Being a children’s author, I’ve concluded, is a lot like being an actor. Like actors who attend multiple auditions hoping to land a role, we authors write multiple manuscripts, hoping that – after auditioning with various editors – our work will eventually find an editor who wants to publish it.
I am skipping a discussion of the lengthy time from idea to writing, rewriting, rewriting and more rewriting. We have all mastered, to varying degrees, the necessity of persevering in this solitary discipline. The amount of time and effort we spend is within our control.
The rest – alas! – is not. You send it to your agent, who will read it when she has time and choose to represent it – or not. If she does send it off to editors, there’s usually a long lag between sending it out and getting it published, if you are talented and lucky enough for this to happen. Rarely does the first editor accept it, and it may take weeks or months for her to even look at it. If she rejects it, the process begins again with another editor. In the meantime, how do you feel? Mad? Sad? Powerless?
I know I do, because I have felt all these emotions multiple times. As a journalist, I was respected for my quick turnarounds on assignments, for always meeting deadlines, and for following up and being thorough. It is a field that rewards type A behavior. Getting a book published appears to require exactly the opposite. After it’s published and the excitement dies down, the long wait begins again on another manuscript.
In a yoga class right after the New Year, we students were asked to choose a word to guide us during 2016, and to write it on the card we were given. Some looked meditative and thoughtfully gnawed their pencils. Not me! I instantly printed PATIENCE in all capital letters. I know I need to find a different way of dealing with the publishing process, and I am working on it.
While browsing through back issues of Yoga Journal (seeking poses that promote patience!), I came across an article about the “yoga of work.” The most useful, profound and difficult teaching states: “You have the right to the work alone, not to its fruits. Therefore, do not set your heart on the results of your actions.” The author, Sally Kempton, acknowledges that this is a difficult teaching. However, she wisely adds: “When you do the work for the sake of the work itself, rather than for a desired result, you’re much less likely to be anxious about the outcome. You’re also less likely to feel crippling disappointment if things don’t go the way you had hoped or planned.”
Further, she urges us to learn to release our attachment to outcomes without becoming jaded or pessimistic. Finally, she concludes: “Remember that your contract with life doesn’t specify that you will always get what you want.” To that, I must add, if and when we do get rewarded for the fruits of our work (as most of us have or will), let’s cultivate the grace to be humbly and sincerely grateful. (Instead of thinking “It’s about time!”which was my reaction upon learning that a manuscript I sold in 2010 would finally be published in 2017.) Clearly, I am still not as patient as I should be. But I am working on it. Really!