It’s a tough business, publishing. I recall, years ago, a successful author warning a group of aspiring writers (me amongst them) to be careful what they wished for – that getting published didn’t solve all your problems. In fact, it brings a different set. And I can certainly confirm this. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and consider myself very lucky to be doing it – but signing that deal means that instead of suffering submission rejections you are faced with a whole new gamut of challenges, such as tight deadlines, bad reviews, disappointing sales…these things happen to all authors and can come as a shock after finally achieving your dream.
It pays to bear in mind that most dreams are unrealistic – the getting published bit isn’t, but it’s what we subconsciously attach to that aspiration. Your view of “getting published” might be that… you earn loads of money. Buy a big house and fancy car. Gain respect from everyone you meet. Suddenly become irresistible to the object of your affection. Never feel depressed again. End up on the Booker List. Stand on the red carpet next to George Clooney. Fit into that size ten dress. Prove to everyone who ever doubted you that their view of you was incorrect.
IT IS UNREASONABLE TO EXPECT ANY OF THESE THINGS TO HAPPEN AS A DIRECT RESULT OF FINALLY GETTING YOUR BOOK OUT THERE!
So how can us writers hold onto our happiness during such a roller coaster career?
Over the last year I’ve learn a lot from Buddhism. One of its tenets is that unhappiness comes from being attached to either good or bad things. What helps is realising that nothing is permanent. If we can do that, our life will achieve a sense of balance.
Take my 2015 bestseller Game of Scones. It reached #5 in the Kindle chart and stayed in the Top Ten for a good length of time. It won an award. Many readers loved the story. I was finally on my way to “making it” I whooped! I attached myself to that success and expected it to continue.
That was my mistake. The next book didn’t do badly, but didn’t do as well. I felt I’d failed. I attached myself to those feelings of disappointment and wondered if I’d ever have a bestseller again.
As it turned out I did and last year Breakfast Under a Cornish Sun got to #8. However, these days I have a different perspective. I don’t become attached to the peaks or the troughs. And I have zero expectations when a book is released. I write it the best I can, with love and heart, and I promote it at the outset… but then I let it go and get on with my next project. What will be will be. There are SO MANY reasons why a book does or doesn’t do well: the publisher’s strategy, the cover, title, price, the timing of its release, the other books around at that moment… I find that if I distance myself from my successes and see them for what they are – transitory events – it gives me a much more balanced view of my career.
Remember, the path to misery is littered with expectations and senses of entitlement!
And all of this can be applied to life. Physical looks, our own and loved ones’ personalities, domestic circumstances, financial earnings, our state of health … be aware that everything is impermanent and in a constant state of flux. This makes it easier to accept your situation when the status quo changes – which it will.
By all means enjoy your highs. You have worked hard. You deserve them. And lick your wounds during the lows. But remember – neither is permanent. Work hard and keep submitting manuscripts and you will get a deal. Keep writing and learning more about your craft and those good reviews and sales rankings will once again appear. Finding working with your current publisher/editor/agent difficult? One way or another that situation won’t last forever.
In my experience, keeping detached and enjoying the good moments simply for what they are (without further expectations), and realising the bad moments will eventually pass… THAT – in writing and in life – is the secret to happiness.