The publishing business is fully of dizzying highs and stomach plunging lows and my writing career is no exception. From a nasty publisher to a six figure deal to getting dumped by my agent to dumping my agent, from international sales to film agents, to famous producers being interested in my book to books tanking, from scoring articles in national magazines to having an editor completely rework your copy because she hated everything you gave her… I’ve pretty much seen it all. I could teach a master class on publishing—and if there was any money in it and I had the time, I probably would, ha)! If you aren’t crazy when you start writing, the business can make you crazy.
Writers have a tendency to internalize every single rejection. Each criticism becomes a corrosive agent of self-doubt. To survive in today’s constantly changing industry, you have to be able to roll with the numerous punches and zig and zag through a myriad of options. It used to make me nuts. It doesn’t any more. I’ve reached a place where I can leave an agent (which I did last week) and not freak out. To decide that my writing is worth care and consideration and to choose both traditional paths and non-traditional paths.
For me, this recently achieved equanimity has to do with the realization that
- I am not my writing.
- I am more than an author.
- My day job and my activism give me so much satisfaction that I don’t have to look for publishing success as a measure of my worth.
Don’t get me wrong. Publishing is clearly wonderful. There’s absolutely nothing like “the call”. Nothing. But I think I’ve reached the point where I can navigate the industry without having it squeeze the breath out of me… and every writer on submission knows exactly how I feel.
For instance, this week alone, I left my agent, made my own submission to a non-traditional publisher for one book and am about to submit another to a large traditional publisher… on my own. I’m already researching plans for my next YA. And I’m fine. There was a moment last week when I was all , “What. The. Hell???” After about 20 minutes of that I was like, “Okay. So that’s that and this is this and what am I going to do next?”
Then I was fine. You know why? Because for me, being proactive is empowering. Being responsible for my own writing, my own career and my own choices is empowering.
I’m not saying that I won’t be as subject as the next person to the highs and lows, but now I know that no matter what… I’m going to be fine.