Turning Whine Into Gold
When writers seeking publication believe we are all in search of the same magic juju—you know, the one that has “New York Times bestseller” on the label—we create a culture of desperation like that of brides grappling at a wedding gown sale. My last post, “What Do You Bring to Your Support Team,” suggests that we instead think about what we can contribute to our important publishing relationships, whether with family members, agents and editors, or designers and publicists. This follow-up, with thanks to commenter Tom Pope who suggested it, will explore how we can learn to best contribute. Since this is a huge topic, it will be my focus over the next several months of my Turning Whine Into Gold posts. Each subtopic deserves our consideration if we care to be a valued member of the publication team.
The control dramas we explored last month, which we defer to when we feel the need to syphon precious energy from one of our support partners, suggests that our most important team contribution is an ideal state of elevated energy. Here are seven ways to maintain that.
1. Embrace the science. You’ve heard it a million times and will hear it again from this holder of a BS in biology and an MA in health education: eat healthy, stay hydrated, sleep well, exercise more. We writers love our coffee and wine memes but a keen creative mind cannot live on stimulants and depressants alone. We need nutrients flowing through our brains because our thoughts, quite literally, need a breath of fresh air. And those endorphins that provide a sense of wellbeing aren’t too shabby, either. Being hung over may add to your tragic persona on social media, but behind closed doors, it will not make you a reliable and valued team member. Strive for maximal health for a longer, better career.
2. Shore up your faith. Knowing who you are and what you believe bestows a quiet confidence that infuses your everyday interactions. I’ve quoted my prolific author friend Katherine Ramsland here before and I’ll do it again today: “It doesn’t matter what you believe, it matters that you believe.” Even if you do not believe in a higher power, you must have faith in your team’s combined talents if you hope to empower them to succeed. After all, “We can do this!” is more powerful than shaming someone with the many ways they’ve fallen short. The publishing industry is stormy on a good day, and the more deeply rooted your faith is, the more turmoil you can handle—and faith can turn turmoil into strength, wisdom, and growth. Faith is contagious. Your team will benefit from it.
3. Make peace with your choices. You will do your team no good if you can’t get beyond what’s already in your rear view. Let go of what those other agents and editors said, and the opinions of those one-star reviewers, because continuing to vilify them will only drain you. Lessons learned can fuel future course correction, but give this team your very best in this moment. Embrace these slogans: “All is subjective” and “Ever forward.”
4. Don’t forget to live life. Writing is a lone endeavor. But if the extent to which we seek seclusion endangers our most supportive relationships, doubt and its accompanying anxiety will trigger your control drama, making you a taker, not a giver. Career growth requires risk, so practice it by leaving your comfort zone on a regular basis. Out among others in the real world, your problems might not seem as all-consuming as you thought. Bring this refreshed attitude to your team and benefit from the energy that doing so creates.
5. Allow emotional reaction to pass before placing that call. The critical and competitive nature of this field takes its toll, to be sure. I need not enumerate the ways. We can protect our team from the rise and fall of our inner turmoil by striving for a more sensitive awareness of when we are starting to feel low. By identifying our control drama, we can note more quickly when it kicks in, and take immediate measures to bolster our energy. Then, when you meet with the members of your team, you’ll be brainstorming solutions instead of expecting them to salve your wounds.
6. Give back. There have been times when my confidence was so rattled that I felt I had no clue what I was doing. Sound familiar? That’s what happens when you reach outside your comfort zone. At such times, I can remind myself how far I’ve come by reaching out to help writers climbing the ladder behind me. And we can carry the resulting sense of good will right back to our team.
7. Remember you are in it for love. Fact: publishing does not guarantee a living wage for hours invested. Neither is getting published a right—it is, and always has been, a privilege. Somehow, once we get published, we forget this, and the complaining begins. No one is putting a gun to our heads here. If you can no longer access your love of what you do, your energy level will drain away and you’ll have nothing to offer your team. Take a workshop, phone a friend, drum up a bigger support crew—do whatever it takes to reconnect to the love that brought you to this place. Because there is one thing I know for sure: the members of your support team are human, and humans always respond to love.
Striving to maintain a high level of energy is key to motivating your team. When you bring your best, others tend to respond in kind. Maybe the magic juju isn’t something we find and grapple for after all, but something we can find and enhance within us. Rather than a culture of desperation, this will allow a culture of abundance with room for us all.
Bonus: every one of these energy-boosting strategies is good for your writing as well.
Does the problem of low energy resonate with you? What about your writing drains you, and what other ways have you found to shore yourself up?
Kathryn Craft is the award-winning author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, and The Far End of Happy. Her chapter “A Drop of Imitation: Learn from the Masters” will appear in the forthcoming guide from Writers Digest Books, Author in Progress, available now for pre-order.
Her work as a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, specializing in storytelling structure and writing craft, follows a nineteen-year career as a dance critic. Long a leader in the southeastern Pennsylvania writing scene, she leads workshops and speaks often about writing.