The emotional journey of writing is a roller coaster. Writers freak out when something good happens. A publisher accepts their article query letter or their book proposal. Or their rewrites were accepted and the manuscript is moving forward, toward being a real, live book! If they’re self-publishing, it’s usually when the book has been edited and is ready to be sent to the printer. It definitely happens when the boxes of printed books arrive and
Oh. My. Goodness. My NAME is on them!
And then it happens again when they make their first sale, or when a bookstore agrees to carry their book.
Anxious part of the emotional journey
The spouse of one of my editing clients put it perfectly. The author disappeared mid-conversation, and her spouse came on and said, “She’s trying not to throw up right now because this all suddenly got very real.”
Yes, indeed, it does get very real at some point, and a whoopsy stomach is usually part of that. When that moment comes is different for different writers.
I love how a writer whose manuscript I’ve edited and sent back to them will approach me on facebook chat, sounding all polite and calm. “Do you have a minute?”
“Sure,” I say. “What’s up?” I have a pretty good idea of what’s coming by now because it’s happened often enough. Then this nice, polite, calm-sounding author gets into what’s going on. Some build a little before showing how excited they are, but some just jump straight to letting it out.
Builds up to it: Glad you have a minute. How’s your night?
After some chit-chat, Builds starts into the business she had on her mind when she sought me out on facebook that night.
Builds: So I was talking with a friend about my book and someone overheard our conversation and asked me about it.
Me: Oh, yeah? And you did the smart author thing and told her a little about it, right?
Builds: Yes. She’s the owner of a small bookstore, and she seemed interested.
Me: I bet you’re about to come out of your skin right now, aren’t you?
Builds: How did you know that?! Yes, I am! She wants to read my book to see if she wants to carry it in her store.
Then Builds up to it lets it all out.
I AM SO NERVOUS. SHE WANTS A COPY OF MY MANUSCRIPT. WHAT DO I DO?
Now, before you say, “You send her a copy and let her read it, silly,” I should tell you (in case you don’t already know) that it is perfectly normal to become a deer in the headlights. It’s easy to say what to do when it’s not you in that spot.
Writing a book
When you write your book, you’re going to be nervous, excited, and scared half out of your mind. During the months after your manuscript is done and ready to go (and for a lot of writers, even before it’s done), at every step of the way, you could feel a mix of things: happy, afraid, nervous, defensive, proud, sensitive, bulletproof— though that one doesn’t usually last long, it’s straight back to “Will people LIKE it?”
I don’t know of any profession that is so insecure about their work as Creatives are, and none so much as writers. Painters and graphic artists are somewhat; they want people to like their work, but so many of them can just shrug it off if someone doesn’t like it. Writers… man, I have seen many break down in tears, and some cry themselves to sleep after a rejection. Yeah, yeah, get a thick skin and all that; it’s easy to say, and if a person sticks with it, they usually do get better at taking (or ignoring) criticism, but on the whole, the statement stands.
Then there are the authors who start off all polite but as soon as I say I have time for them, they lay their good news on me full force, caps lock and all. Some might say they don’t have much self-control or good manners, but a more charitable assessment might be that they don’t like to waste time, or that they trust me enough to get right to the huge thing that’s on their mind. After all, by this time I have been working with them for a while.
I find both kinds somewhat amusing, and very endearing. By now, I know it’s coming, and I’m used to it. Sometimes I wonder which type a writer or author’s going to be, and finding out is like opening a present. Not all of them fall into one of those two types, though. I’ve had a couple who were pretty calm about things every step of the way, but they were always very tightly-controlled, calm, wise individuals with everything else, too. Under the surface, one of them was screaming, too. The other one had been through the process so many times it was old hat. But most are about-to-burst excited.
Jack Canfield says he refuses to work with first-time authors. He doesn’t want to have to go through the ups and downs they’ll go through, or have to hold their hand during any of it. That’s fine. Mr. Canfield has the ability to make that choice, and he can leave them all to me. I’ll take ’em. I mean no disrespect whatsoever to him when I say that not many people have what it takes to walk a writer through the process, to nurture them and reassure them that what they are feeling is normal. He doesn’t like that part of it, and he doesn’t have to. That’s not an activity that brings in millions of dollars, and it’s wise of him to focus on the things that do. As for me, I’ll stick with the things that are fulfilling and helpful to others, regardless of the earning potential.
Therapist for writers
I don’t know if there is a “job” of Writer’s Therapist, or a niche of counseling only Creatives, but I’d love to have it. Just give me a few years to get that Master’s Degree under my belt… Or I can just call it coaching…
I include coaching as part of the deal when I edit someone’s book, but it could be a separate service altogether; writers don’t have to hire me as their editor to get that coaching help. Contact me if you need someone to listen and help you through the ups and downs that go with being a Creative.
Is my writing good enough?
When you’ve sent it to your editor, whether it’s at a traditional publishing house or you’ve hired a freelance copyeditor, you will have moments of panic, second-guessing yourself, wondering whether your manuscript was ready. It’s okay. Those thoughts are normal. Relax. Your manuscript has errors and changes that need to be made—probably thousands of them. That’s normal, and that’s why you have an editor.
When it has been edited and proofread and is ready for the printer, you’ll go through another spate of worried, flighty thoughts. Through it all, you’ll also feel swells of excitement and pride between the “oh, crap” thoughts. One moment you might feel on top of the world, and the next, ready to hurl.
How to deal with anxiety
You should know that the emotional journey of ups and downs, pendulum swings between confidence and cowering, uncertainty, excitement, and yes, even panic… it’s all normal.
When you’re writing and these things happen to you, just tell yourself (yes, say it out loud), “This is normal,” then just keep going.
Sometimes, just knowing what to expect makes it more bearable, and people want to know what might be coming down the road. Just look at the popularity of the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Knowing that what you’re experiencing is just part of the process definitely helps people get through it. It’s normal. I’m here if you need me.