Pep Talk

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I talked to my best friend on the phone last night, and she asked (as she always does) how things were going. Lately things have been very busy and a little scary, but I didn’t want to be a whiner, so I said everything was fine. She knows me too well, though, so she launched into a brief pep talk to cheer me up. “You’re going to sell that new novel and suddenly get rich and famous and I’ll have to come to book signings just to visit you,” she said. We both laughed, but she kept insisting she was right, and that I just had to wait and see.

When you’re still trying to break in to the business, you have all sorts of insecurities. Was my query good enough? Was my idea original, and if it wasn’t, was my execution unique enough? Will anyone like my story? The thing no one counts on are the insecurities that remain after you sell a novel.

There’s a long time between signing the contract and seeing the book in print. In that space, you might be asked to rewrite portions, and you’ll definitely be sent copy-edited pages to review and return. You have months to fine tune your work, to make sure that every little detail is just as you and your editor want it. So what was I doing the night before my book’s release? Laying in bed, not sleeping, torturing myself over something in a late chapter that I wished I’d written instead of what I did. I hardly slept that night, wondering how I could find a way to stop the process and fix the chapter. Granted it was 2 in the morning so some of my foolish thought can be attributed to the lateness of the hour. The rest was just me, worrying that I hadn’t done a good enough job. I do the same number on myself when I have to appear at libraries or cons. Suddenly everyone around me sounds so much smarter and more sophisticated than me. What was I thinking, presuming I’d have anything to say that anyone would want to hear?

It’s one of those secrets no one likes to mention. Selling a book does nothing to completely wipe out those worries and fears. There are just new ones to deal with. Even the most successful writers suffer. Trust me, Steven King may have a gajillion dollars in the bank but he has the occasional sleepless night, too. The trick is in keeping the worries from eating you alive. You can let them weigh on your shoulders, force you down and give up. Or you can find a way to ignore the nagging thoughts. Stand up. Stretch. Breathe. Go outside and dance in the rain. No rain? Walk barefoot in the grass and soak up the sun. Call a friend who always manages to lighten your mood. But whatever you do, don’t stop creating. No matter how horrible you feel, creating something special is the surest way to make your world shine.

And while you’re doing that, I’m going to write some more pages of that guaranteed bestseller I’m working on. Hey, my best friend said it, so it must be true. 😀

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9 comments to Pep Talk

  • The power of positive thinking. I live by it. I’m always terrified that negative thoughts have the power to spread (and spread to my writing!) so I have quite happily committed myself to a lifetime of rose coloured glasses and positive thinking. Will it work? Who knows, but I’m definitely a lot happier for it! Tell your friend she’s a genius.

  • “No matter how horrible you feel, creating something special is the surest way to make your world shine.”

    I love this. I’m very new, so full of self-doubt and fear, but all of that goes away when I’m actively writing. Which is why I’m writing in the first place. :)

    Whenever I feel down about my story or my writing, I try to tell myself that even if the only people that ever read my novel are the ones that have to love me anyway, I will have accomplished something great. Now to finish the darn thing. :)

  • We’re all in the same boat. Some days I’m so happy with my writing and how my story got singled out in a review and such. Some days I wonder why I even bother. I can’t form a sentence any better than an elementary school kid. In the end, I think true writers are a bit like drug addicts. We can’t stop even though we know that this road leads to madness — because when it’s good, oh baby, is it ever gooooooooood. :)

  • Alan Kellogg

    Stuart,

    You worry about how you say something, you’ll never say it. That’s what I’ve been told, and what I’ve experienced. So just say it, and figure out how to say it better later. The goal should always be to get words down, and worry about how they sound later.

    And never forget that no matter how perfect your prose sounds to you, somebody’s gonna hate it.

  • Misty, I wish I could say it gets better, but the self doubts and the worry just find new places to settle. It’s a bit like kudzu. (Which causes bad ozone, according to latest study.) Kill it off in one spot and it blooms its nasty self up somewhere else. Sad, I know. But I want to see the new shiney!!!!!!!!

  • I’m headed to Balticon this weekend, travelling by myself *gulp* and while there are friends at my destination, I don’t know any of my co-panelists personally. What if I say something brainless? What if they think I’m a ditz? What if they’re all way smarter and more sophisticated than me? *runs around flailing arms madly*

    Okay, taking a deep breath, and opening up that document again.

  • Yeah, it never goes away. It took me seven or eight books to convince myself that Tor hadn’t made a terrible mistake giving me a contract in the first place (a mistake I was convinced they then repeated seven more times….) There are lots of critics out there itching to tell us what we’ve done wrong, and what they could have done better. They’re actually pretty easy to ignore. But that critic in your own head, the one who keeps you up nights, that’s the one who will drive you nuts….

    Have fun at BaltiCon. Wish I was going to be there with you.

  • It took me seven or eight books to convince myself that Tor hadn’t made a terrible mistake giving me a contract in the first place (a mistake I was convinced they then repeated seven more times….)

    *laughs* I did that, too! I kept telling myself Tor only bought my book because David was a friend of Holly’s, doing her a favor.

    Thanks! I’m sure it’ll be great fun – and I can’t wait to see you the next weekend at ConCarolinas!

  • Breathing. That always helps. Now remembering to breathe, that’s another story …