Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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March 11, 2016

Don't Give Away Your Power


I’ve been in a bad place lately. And admitting that in public is a big deal for me. See, I’m the equivalent of a golden retriever named Pollyanna.  My glass is way full. Except lately.

417 rejections before I finally sold earned me a pretty tough skin. So how could I find myself here - lower than octopus poop in the Mariana Trench, glowering at those swimming above?

I’m writing a book. A book that was handed to me by the unseen current over our heads that Stephen King talks about. I’ve always written blue collar. This one involves a Molecular Biologist and the head of the Governor’s Task Force on Women. My books are not high-concept. This one is HUGE concept. My books are emotional, but this one will knock you on your butt. I haven’t believed in a book like this since The Sweet Spot, my RITA winner.

I put together the proposal, tidied its bow, patted it on the ass, and sent it to my agent, knowing it would find a seat in the front row of my dream publisher.

Then I got rejected.

Now, it was one of those oxymoronic rave rejections, but still . . .  And my agent is shopping it elsewhere (hello, Jodi Picoult’s publisher), but I had my heart set on that original one. Which brings me to my first point:


12801444_10207612846831888_3947622202002114514_nExpectations are joy killers. 

Why do you think little kids are so happy? Because they don't know or give a flying diarrhea diaper about expectations. They wake up every morning, happy to see what's going to happen today.

I'd decided how this was going to happen. Big mistake. Reminds me of the old Jewish saying - 'Man plans, God laughs.'

I have enough experience in this life (and industry) to know that when this book is successful, it won't matter how I got there. This is short-term thinking that I need to get over.




Wallowing doesn't help

Everyone loves commiseration, and I'm no exception. What good are friends if you can't whine to them, right? :/ A bit of that is necessary, I think, to help soothe your singed nerves. But keep at it too long, and you feel worse.

What's lower than the Mariana Trench? I don't know, and I'm not going there. Give yourself one 'Oh shit' conversation with a friend - maybe two, but no more. It puts your feet in cement and makes it harder to kick off from the bottom.

Trust me on this.






It takes a lot to take me to ‘The Green Side’. I don’t believe in jealousy.

Because there IS enough to go around.

It’s like loving your kids…did you run out after the first one? I didn’t think so. It’s the same with success. Your success has no bearing on my ability to achieve it – therefore I’m free to be happy for you, and help you celebrate.

I really believe that.




But there's another hard-won lesson I've learned over the years that will help me more than all the above.

When I'm focusing on what I don't have, or what others have, or what I should have,

I'm giving away my power. 

Because I have a choice in my focus, my power isn't being taken from me, I'm giving it away.

Have you ever noticed that if you don't sit down to write, you're not happy? You're guilty and snippy, and end up cleaning toilets to do penance.

But sitting down and hammering out your daily word count leaves you fulfilled and happy?

The only way I can influence my future is to write the best f'n book I'm capable of. That is where my power lies. If I'm focusing on anything else, I'm not only wasting my time, I'm draining my energy. It's kryptonite to the creative process.

So I'm going to write now. And I wish you all the focus. All the power. Go forth and


So what say you, WITS readers? What helps you when you're down?

photo credit: Misery Loves Company via photopin (license)
photo credit: February 22, 2015 via photopin (license)

Photo credit:http://blackheartmagazine.com/2014/02/28/lets-talk-book-promo-by-susan-tepper/

A bit about Laura's latest release - Days Made of Glass:

Harlie Cooper raised her sister, Angel, even before their mother died. When their guardian is killed in a fire, rather than be separated by Social Services, they run. Life in off the grid in L.A. isn’t easy, but worse, there’s something wrong with Angel.

Harlie walks in to find their apartment scattered with shattered and glass and Angel, a bloody rag doll in a corner. The doctor orders institutionalization in a state facility. Harlie’s not leaving her sister in that human warehouse. But something better takes money. Lots of it.

When a rep from the Pro Bull Riding Circuit suggests she train as a bullfighter, rescuing downed cowboys from their rampaging charges, she can’t let the fact that she’d be the first woman to attempt this stop her. Angel is depending on her.

It’s not just the danger and taking on a man’s career that challenges Harlie. She must learn to trust—her partner and herself, and learn to let go of what’s not hers to save.

A story of family and friendship, trust and truth.






106 comments on “Don't Give Away Your Power”

  1. Thank you for your honesty & perspective. I needed to hear them both today. Chocolate helps & allowing only a certain amount of time to wallow, before you force yourself to get up. You are so right about expectations. I need to live in the day and write. Good luck on getting your new baby out in the world. Your agent will find the right place for it. 🙂 Also, there is a silver lining - even though the rejected it - they liked your baby. Maybe they just couldn't figure out how to market it.

