Turning Whine into Gold
This month I’ve been seeing a lot on social media about the benefit of positivity. It is the simplest and most immediate cure for whining!
A positive attitude will keep you in problem-solving gear and
win you many champions in the publishing business.
In this great interview between Porter Anderson and my friend and NYT bestselling author Jonathan Maberry, Jonathan says, “more doors will open if you go into the business with happiness and joy and optimism.”
No truer words, my friends.
As storytellers we get to play God. We can make good and bad things happen, and have it all come out the way we want it to in the end. But real life is less ordered. It requires us to deal with circumstances beyond our control. To surrender. Reframe. This skill set will help you leave despair behind and turn toward optimism and hope.
Dealing with it
If you have truly been wronged, it is important to note your emotional reaction—after all, we can’t have people walking all over us all the time. Best not get stuck there, though.
Harsh, angry words, especially when used to embellish a diatribe on public record about how you’ve been wronged—an f-ing agent rejected you, your book was orphaned when your f-ing editor retired, you lost your super publicist when she f-ing decided to switch lines of work, a major review is a f-ing personal vendetta—tend to whip you into a decidedly unhelpful, self-justified frenzy.
If you love to ride the downward spiral, I suggest you do so off-line. Your fury will damage your friends if they engage with it, and will stall all forward movement in your writing and your career until you get over it.
Instead, after you note your anger, let it go as soon as possible so you can surrender to your new circumstances.
If we think of change in terms of loss—even if all we’ve lost is our expectation of how something will go—we adapt by moving through the stages of grief. If denial is the first (tweet: “Oh no! It can’t be true—my editor is going into the restaurant business?!”), accepting your circumstances allows healing (tweet: “Best wishes to Dream Publicist as she opens NY Sushi—if she can gussy up raw fish like she did my raw words, can’t wait to try some!”). During the intermediate grieving stages of anger, bargaining, and depression, consider staying off-line—and the sooner you can push through them in private, the better.
Whether or not you want to accept it, reality is, the agent doesn’t want you, this book may not get published without an in-house advocate, your publicist is gone, that bad review won’t get unpublished. Invectives and self-pity won’t change that. If you still need to tweet, do so in a way that helps you reach for positivity: “No publishing news today. There’s been a plot twist. Researching Plan B—stay tuned!”
Once you’ve fully surrendered, you’ll free up energy to reframe.
The trick to reframing a situation requires that you embrace paradox: you must think of yourself both as the hero of your own small story and as a pawn who must surrender to a much larger one.
The orphaned book. If no one else in the house (or the industry) believes in the book, was it really all that marketable? A book needs staunch advocates to make it in the business; without this it will not get the send-off it deserves. The pawn must surrender, because the only thing worse than no publishing record is a poor publishing record. Your inner hero can decide whether to re-submit elsewhere, self-publish—or, heartened by getting this close—set it aside to write the next.
The lost publicist. “I’m screwed,” you think—but are you? As a pawn, even though you loved everything your last publicist did, you’ve got to let her go. But your inner hero has already learned her techniques, and could teach them to someone new if need be. What if the next publicist, with a different way of thinking, comes up with alternate approaches that help your work reach a wider audience?
The bad review. The pawn cringes as he reads—then the hero laughs. He knows that many books that rise to popular success have been scorned by critics (Twilight, anyone? Da Vinci Code?). And clearly you must not have seen this video, in which Brad Meltzer turns the bad reviews of his The Book of Lies into a YouTube trailer with almost 20K hits.
If you doubt that Brad’s creative approach was effective, check out all the comments beneath the video on YouTube! And we have to believe Brad felt a whole lot better after taking on this creative project than if he had simply stewed in self-righteous anger.
When your life in publishing hits a pothole, deal with it, surrender, and re-frame. You’ll be happier, and you’ll find a lot more people willing to help you reach your goals.
After all: do you want to lead a life you love, or one you only whine about?
If you want to practice: share an example of a speed bump you hit in your writing life, requiring that your inner pawn surrender even as your inner hero found a way to turn it into a positive.
Kathryn Craft is the author of two novels from Sourcebooks: The Art of Falling, and The Far End of Happy, due May 2015. 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 now serves as book club liaison for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association. She hosts lakeside writing retreats for women in northern New York State, leads workshops, and speaks often about writing. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA. Although a member of The Liars Club, she swears that everything in this bio is true.
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