Zen-like Calm Still Eludes Me, but Ehh, Whatever

NO, my editor didn't use this on me - he's not a sadist, for crying out loud. I just wonder, shouldn't Jeannie Mobley own one of these, if only for the irony? Shouldn't EVERY archaelogist own one?

I am very fond of Jeannie Mobley, and not just because she’s an archaeologist and therefore can make jokes about Indiana Jones with a higher level of authority than the average bear. I also like that her blog post on Monday could (with the proper level of inattention) be mistaken for something that’s about ME instead of the challenges of responding to one’s first-ever editorial letter. I even respect her candor in saying that I’m more neurotic and uptight than she is about sending my editor a revision, because it’d just be silly to argue. I AM more neurotic and uptight than Jeannie about that, and probably in every other conceivable way. I’m possibly the most neurotic and uptight person currently taking up space on the surface of the planet Earth. Which also means that I handily beat Ruth McNally Barshaw for the title of EMLA’s Most Insecure Client, no matter what Ruth says. Victory!

The funny thing is, I know my editor’s not going to read my mistake-infested revision and revoke my contract or any other such silliness. One of the benefits of getting to know Arthur Levine a bit before all the book deal business went down is that he doesn’t feel like an unknown quantity as a person. I knew via secondhand sources that he’s a consummate professional (obviously, right? You can’t have his track record by being a rank amateur), but what I’ve discovered, through both my first edit letter and also just plain old conversations, is that Arthur’s a genuinely kind, thoughtful and emotionally expressive person too.

His editorial letter is probably a good indication of what the rest of this process will be like: direct and unambiguous (but also very constructive) about what could be better and what’s just not working; full of affirming thoughts about my ability to fix those things; laden with enthusiasm about the things he likes; and spilling over with this obvious and astonishing kind of delight. Delight in the writing, delight in the opportunity to collaborate, and delight in the process itself.

Yes yes I know, this fluffy unicorn head isn't scary at all. I don't have a REAL severed horse head just lying around the house, you know.

There’s no mistaking it – this is a man who loves his work, and it’s contagious. So my rational mind knows that yes, as Jeannie says, our editors are our allies. They ARE there to help us strip away the noise and clutter, and let the pure, unfettered beauty of our stories shine through. My rational mind knows that. It’s my primitive Lovecraftian lizard-brain mind that’s convinced Arthur’s gonna read my revision, decapitate a horse, and leave the sorry quadruped’s gore-encrusted head on my pillow. Irrational! I know! It’s an irrational response! I’m a basket case, people!

So where am I on the Jeannie Mobley Ten Point Scale of Zenosity, otherwise (and fabulously) known as the JMTPSZ? Oh, I’m veering between, say, -16 and zero. Which is a vast improvement over last Friday, actually, when I was in the negative triple digits and sinking fast. It helps very much that I have folks like my fellow EMU’s Debuts slogging through the same stretch of psychological swampland. Natalie Lorenzi is setting such a good example of grace under pressure, for example, as I sit here flailing and stabbing myself in the leg with a fork. Jeannie’s alert sense of humor and flavorful grab-bag of spiritually-inspired goodies are like gold.

One of the unending sources of joy I’ve discovered on this crazy-making journey to publication is the realization that we have so many allies! Our fellow book creators are where it starts, of course, but joining the EMLA client list took it to another level. Holy cow, I love being a part of the EMLA family, I really do. I’m still in the process of getting to know everyone, but I can’t imagine feeling more welcomed and supported by an entire agency (agents AND clients) than I do now. You all are the finest group of allies a guy could ask for. Even you, Ruth, with your terrible competitiveness. 😉

And to stay on point with Ye Olde From Deal to Debut Blogge, landing the book deal took it to another level beyond that, because I joined yet another family at Arthur A. Levine Books, and I have no doubt that Arthur is my ally. We both want my book to become something truly memorable and lasting. He appears to have faith that it will be, and you know what, I think I do too. OH I KNOW SAYING “I THINK I DO TOO” UNDERMINES THE ACTUAL STATEMENT OF FAITH.  Cut me some slack, yo.

