as: be kind to others, don’t burn bridges, never (ever) argue a rejection, mind your Ps & Qs, and celebrate the successes of others.

Pay it forward. Whether it’s sending a supportive tweet to a writer feeling nervous about querying, or offering to read another writer’s pages, or volunteering your time to mentor a writing contest, you can never go wrong if you follow the ‘writers helping writers’ mantra.

Keep some perspective. Whenever I start spinning out about a particular detail of my publishing journey, I remind myself of three things: a) it’s just a book, b) no one is making me write, this is VOLUNTARY and ON PURPOSE, and c) life will go on if XYZ doesn’t — or does — happen.

Say Please & Thank You. My six-year-old daughter has already mastered this, so, yeah. Enough said.

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Karma Brown is the author of COME AWAY WITH ME (MIRA/Harlequin, September 2015), an emotional story of one woman’s discovery that life is still worth living, even if it’s not the life you planned. Karma is also a National Magazine award-winning journalist, and lives outside Toronto, Canada, with her family and their mischievous labradoodle puppy, Fred.

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