    1. Thanks, Sia! From what they said, it was too 'issue based'. The book won't be - but part of it is the fact that I'm a pantser, so, of course my synopsis sucks.

      Chocolate for all my comrades on the front lines!

  2. Cheers to you, Laura, for revealing a vulnerability - I think we can give you plenty of validation here. I can imagine how easy and hopeful it would be to fall into the expectations (especially after successes!). I appreciate your words about holding onto our own power over ourselves. If anyone is proof of how important and effective that is, it's you.

    1. Oh Janet, thank you - I didn't think to mention the 'especially after successes' part. So true. We assume the out trajectory will continue to climb, but anyone who's been in this industry for any amount of time, should know better (talking about me, here)

  3. I love your perspective. Thank you so much for sharing. I too needed to hear it. I have a tendency to do this. I wallow for a bit, then I get back up and start a new book, and that's where my focus goes. Because it's the only thing I can do. I never really thought about why until now. Thanks so much for a great message. Good luck to you on the new project. 🙂

  4. A wonderful and honest post. What helps me? A good ole' talking to, just like you gave yourself and forcing myself to look at a list of priorities. I have three sayings, that are my go-to inspiration when I know i've given something my all: "This too shall pass," and "Either you believe God is in control, or He's not," and the last one "Faith is believing that one of two things will happen, that there will be something solid for you to stand on, or God will teach you to fly." @sheilagood at Cow Pasture Chronicles

  5. I hear you. I'm treading that line right now myself - pushing a book about to drop and querying the next (and getting rejected!). One day I'm invincible, the next day I suck. The only thing that helps is to remember that I'm writing from my soul and not for any of these idiots who don't like me (I know it's the writing, but it still feels like me when that horrible auto-email arrives). I just sit down and keep on keepin' on and try not to see past my laptop. Lay tracks, as Julia Cameron would say. After all these years of trying, I know that if you throw enough spaghetti at the wall, eventually something will stick.
    That's what I do, that and hanging out with my pups - they think I'm awesome.

    1. Yes, Cara! Lay tracks! And puppy kisses help, too. You have something to say - something important - don't let ANYTHING keep you from saying it!

  6. Oh, good for you for your honesty and for recognizing what's in front of you. Also good for you for leaping outside the comfort zone in your writing. (Although as a reader, I hope you leap back in, too--no one does blue collar like you do.)

  7. Laura...It's refreshing to read a post as honest and real as yours. We all love writing or we wouldn't keep at it. But sometimes, it's good to have someone step up and say, 'yeah, but here's what sucks about it'. We all need to know we aren't the only ones that have these thoughts banging around in our heads. Personally, I think any creative person...whether a writer, an artist, a songwriter, whatever...deserve a special award just for sticking their neck out and sending their created 'child' out into the world to weather criticism.

    BTW...loved the mug pictured at the end of your post. LOL It really did make me laugh out loud.

    1. I have to give Amy Sue Nathan the nod for the mug. I saw it and realized it was perfect for this post! You're right - all artists hazard themselves to put their art into the world.

  8. Perfect timing. I had a similar moment yesterday when my agent passed along word that a publisher had passed on my MS, a publisher I have deep respect and admiration for and whose name I would LOVE to see paired with mine. So when my husband (also a writer who is currently on the business end of some rejection) got home, the boy went downstairs to watch TV in his fort and we sat in the sunroom, smoking cigars and clove cigarettes (ah, college days nostalgia), and shot the shit for a while, alone, as adults. It was great. And I felt a lot better. I'm over it. And I'm back to work.

  9. Boy-oh-boy...did you hit the nail on the head. I've been in a slump over things I can't control. Wallowing in my misery and on focused. Only lately I started writing and forgetting all the crap pulling me down and some of my mojo is back. Your post cinched it for me. Just write. Forget everything else. A great post Laura!!

  10. Yea, Laura! I have do doubt you'll make it happen.
    You are an inspiration.
    Thank you!

  11. I'm readying my first novel for eyes other than my own and the thought of others not liking my story makes me break out in hives. Thanks for your wise words. They help. I'm hoping to develop a real thick skin.

  12. Great post, Laura. Comes at the right time for me after the book that I thought would be the one to sell landed back in my lap. I've been wallowing for a few days, now time to get to work!

