Patient in Writing (Pt. 2)
It's 2016! And that means, after a long, long sleep, publishing has finally woken up again. Which also means, I can no longer use the excuse of "Its the holidays and I'm too busy stuffing my face to finish up my blog series I promised you all."
So, without further ado...I give you Part Two.
Last time, I talked about how my life leading up to NOW, in terms of writing and publishing, has always been rush, rush, rush. (If you haven't done so yet, I encourage you to read PART ONE of this mini series. You can do so by clicking right here.)
I talked about how all I ever wanted was to reach my dreams and complete my goals without the waiting part. Because, dude...I hate waiting. Like, I want to stab waiting with a fork. I'm naturally a very impatient person, and this is something I'm working on and probably will for years to come. Which is why it makes me laugh that I chose to go the long, often seemingly "on pause" route of Traditional Publishing.
REWIND: Years ago, when I graduated high school, I had TONS of dreams for myself, and instead of going off and accomplishing those dreams, I got incredibly sick with major Chronic Fatigue. I didn't go to college because of it. I lost out on music dreams for my life, and in turn, spent several years going through surgeries, doctor visits, test after test on my body, and a LOT of laying in bed or on the couch binge-watching LOST and Doctor Who (those last two things were ALL OF THE AWESOME).
Long story short, I got hooked on writing because of that illness, and during that time, I learned that PUBLISHING IS SLOW. Painfully slow, yall. It took me years to get to where I am, and so many times I wanted to quit, but I've always told myself that quitting is weakness.
Quitting is giving in to a world that we should be fighting back against with all of our might (I stole that quote from THE MURDER COMPLEX, but it's my book, so I don't have to cite it hehe).
So, to quote myself from last week: TAKE TIME TO HONE YOUR CRAFT. I cannot stress this enough.
This is the HUGELY IMPORTANT thing I'm learning, and the most incredible life changing thing for my writing in the past several months.
I wrote a post a few months ago, about what's next for me. About how, after signing 2 book deals with Harpercollins, and after having 5 books released in stores....nothing is happening.
Right now, I can look back on myself at 18 and I know that I've come so far...but it's at a standstill. The books are written. The release parties have happened. It's all over. Okay, so I do have my final BALANCE KEEPERS book releasing in September, but after that?! An endless abyss, my friends. The end of a trilogy. The end of money in my pocket, the end of being relevant in the book world. The end of showing up, and saying "Hi, I'm Lindsay Cummings, and I'm an AUTHOR!" Because without new book deals, how can I say that? How can I be ME?!
The truth is, it's all in the writing. I'm still me without the deals. I'm just a little less financially steady, a little more melodramatic, and lets be honest...I'm back to that old me, with a dream burning in my soul and a desperation to reach out and grab a hold of it.
REWIND AGAIN: In early 2015, I started writing new stuff. I hammered out new words in record time, determined to get a book finished quickly so that I could pass it off to my agent, and she could magically sell it, and suddenly I'd be looking at a future in writing again.
STOP. DID YOU CATCH IT? THE BIG, UGLY MISTAKE I MADE IN 2015?
Let's zero in on it:
I rushed. Just like I always do.
I started writing a book with characters that finally spoke to me, and begged to be written. I wrote, fast. I edited, fast. I was doing so with confidence, and in those moments, I truly felt like I was taking my time.
But here's the deal. Time feels different when you're looking at it with an eager eye. I was so afraid not to have new book deals, and so afraid of the future without a shiny new Big Publishing Contract in my hands, that I literally fooled myself into thinking I was being patient, and working slow and smart, on my next big project.
I was taking my time, in a sense, and I was proud of my work. But I was still doing this all with a goal in mind. "I HAVE to get this to my agent by THIS DATE, so that it can hopefully sell by THIS DATE, and then be released by THIS DATE, because if I wait too long, I'LL HAVE TO WAIT EVEN LONGER for the next book deal after that!"
It's an illness for me, I swear.
I wrote 1/4 of a book. I sent it off to a trusted editor, who helped me make some changes, and then in a few weeks' time, I sent it off to my agent. I didn't hear back. I freaked out. I may have made my poor agent mad, but she already knows I'm crazy after 5 years with me, and that's why I love having her on my team. She got back to me, we talked about my dreams for this book, and then she sent it out on proposal (this is something that can be done, typically after you've already had book deals in the past, and are no longer a debut author).
Months passed. 6 months. 7 months. Now, we're sitting at 8 or 9, but who's counting? :) Lots of editors are "reading" it, but we've had a few come back and say they can't buy the book now, but they would LOVE to see more of it when I have it...
And so, here we are.
This fall, I broke down. I realized that I can't make dreams a reality if I'm not putting quality work into people's hands. And so I didn't write for a while. I studied writing. I read blog posts and watched videos and interviews with authors whose work I admire. I got a notebook, and scribbled about the book, and what I wanted to add to it...and then, after several months of letting the idea sit...I finally gave myself permission to start working again.
I let go of the rushing.
I started writing. I started seeing this world change, and these characters grow, and I realized, HOLY CRAP---I think THIS is now the book I've always wanted it to be. THIS DRAFT is really the one that I am so eager to share with editors and publishers, and though it hasn't changed much (ie: what the editors have already seen), it has grown.
It's 150 pages instead of 60. New characters. New settings. I've discovered a new angle in which to tell this story, and I LOVE IT.
And I regret, so incredibly much, sending this book off before now. Because even though I thought I was taking my time, and being smart, deep down, I knew I wasn't. I knew I just wanted it NOW.
How foolish we can be, when we're blinded by WANT. By jealousy for other authors, who are getting deals left and right, and we're sitting here thinking "Why not me?!"
It is my true and honest belief that God has a timing that is not in line with ours.
It is also my true and honest belief that I have a really freaking thick skull, and it's only just now starting to make sense to me that no matter how mush I try to rush things, they won't happen until God says they will.
Maybe you don't believe in God. Maybe you believe in something else, or nothing at all, but the bottom line is this:
There is value in taking time.
In trusting the process.
In letting go.
If you're writing a book, and you're desperate to land that perfect agent, or get that amazing book deal, or even just to send it off to your friends to read...stop. Stop it right there, friend, and take a deep breath. Back away from the book. Take two weeks off. Take a month off. Read books that are completely different from the one you've just finished writing. Or read ones that are similar, and make sure your characters and ideas are unique and fresh. Make sure every sentence counts. Make sure you keep that dream alive in your head but don't send that book out until it's ready. When you won't have any regrets or doubts about this scene or that line of dialogue, or that major plot point.
Sit down, and tell yourself, "If I send this book out NOW, or in 3 months....will it really matter? Will it really make a huge difference?"
A good book has an OK chance of selling or landing an agent. A great book, completely polished and ready to take on the world, will turn heads.
Forget about WHEN your dreams will happen. Work hard, and keep your head down, and trust the process. Don't get lazy or unproductive, but don't put the pressure of reaching the goal over the joy that should come with getting words on the page, getting lost in a world, and then coming back later with fresh eyes to weave together all the little extra, sparkly threads that turn a story into something truly real.
It's great to dream. But it's so much better when you don't darken that dream with the dreadful NOW.
I'm going to take time, from here on out. I'm going to slow down, and love writing without the pressure of NOW.
The question is...will you?