Keeping the Faith
Posted on February 19, 2017
The other day a writer friend of mine asked me how I kept the faith and managed my nerves as I had a project out for submission and then, thanks to Jane Dystel, a manuscript to complete for a publisher.
Here’s one of my secrets: During the eight-month period in which I crafted the proposal for The General’s Niece and revised it, I bought a fortune in self-help books. I’m not being smug or silly here. This is the honest-to-goodness truth.
The reason why I did this is because I had been through the submission process before and I saw how it, let’s just say, amplified my shortcomings. This time, I wanted to do better not only because I wanted to write this book, but because I wanted to do better in general.
“…the inner struggle against one’s own weaknesses is the central drama of life. As the popular minister Harry Emerson Fosdick put it in his 1943 book On Being a Real Person, ‘The beginning of worthwhile living is thus the confrontation with ourselves.’
Truly humble people are engaged in a great effort to magnify what is best in themselves and defeat what is worst, to become strong in the weak places.”
Here’s a peek into my mindset via some (but not all) of the titles I purchased during this period:
- Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead by Brené Brown
- You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero
- Redirect: Changing the Stories We Live By by Timothy D. Wilson
- 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do: Take Back Your Power, Embrace Change, Face Your Fears, and Train Your Brain for Happiness and Success by Amy Morin
Yes, I have a tendency to worry. I know this. My family knows this. My dearest friends know this. My agent, God love her, knows this too. I was on a call with her once and I remember telling her that I was worried about something. I don’t even remember what it was anymore, but she told me in her own inimitable way, “Worry accomplishes nothing.”
Then, as always, she was right. What good does it do to worry about things that either haven’t happened or are out of your control? What purpose does worry serve? Worry doesn’t write or revise or complete manuscripts. Worry doesn’t meet deadlines or answer your editor’s or agent’s questions. Worry doesn’t do anything but waste a bunch of energy that could be better spent doing something productive and enriching.
Like looking for another book idea.
Or road-tripping with your daughter to visit friends in South Florida.
Or working on your website.
Or learning something new.
Or taking a nice long walk (which I do at least four times a week) to clear your head and give you a break from your inbox.
Now I’m not saying I never worry, but I do make a concerted effort to stay busy, especially at times when I know my worst tendencies might rear their ugly heads if left unchecked. As author Marjorie Brimer says, “Publishing is all about waiting. And, waiting, I’ve found, is like that slow drag up to the peak of the [roller]coaster. For some of us, this portion of the journey is longer than others. And the longer it is, the more anticipation and anxiety that builds.”
Then you hit the peak.
I got the first hints of good news about The General’s Niece one July afternoon in 2015 when I was sitting at the pool, dripping wet, reading a book while my daughter and one of her friends swam. My cell phone dinged, so I checked my email. It was Jane, and she said there was interest in my proposal, but she needed me to answer a couple of questions.
I asked her to give me a half-hour. I don’t remember whether I told her I had to bribe two girls to get out of the pool so I could get back to my desk to find the answers she needed. But that’s exactly what I did.
“Can we have a sleepover?” they asked me as they bobbed in the water with big grins on their faces.
“You can have anything you want if you get out and dry off now,” I told them.
I’m generally not a rollercoaster person. I will confess to screaming “Oh my God, no” and various other things that I will not type now that I know my daughter knows that I have a blog. But as I drove two soggy girls back to my house that day, my heart began to pound with excitement instead of fear. I was not thinking “Oh my God, no.” but “Oh my God, yes! Bring it!”
The ride toward publication has been wild, but it isn’t over yet. For me, it has helped to work on better ways to manage the ups, downs, waiting and uncertainty that are so common in the publishing process. Resiliency is so important, and I hope this post has helped you in some way, whether you’re a writer or not.
Tell me: What are the things you do to help you weather uncertain times? What are the best lessons you’ve learned about resiliency? How do you keep the faith when the going gets tough? Please share your thoughts in comments.