Don't worry, I'll snap out of it any minute. No, seriously. AAGH JUST LEAVE ME ALONE

These moments of raging neurosis, they shall pass. In a weird way I don’t mind the neurosis and doubt so much, because, well, I think those moments are just part of who I am, in some deeply rooted way that’s bigger than the writerly part of my identity. It’s true that I sometimes go off the deep end for questionable reasons, usually when it involves some area of life where I lack confidence. I actually have quite a bit of confidence in my abilities as a writer, however. As a cocktail party host? No. As an athlete? Definitely not. As an automotive mechanic? Surely you jest. I’m a good writer, though, and I know it, even in the face of all my basket case moments. So I’m pretty sure the Eeyore impersonation I’m doing right now is based in the present moment and the newness of the situation. This IS my first editorial letter, after all – it’s kind of a big deal, right?

My confidence will probably reassert itself at some point, and then hey presto, I’ll be right back up on the horse, which will preferably still possess its head. And when I next fall off the stupid horse and return to my current fetal position, I know who’ll be there – my allies. My allies, my colleagues, my peers, my friends. You’ll be there, right? Right? OH JUST SAY YES…


Filed under Editing and Revising, Editor

7 responses to “Zen-like Calm Still Eludes Me, but Ehh, Whatever

  1. We’ll be there, Mike. We’ll be there.

    I find my most self-doubting moment come when I see something or someone points out something that I missed or hadn’t thought of before. I can usually hold on to my perspective or confidence after submission until I look back at the document and notice a typo in the second sentence, and then AAAHHHHH!!!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M SUCH A STUPID IDIOT! THE WHOLE THING IS RUINED!!!!!!! sets in. Or a critique partner says, “I’m glad you changed the spelling of the MC’s name, I really like it better with an “e” at the end, and I think “OH NOOO!!!!! I DIDN”T CHANGE THE SPELLING!!! ALL IS LOST–I’VE RUINED MY CHANCE OF EVER MAKING IT IN PUBLISHING FOREVER!!!!!!!

    Which is why I’m so grateful (NOT!) that you pointed out the possibility of the severed horsehead from the disgrutled editor. I had blissfully never thought of that image until now. Guess I won’t be sleeping tonight (or until I hear from my editor about the revisions I’ve made.) 🙂

    My perspective on submission has been helped by the fact that I have made a pretty ugly mistake that I tortured myself over, but in the end it didn’t hurt me.

    I probably shouldn’t mention this in public, but I will. When I first queried Erin Murphy, there was a typo in the first word of the subject line of the email–I had written QUERRY. Of course I saw it about three seconds after hitting the SEND button–AARRRGHHH!!

    I can’t tell you how long I suffered under the certainty that I had sunk my ship. And yet she signed me, and has never once sent me a severed head of any species! So you are going to be fine!


    • Mike Jung

      Oh, you’re probably right Jeannie, although I WISH my mistakes and whatnot were as small as typos and misspellings. But you’re probably right. You know what, Erin and Joan are great about sending encouraging little notes with any snail-mail correspondence, but neither of them has ever sent me any kind of severed head either! I’m kind of disappointed…


  2. So, here’s my impression: guy writers have (or, at least, show) a lot more confidence than girl writers. I got really scared when I saw Mike curled up on the floor. (Kleenex box and overflowing wastepaper basket–good touches!). I mean, if that’s where Mike is, where does that put me? In the basement, except I live in a pier-and-beam house, which I’d be under with the rats and Alaska-size cockroaches. (Ever since Alaska became a state and beat out Texas, size-wise, we’ve been a little defensive, even about flying insects-on-hormones.)

    What a relief to see that Mike was just joking. I can climb out of my non-existent cellar and lie down on the floor he vacated.

    Or, I can write a damn good book. Let’s go for it, ladies (and Mike)!


    • Mike Jung

      Writing a damn good book is the all-purpose solution, isn’t it? Yep. And, err, yeah, the Kleenex box and overflowing wastepaper basket were, uh, STAGED. Yeah, that’s it…


  3. You’re working with EMLA and Arthur Levine? You have no reason to feel insecure.


    • Mike Jung

      Well, thank you Ruth. My insecurity is a wild and rampaging thing, but it IS heartening to think about that – I get to work with some of the very finest people in the business, and I know how lucky that makes me.


  4. Funny, funny, funny. Nice to know I’m in equally neurotic company.


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