  13. Thank you, Laura! And I love Cara Sue Achterberg's comment "One day I'm invincible, the next day I suck." That pretty much sums it up, and that's even before you get to the submission stage. Rejection only adds to the suck factor. It truly does take away your power. I've always said that denial is my superpower. It's not always a good thing in life, but in publishing, it's the only thing that allows to hang on and keep plodding along.

    1. If by denial, you mean you're not willing to accept their opinion of your work, I'm right there with you, Densie!!! We all need that mug!

  14. Thank you so much for this Laura. I'm going through a bad patch with my own writing--I went the small press route and now those presses are either out of business or hanging on by a thread. As I begin an agent hunt, with rejections starting to come in, I feel like I'm back to square one after writing millions of words. But those words are what sustain me. And your post reminded me of that. Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing,

  15. I love this post and it also comes at the exact right time for me as well. I had been taking comfort in knowing that it happens to everyone, but the idea of giving away my power is a completely different perspective. I love that! Thanks so much for giving me a different way of looking at things.

  16. Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am! Yesterday, I stopped outside a nearby library and had what felt like a God encounter, you know one of those meetings where you just know it was supposed to happen? And during the ensuing discussion, this new friend and I talked about this, what you've written--that the power and the growth come in recognizing the green eyes and rejecting them as soul-eating.

    Wonderful and timely post, Laura. Sending you huge hugs.

  17. "The only way I can influence my future is to write the best f’n book I’m capable of. That is where my power lies" <-- THIS! And I'll keep reminding you if you keep reminding me. 🙂

    1. Oh, like you could go far enough to get away from a Golden Retriever - that's what we DO - RETRIEVE!

      And yeah, just ask Jen - I suck at asking for help, myself.

      1. Yes, she does suck at it. The secret: Be the Saint Bernard. Pick her ass up off the snow. She'll lay there and freeze to death before she'll ask for help. And yet, she rocks.

  18. My word if you didn't pick up a hammer and nail that right on the head! I did this very thing - pinned my hopes on a particular editor with a book I (and my agent) thought would start my career as a published author - finally! Why did I think that about that editor? Because my agent had sold him several books in the past...they had a "rapport," a "history," a "connection." And that editor rejected my book exactly four days after submission.

    Like you, the hard crime book wasn't my "usual" sort of story. It took EIGHTEEN LONG OF HAIR PULLING (ooops, am I yelling?) to write that sucker. And that rejection sent me down the ole chute to, as you say, the Mariana Trench faster than a plunge off Niagara Falls. But wait! My agent then sent him a Southern fiction book, the sort of book I love to write, and six weeks later? Offer. The thing was, I forgot about him doing that. I was so hell bent on my latest thing of beauty (even with all of the f bombs in it) I was certain the hard crime was destined for somebody to love it.

    I've always said writing builds hope, actually writing and reading the sort of books that inspire me. And yes, yes, yes, to meeting the daily quota. That's exactly how I feel and now that's exactly what I have to go do so I won't be a Grumpasaurus when my husband gets home! 🙂

    1. See Donaeve? You're the perfect example of what I said - when you're successful selling that book, none of this crap will matter. Go dance! You sold!!!!

  19. Every time I hear "issue based" as a reason for rejecting a proposal, I want to spit bullets. In the name of everything holy, WTH in life ISN'T issue based? My novels about alcoholism, gay marriages, interracial couples were rejected by pubs for being issue driven. Seriously? What exactly does that even mean???

    Anyway--enough of my personal rants. Thanks for sharing this and for helping me realize that my power is MINE, and their rejection is THEIR loss and, unfortunately, a loss for some readers as well. I console myself with remembering that The Martian was self-published...

    1. Touched a nerve, eh, Christa? So sorry for you - but I think they sometimes fling excuses, not realizing we're taking it to heart, and it's burrowing in to fester.

      It only takes ONE to love your voice, and your story. You just haven't found them yet.
      But if you put your head down and do the work, you will. Me too.

  20. Laura, After only sending my stuff to two agents, one of whom rejected it and the other who just received it, I'm in awe of someone who held on for 400+ rejections. While you're in the funk, from which you will escape, think about those of us who look up to you for your courage. I'm sure your latest will find a home with a publisher.

    1. Aw thanks, stillalife. I figure the damned lessons are so hard won, it'd be a shame if I were the only one to benefit. I'll never quit. Because really, did we start writing to sell and become richer'n JK? Hell no. We started writing because we had something important to say, and along the way, we fell in love with writing. Right?

      And y'all have cheered me up and brought out my Pollyanna again! Thank you!

