Friday, July 24, 2009

A Little Goes A Long Way

This last conference was my fifth. I’ve been to Reno, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and now, DC. Regardless of what happens over those few, frantic days, I always end up coming home with the same general feeling.

That I’m a fraud and I’ll never publish.

I think the exhaustion and emotional overload make me a little irrational, but year after year, it’s the same. Some people come home fired up to conquer the world. I sit through workshops and other gatherings and wonder how I’ll ever make it. I usually get writer’s paralysis for weeks, if not a month or more. And yet, I go back every year.

Part of it is seeing two thousand women in one place that are all scrambling for the same dream. How can we all possibly achieve our goals? It’s true that one person selling doesn’t mean another person won’t, but seeing the crowds gathered together is overwhelming. Especially knowing it’s only a fifth of your competition (and just RWA members at that.) Of course, all the people brushing by with ribbons declaring them as Golden Heart finalists or First Sale celebrants doesn't help either.

I think another part is hearing feedback from agents and editors in workshops. They rarely beat around the bush. They tell you what they want and don’t want. They will flat out tell you that they’ve seen at least fifty different versions of a theme – zombie archeologists, for example ─ and they’re sick of it. If you are sitting in the audience with your hopes pinned on your witty and brilliant zombie archaeology series, it’s bound to bring you down. Its never good to hear that what you write is unpopular or undesirable in the place you're hoping it will find a home. When your plans are suddenly changed for you, it takes a bit to recover.


I am pleased to report that this year, I did not feel like a fraud. I felt like I fit right in amongst the high-heeled masses. I also don’t feel all doom and gloom about my publishing odds. I think as things go, my career is looking pretty good. I’ve also been writing and editing and plotting like a mad fiend. Very unlike me. Why, you ask? Why the sudden change?

To be perfectly honest, I’m an external validation junkie. Sure, I get plenty from the Playfriends and such, but it’s like your mama telling you you’re pretty. Its nice to hear and can perk up your mood when you’re down, but they’re almost obligated to say it whether its true or not. So, when the hunky boy at school tells you you’re pretty, you not only believe it, but you’re floating in the clouds and putting on extra lip gloss just in case. This year at conference, I got the equivalent of the captain of the football team telling my friend he thinks I’m cute. We probably won’t date, but I’ll tell you what... it feels good.

What was the best compliment you've ever received from a non-mama-like source?


Linda Winstead Jones said...

That feeling doesn't entirely go away, you know. I get it when I read RT, or when I look around at the yearly literacy signing. All these authors, all these books. It's such a competitive business! David Letterman said once that he kept expecting someone to come up behind him, tap him on the shoulder, and say, "There's been a mistake, Dave. Time to go home." :-)

Best compliment from a non-mom-like source: When someone I did not know told me they'd stayed up until 4 in the morning to finish one of my books, I felt like I'd arrived.


Christine said...

I never got compliments from my mom. She preferred to denigrate the things I accomplished so I had to learn to buck myself up and fight. Any rate, I got to the point where I never thought much of my accomplishments. I just did it.

Then a friend's mom who I adore asked about my writing process just before the conference. And I laughed and told her how it changed for each book and why. And she said, "the reason you're successful is you know how to set goals and achieve them." To which I replied, "I'm not successful yet. I haven't sold any books." And she said, "You are a success already for all you've done. How many people say they will write a book and never do? You've written four!"

I tell you, it made my day and it made the conference all the more enjoyable. I wasn't worried about where everyone else was at, I was enjoying the small successes I achieved and looking forward to the next phase.

Congratulations about the external validation! I'm glad it bolstered your writing!

Playground Monitor said...

Having an editor request my manuscript was probably my best non-mama compliment. She'll compliment me even more if she calls to buy the book. ;-)

PM's Mother said...

...when my older daughter called me her hero!

Problem Child said...

The first email I got after my book came out -- from a total stranger -- telling me how much she enjoyed my book. That felt good. :-)


Published or unpublished, I think we still want the validation. I was recently berated by "a friend" for being such a validation junkie, instead of being a serious writer who knows what she wants and how to get it. But I can't believe I'm a writer. I can't believe I'm getting published. I couldn't believe I was a GH finalist. I'm always surprised by my good fortune. I'm waiting for everyone to tell me it was all a big joke for which I am the butt.

Betty Bolte said...

My best non-mom-compliment was from my graduate school literature professor who read the second draft of my current WIP and said that he wished he could write with such "confidence and fluency" and that he couldn't stop turning the pages -- made my week! And it gave me hope that this time (this is my 4th attempt at a novel) might prove the charm. Keep writing and believing in yourself. I do!

Angel said...

I know the feeling, Kelly. I often feel like a fraud. And I do come home from conference worried that my work won't stand out of the pile enough, but then I worry about everything. :)

My GH final this year was a huge validation for me. And told me a lot about the direction I should take my writing in. I've got to learn to work with my voice instead of against it. I'm hoping to be able to do that.


Instigator said...

I had the same reaction, Kelly when I sold. Until my contract arrived in the mail I had this really bad feeling that I'd dreamed the entire thing and then started this frenzy of excitement and congratulations that I'd eventually have to take back. Turns out it was real :-)

Having an editor believe in me enough to work with me and then buy my book was pretty amazing.


Jean said...

SP--you've got great things coming your way. I know it.

Best compliment--someone Stephanie and I respect said we had a great voice. I love the word great!

Kathy said...

You have never been in need of validation, SP. You are an excellent story-teller and it is only a matter of time before the world discoverst that fact. ;)

I waste a lot of time worrying about things I can't change. (sigh) The best thing anyone ever said to me was, 'you made me feel like I was there.' Golden words to an historical writer.

Kathy said...

Geez! Pardon my spelling error. I'd like the world to 'discoverst' me too. LOL!