On Monday, Joshua McCune talked about whether advertising our failures might be as helpful to the community as touting our successes. And I agree. As much as I love to hear about friends’ book deals and blog tours (and I really DO love hearing about that stuff), sometimes what I need is to email a writer friend and just say, I CAN’T WRITE and have her answer, ME NEITHER, WE’RE STUPID.
We need other writers — our people — as Pat Zietlow Miller points out. We need a psychological support system. The whole process of inventing, creating, selling, and publishing a novel is predominantly just a series of rejections, starting with our own heads.
It’s no secret on this blog that once you get The Call, your problems don’t magically disappear. The Call is awesome, don’t get me wrong. It’s like Falcor and Ellen DeGeneres and a basket of puppies all singing gumdrops into your ears. But remember your non-magically-disappeared problems? And remember how, on top of those problems, you probably have new problems?
One of those new problems is guilt.
Not shame. Not regret. Nothing as major as that. Just this vague, dull discomfort that wiggles in your brain when you start to articulate any of these new problems. The little voice that says, “You got A CONTRACT. Do you know how many HARD WORKING writers, who are BETTER than you, are still waiting? How DARE you complain about anything!”
For most people, each step on a writing career path is a struggle. So reaching the next Thing (publisher, grad school, completed manuscript, agent, National Book Award) is a huge deal. And each step upward can feed our self-doubt.
Whenever I feel stressed, my brain starts on this “It Could Be Worse” path ad absurdum. A kind of Upward Spiral. Nothing that’s worrying me has any business being relevant, because someone has it worse. I mean, think about it —
You could still be waiting for your editorial letter.
Your contract could have fallen through.
Your agent could have given up on you.
You could still be waiting to sign with an agent.
You could still be finishing your novel.
You could still be starting your novel.
You could be one of those Ladies of Wrestling who have to wear bikinis all the time.
You could have accidentally broken that reclining shepherdess figurine Great Grandma brought over from the Old Country.
You could have leprosy.
YOU COULD HAVE YOUR HEAD ON A PIKE.
I’ve spoken to writers with amazing deals and established careers who have big problems. Big worries that they would love to commiserate with their friends about, but the guilt gets to them. It’s isolating.
Here’s the thing, though. You know that stuff that’s stressing you out? Revisions, deadlines, launches, reviews, sequels. The “Oh, man, I wish I had your ‘problems'” problems. That’s real stuff.
Just because good things have happened to you doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to ever have worries in your life again. It’s okay to be stressed by the challenges that come with each step of your path. And your friends will support you. Really. No matter where they are on their own journey.