  21. The honesty you share with us here, is the same honesty that comes through in your writing, it's what makes your stories real and relatable. I'm so glad that you were strong enough to fight until you sold and are strong enough to keep writing when you don't have to because you are successful. You always share your strength and power to make the rest of us stronger.

    Thank you

    1. Nah,, Tari. You're as strong as I am. You just don't know it. YET! I'll get you convinced eventually! Me and that Hunky Hubby of yours! Yes, it IS a conspiracy. 😉

  22. Geez did you strike a chord with the tribe today ... and did it resonate! Well, I suspect it kinda ripped off those never-healing scabs we writers all take such loving care of. Our egos. Our motivation. Our validation. Laura, you are the real deal. And thank you for that. Each of us needs to be reminded that EACH and EVERY one of us is struggling. But the struggle is worth it. You may call yourself Pollyanna-like. I'll go on the record as being Annie-like. Yes, the sun will come out tomorrow. Damn it, it will. It'll crawl up in the east and slumber in the west. On that we MUST depend. Today can be the suckiest suckfest ever. However, tomorrow is another fresh start. And we have to focus on the fresh start. It's like the biggest and brightest package under the Christmas tree. And the tag has YOUR name on!

  23. Thanks for sharing, Laura. I roll through 99 punches out of 100. Then the rejection that crushes comes along. Or the cumulative nature of rejection floors me. It happens. I don't fight it or try to comfort myself with cliches or kicks in the pants. Feel the disappointment, but as you said, don't wallow in it. Writing heals the writing bruises. And if you share your pain, come back later with a positive word so your friends--and you--know you're okay and they can survive these moments too.

  24. Yes, I should be writing, but you made me think about how the writing life is like a series of literary prat falls. You just get going, reach what you think is your marathon stride and then bang, end of contract. It can be like starting all over again. sometimes it IS starting all over again. And I think it probably happens to just about every body that stays in the game. I think we're all in good company.

  25. Man oh man, what a post, Laura! Thank you for putting it out there so eloquently, I know it isn't easy to share our lumps and bumps along this wacky writing road. I have definitely adopted a new mantra to accompany by favorite one from Barbara Claypole White: I refuse to give a flying diarrhea diaper, and I will keep buggering on!

    1. Thanks for commenting, Jess, I know you're a veteran of the wars, too. My new mantra is that mug...

      Okay, I'm going to stop talking about it, and hunt one down!

  26. I don't know how deep the Marianna Trench is, but I live near the Atlantic coast in South Carolina and the waters get pretty deep here, too, so I know how you feel. Imagine for a moment that your first book hooks one of the BIG FIVE (without an agent) and sells moderately, but you go through four editors in the process and then, when baby number 2 is sent to them, they don't want it because your baby number 1 wasn' a high return producer and the new editors want fantasy, which you don't write. sigh...Now that can pretty much kill off any Pollyanna still left inside you. BUT, I'm still writing and publishing with less large companies, so, never give up. I'm secretly hoping to turn down that same first publisher one of the days. heeheehee! That kind of thinking keeps me writing. 🙂 One helpful rescue from the depths is to write a FRANK letter to those who are too blind to see your worth. BUT, you must destroy the letter when you have read it three times over the next three days. Then get back to writing. It clears the mind, puts a band aid on your wounded pride and lightens the luggage you carry back to the desk.
    Thanks for the wonderful post and the courage to share the place we all sink to every once in a while.

    1. Oh Sandy, I'm sorry. If it helps, you're in massive company. I think the majority of published authors have similar stories. Lighten the luggage...wise words to carry - thank you for the wisdom!

  27. As writers we need to learn to roll with the punches..its just sometimes I feel like I'm rolling uphill, especially after several rewrites and a rejection.
    Lovely honest writing Laura...The Sweet Spot is one of my keepers. F

  28. Laura thanks for sharing. It makes me more determined to get my 1st book published. Great site love reading it.

  29. I read The Sweet Spot before I met you and loved it. I sat at your table at my first PRO retreat and decided I wanted to be just like you when I grow up. I'm still unpublished and plan to change that this year. We writers have to believe in ourselves and what we do. What else do we have? We sit down and write because we have stories to tell. Sit down and write the next best and smile because you won a RITA!

  30. Sorry to hear, Laura. You will emerge stronger from all this. I love that you keep taking risks in your writing. That means you are growing and expanding and getting ready for NEW heights!! Hugs, Deb

    1. I don't get credit for bravery, Debbie - I just have a short attention span, and refuse to be bored! It's hell on branding, though. If I keep at it long enough, and something hits BIG, it won't matter though, because readers will buy it because it's a 'Laura Drake book'.

