Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Power of Negative Thinking?

Remember a few years ago when Oprah made The Secret all the rage? It had something to do with focusing on positive thoughts and manifesting your own destiny. You could pin a picture of your dream mansion on a cork-board and then if you just focused on it enough, it would magically be yours some day. Or some such rot.

Suffice it to say that I was never a fan.

It's not that I'm an inherently negative person. In fact, a few years ago, when I was preparing to go on the academic job market, I bought myself suits and plane tickets to the conference 8 months in advance. I had done everything I could to be the best candidate possible, and I was confident that I'd get interviews. I was sure that good things would happen.

I've never worn the suits, so let's just say I've tempered my positive thinking since then.

But the one thing I've come to truly admire about the writing community is their tremendous ability to remain positive and upbeat throughout the often long and difficult process of becoming a published writer. Over and over again, I've been amazed and inspired by writers who have kept at writing after years and years, and who continued to believe that if they just kept at it, things would start happening for them. And over and over again, I've been ecstatic for people when all that positivity and perseverance finally pays off. (I'm looking at you, especially, Carla Swafford.)

I'm not sure how you all do it.

Since I started writing, I've kind of been of the mind that if I just don't expect anything, I'd be pleasantly surprised  if this whole writing thing works out, instead of completely devastated if it doesn't.

Sure, it's a defense mechanism, but it's one that's worked for me. It was my lack of expectations that got me through the many, many agent rejections when I queried. In fact, I think it was that lack of expectations that gave me the courage to send out the queries in the first place.

But I did get an agent and, as of yesterday, the book is officially on submission. As much as I'm trying to hold onto those lack of expectations, as much as I'm trying to tell myself that the book still might not sell, I'm more nervous and excited than I've ever been about the possibility of it selling.

To be honest, that's kind of scary for me. It feels like I might jinx the whole thing if I start anticipating The Call that might never come. So I'm going to bury myself in my new WIP, occupy myself with running around after the kids, and try really, really hard to not check me email and cell phone every ten minutes. I'm not going to expect too much, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

After all, it's worked so far :O)

How do you keep yourself sane during the waiting? Or in the face of rejections and road blocks?


Lexi said...

Rejection sucks, no bones about it. No matter how much you tell yourself that writing is subjective, that if your work doesn't "resonate" with an agent (hate that word! Saw it a LOT) it's not a good fit, that it's a business and not personal, it so is! I always gave myself a day to have a pity party and then it was back to the writing. But, Lisa, you have an agent and that's a big, big deal!!! Congratulations on leaping that first gi-normous hurdle and fingers crossed on your submissions!

Carla Swafford said...

Congratulations on the agent. Nothing is more uplifting than knowing a professional enjoys your writing enough to invest his/hers time in the sale of your book.

What kept me going? Positive thinking? A little. Hard headness? Certainly.

But most of all, it was knowing I never couldn't imagine not being published. The odd time the thought would cross my mind, I felt lost. What would I do? The world would come to a stop.

I think that's what separate those who give it up and those who don't.

Gwen Hernandez said...

It's funny, Lisa. I'm a proponent of positive thinking and reinforcement--as opposed to negative thinking--but I'm also a cautious optimist. I hope for the best, but don't blindly assume it'll all work out.

I haven't been at this very long, only 2 1/2 years, but what keeps me going is knowing that this is the best job I've ever had, and I'm not even getting paid yet. People always ask what you would do if you didn't have to make money. Well, for me, this is it!

So, someday I hope to make money at it, but I just keep telling myself it'll happen when I'm really ready for it. Until then all I can do is keep learning and keep writing, because if I don't do that, I'll *never* get paid for it. ;-)

Good luck to you on the submissions!

Lisa Dunick said...

Lexi- The nice thing about not getting overly optimistic about getting an agent was that for every rejection (at least after that first one) I just kind of said, "yeah, that figures." Of course, when I got the first yes, I couldn't begin to believe it worked.

Lisa Dunick said...

Carla- Well, I'm certainly all about hard headedness :O)

Gwen- cautious optimism-- that's a good way to put it. It's not that I expect the worst--it's that I don't expect much of anything but the experience itself. For me, that lets me focus on the actual work of writing, instead of the someday of publishing.

Suzanne Johnson said...

Congrats on the agent and the submission! Now comes the awful waiting process, also known as "check my email compulsively, at least 100 times per day." Rejection hurts, no doubt about it. I know everyone says "just keep writing," but I do have to wallow in my self-pity a few days first :-).

Chris Bailey said...

How do I do it? I look at the people sitting next to me at at Southern Magic meeting--people like YOU, Lisa Dunick! And hope the magic rubs off. And I consider the alternative. If I stop writing and querying, I definitely won't ever sell anything. But if I keep writing. . . .

Louisa Cornell said...

Focusing on your dream and imagining it happening are all very well, but doing the work and continuing to do the work in the face of rejection after rejection is what gets you there. I went to an all girls Baptist college and there were a number of girls who spent more time praying about their Algebra tests than they did studying for it! I always did the studying and then right before the test I prayed. I approach writing the same way. I do the writing first and then when it goes out on submission I pray. Then I get to work on the next one!