December 11th, 2008
Zen and the Art of Not Making Yourself Nuts in Publishing

In an alternate life, one in which I wasn’t a writer, I would have been a psychologist. I was in grad school to become just that when I made my first sale and subsequently left that career path for this one. Crazy, right? Have you compared the salaries of your average author and your average psychologist lately?


Even so, I’ve never regretted my decision because although I think I would’ve been quite happy mucking about in other people’s brains, I’m far happier mucking about in my character’s brains (who actually probably are all my brain, but that’s a topic for another day).

Writing is my first love, above all other career paths, and I have never regretted my choice. Even if I fail at being an author, (so far, so good), I’ll still never regret my choice because I took a risk on my biggest dream, the one I’ve had since I was five. That means when I’m old and gray I’ll be able to look back on my life and say, I did that.

No regrets. No fears.

Even though I didn’t follow the path of a psychologist, the way I think and my personality is still naturally suited to being one. That’s why I’d decided on it in the first place. Combine my naturally occurring inclination toward analyzing other people’s motivations, emotions and behaviors with my interest in Buddhism, especially mediation and Mindfulness, and you have someone who pays attention to her own emotional tides pretty much all the time.

And I am neurotic like WOW when I have a new mass market book release. We’re talking extra neuroses with cherries and whipped cream on top. Mostly, I suffer in silence and only inflict my constant fretting on my closest friends and my husband.

At the same time, so much surrounding the release of a new book is completely and utterly out of my hands. I have no control over so many of the factors that affect the success or failure of a novel. Things like the economic environment (that’s a biggie right now), when the novel releases (some times of the year are worse than others), what my print run is and where in the store my book is displayed.

The only thing I have control over is the advertising I do beforehand and the actual book itself. I always take great care in crafting my novels, but there’s another element of which I have no control – I can’t control how individual readers will perceive the work and the characters. Those opinions, just like people’s personalities, differ greatly and one person’s perception of a novel may be very different than the next person’s. All I can do is write the best possible novel I can, according to my own vision, and hope people enjoy it.

So it was with great interest that I read Steven Axelrod and Julie Anne Long’s article, the Tao of Publishing in the latest Romance Writer’s Report. (I swear, the inclusion of that article in the RWR made my hefty RWA membership worth it this year.) That article that can also be online found here.

In the article, Axelrod points out how humans love to attempt to find order in chaos and authors are no exception. We’re constantly trying to figure out how to control our writing careers in a pretty much uncontrollable environment, and THAT makes us crazy (I know it makes me crazy).

Julie Anne Long delves into how to avoid that craziness by staying in the moment (mindfulness!) and going with the flow. Fighting against the inexorable publishing tides simply wears you out and worrying over things we can’t control just makes us nuts and, if you’re like me, makes you depressed.

Once your book is published, it’s out of your hands. You can do nothing to affect its sales in a major way (booksignings, guest blogging, contests, and readings only do so in a very minor way), so why all the worry? It’s better to just move on to something you CAN control, like, oh, I don’t know…a new novel, perhaps? Better to let the stress of the release go and find a place where you can be okay with it, no matter what the outcome might be. Try not to have any lofty expectations and find the core of why you became a writer in the first place.

For me, that’s a love of the actual writing itself, specifically the worldbuilding and the creation of my characters. It’s that first draft I love so very much, when I’m creating a place for my characters to be and to interact. LOVE it.

If I can focus on what I love, then I can let what I don’t love fall away (the stress of how my current release is doing.) and my life is tons better. With every new release I try for this peaceful place in my psyche, a sort of oasis in the tension. I achieve it with varying levels of success. It tends to go in waves. For a while I’ll have found a zenlike acceptance and let the outcome be whatever it is, and then something will set me off and send me careening back into monkey-brained worry.

But I do think that with every release I’m improving. Apparently I just need more practice. And, since I plan to be in publishing for a long time, I’ll have all the practice I need in the years to come. In the meantime, I have every intention of enjoying this journey I’ve set myself on and appreciating every bump and roadside sightseeing stop I make.

If you read to the end of this, you get a virtual cookie.

6 comments to “Zen and the Art of Not Making Yourself Nuts in Publishing”

  1. Cookie!

    I tend to angst more before the fact, during edits or pre-marketing or what have you. I haven’t had a mass market release yet, so who knows how much that would stres me out?

  2. Nom, virtual cookies have no calories! Funny, I majored in psychology, too. I think it’s the best thing I could’ve done for my writing.

    I am trying to focus on the moment and the love and let the rest go. It’s a process.

  3. I am so glad you decided to become an author!

  4. I want my cookie!!! 🙂

  5. Do I get any kind of cookie I want?

    Great post. Channeling that kind of nervous energy can be a good thing.

  6. I wanna cookie! 😉

    I didn’t know your other career path choice! I’m so glad you went the author route…who would I have worked with all those years ago? :mrgreen: Not to mention it has turned out so well for you.

    Happy Holidays to you and your family!