      Yeah, I'm delusional, too. But who cares, when it's taken me this far? Write on, Sista!

  31. It's as though you know my problems and wrote this just for me! "Lower than octopus poop in the Mariana Trench," exactly describes how I feel (fantastic expression by the way) - it's keeping me awake at night. If that happens tonight, I shall think over your article and tell myself not to give away my power. Replace the negative with the positive!
    Can't thank you enough!
    Best of luck with all your future ventures.

    1. Oh Judith, I'm so glad you got inspiration from something. It hurts my heart to think of you lying in bed, thinking about the negative. When your head goes there, just remember you're giving away your power, and turn your thoughts. It's hard in the beginning, but keep at it . . . it really makes a difference for me!

      Be gentle with yourself, Hon.

  32. Thwack! That's you hitting me upside the head. I haven't been wallowing in rejections, yet. But, my crit partner has a style that sends me lower than 'octopus poop.' I've given my power away over and over and over. Not giving away my power anymore. I'm gonna build a shield of words against that kyptonite.

    Laura, thank you for your shining words that led me out of the darkness. And, if you need a shield again, take a look at how many people you've touched with one post. Your words have the power to inspire and empower and enthrall your readers so I know that new project of yours will be powerful enough to draw readers (and publishers), too.

    1. Lynette, sounds like you need to have a talk with your crit partner. All of us have different needs as far as that goes, and some can take tough love, and some can't. If she's helpful, but just harsh, talk to her. If she's harsh and not helpful? Well, you know what you should do. Best to you, Hon.

  33. Yes!!! ART HARDER, MOTHERF@CKERS! Or so says Chuck Wendig and I love this quote.

    The only way out of the funk is through, and it sounds like you're doing it! Words on the page, determination high, friends at the ready, a stiff beverage to straighten the spine! Perhaps your dream publisher wasn't so dreamy after all and the best thing is around the bend. Many hugs, Laura!

  34. Laura- you have been an inspiration to me from the first time I read one of your posts and you never disappoint in your continued optimism and strong work ethic. Meeting you in person was one of the highlights of the WFWA retreat! Looking forward to reading this new book of yours.

  35. Dear Laura,
    In this piece, I discover how strong can be the will of a writer.
    I recognize myself and I am having the power to continuously work through you good help. Week after week I'm looking out. I was pleasantly surprised when I read the following sentence:
    When I’m focusing on what I don’t have, or what others have, or what I should have,
    I’m giving away my power.
    My mother said about 60 years ago almost the same thing to me, and which I subsequently processed in my first book, "The children of the Lo. A Flemish book I wrote in 2003. Flanders is my native language but I'm happy little by little to better understand your language.
    When I'm down I get a stream of positivity but also of nostalgia when I think of my mother. She was a simple woman, she sold flowers, who possessed so many knowledge of human nature that I feel 25 years after her death still that boost that I sometimes so need. I think all of us have such a person to think about because I do not think I'm the only one who may experience this.
    Thank you WITS, Thank you Laura, Thank you Orly I am happy with your help,
    Denise Keustermans

    1. Thank YOU Denise - you're far braver than I - I won't even write historical for fear of getting something wrong - and you're writing in a non-native language! Kudos to you!

      And your post is proof that I've lived long enough to sound like a mother! And I'm proud, because yours sounds like the very best kind!

      Thank you for commenting - and reading.

  36. I'm a Pollyanna-on-speed too! For some reason this means that when things go wrong it's like my plane is dropping out of the sky and the captain just parachuted to safety. I find chocolate and a good cry helps and then I return to my mother's advice - have a cry and then just keep going.

  37. Laura, a little reading this but so glad I did! I feel compelled to thank you for this pep talk. I really, really needed it. 🙂

  38. Boy are you right, Laura! Thanks for this. I may still cry, but I won't feel like octopus poop lying in the Mariana Trench. Thinking about giving away my power to create story should keep me centered.

  39. "When I’m focusing on what I don’t have, or what others have, or what I should have,

    I’m giving away my power."

    - I'm writing that quote on a bright pink sticky note and it's going on my computer. And I'm buying that effing mug. Thank you for the encouragement and words of wisdom that I so needed to hear.

  40. In this goofy industry, the only thing we, as writers, can control, is this: Are. We. Writing? And that's always what I go back to. Thanks for the blog, Laura.

  41. I loved this article and it gave me courage to get back to work writing. BUT I really hate seeing the "F" word. I know, it is used OFTEN as is the "S" word. To mean it is a word that takes the place of a better word in the language, that is RICH with descriptive words that fit better

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