Sunday, October 04, 2015

Faith and Writing

After 4 years together, my agent and I have parted ways.

This is numero dos for me, so I’ve been through breaking up with an agent before.
However, this time around, breaking up with an agent feels like…breaking up with a spouse because there are “children” (pending manuscripts still out on submission) to consider.

Despite the obvious differences between breaking up with an agent versus breaking up with a spouse, this song remains the same: Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve… And though our parting was simply a matter of going in different directions, breaking up with this agent means that I’m all the way back to the beginning of the journey.

And that kinda sucks.

On top of what I feel about this is the fact that it’s now twice. I feel what my friends who have had a few failed marriages have told me they feel—a little embarrassed. I have all the thoughts I’m pretty sure those folks have: Man, if I can’t get it right twice, I should just give up trying. 

Despite all this, I have not lost complete faith in publishing or in my writing… thanks to a very unlikely source: Bethenny Frankel, the not-so-housewife of The Real Housewives of New York.

I know—reserve your judgment. Also, come on…you know you watch those shows, too.

I was actually listening to her on a radio talk show, and while there was a time I dismissed her as a vapid, wanna-be who needed to eat a hamburger—or at the very least, some carbs—thanks to this interview (and, yes, this season of The Real Housewives of New York) I’ve come to see another perspective of her.

I’m fascinated by her transformation post very public and very nasty divorce and post failed talk show—watching a successful, bold, aggressive woman climb up the ladder of success and then have multiple failures knock her down is somewhat validating that the journey to success is not linear. And, listening to her on this radio show while biking the other morning caused me great, great pause and a sort of a-ha moment happened with regard to this recent change in my writing life.

Bethenny spoke about regret, writing (she’s written a few best sellers), trusting your instincts, seeing things as they really are, and making decisions.

On regret:
The one thing that has gotten me through has been saying whatever is happening to me, I know I will realize later why it happened.

I’m not a total fatalist or believer in absolute destiny—that things are predetermined and on a set course. Yet, right now, though I don’t have a lot of time away from this experience, I can already see the necessity of going through it, which I think could be viewed as the reason. Any ounce of naiveté I had left inside of me regarding publishing is now gone. Even though I’d been at it awhile, when I signed with this agent, I still had a pie-in-the-sky perspective, and delusions of grandeur about getting a book deal, what it meant and what it entailed. The reason for this break up experience, in the grand scheme of things, is to learn a critical lesson in publishing: Just because you have an agent who submits your work to publishers on your behalf and who also invests time in your work, doesn’t mean IT will happen. Important lesson to learn.

On Writing
 That’s why I write. Then it won’t be for naught.

Me, too. I often write to unravel the knot of confusion in my head or to make peace with something. In writing, there is exploration, hope, and possibility. The act of writing this very blog post, right now, is validating. It validates that my experience means something—that it matters.

On Using My Gut Instincts
We don’t use our gut instincts. We were given a women’s intuition and we don’t use our guts. We use our heads and our hearts.

There are a few moments over the last few years, when I felt, in my gut, something wasn’t working. But, I ignored that feeling. I ignored it because I was too scared to be alone. Because if I chose to part ways, I would have to face my failures and, at the time, that terrified me. My head and my heart got in the way. 

On Seeing Things as They Really Are
I think it might be what I want somebody to be.

I’ve learned over my lifetime that people come in and out of our lives for specific reasons and at specific times. My former agent came at a pretty low point in my writing life, and she restored a sense of hope and possibility and because of that, I ignored some of the most obvious signs that maybe this wasn’t a match.

On Making Decisions
Women make decisions out of fear, rather than truth.

When I knew, after about two years with each of those agents, that really things weren't working, I stayed for a few more years, all out of the fear that no one would ever want me again, and being on my own without the agent, I’d have to face the feeling of failure and sadness…the irony is, I was going to have to face those feelings anyway. As a writer, it’s unavoidable. Go figure.

And Now

The gift of this experience is that for a while I’ve wanted to stop—and the stopping had nothing to do with my former agent. The truth is, I’ve wanted to take a break from the treadmill of trying to get a book deal; I’m tired. I need a break. I need perspective. I need to reassess if my goal of book deal is what I need as a writer. I used to feel it would validate my hard work…now I’m not so sure if the feeling of validation comes from signing a contract with a major publisher, seeing my name on the cover of a book, or seeing Random House or some other major publisher on the inside cover. I’m not convinced any more that achieving that goal validates me as, some how, a better or more successful writer. I’m just not sure. 

Hope And Possibility

I know there is another book inside of me. I know that there is a (virtual) stack of already-written books waiting for me to revise. I know that you can fall, you can fail, you can totally fuck up, and you can come back. You can rise, and rise again.

And I will. I really will. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Writing, Changes, Lessons

My writing life is in a deep transformation. I will tell the details eventually. For right now, you just need to know that. My whole writing world is changing. The players. The game. And, the goal. 

And, though the change has been going on for almost a month, and I am at great peace with the change, I woke up this morning with a sad, frustrated, stuck feeling about my writing life.

The need to submit, to write for a goal, to have a deadline set, to share my world, my stories, my voice was gnawing at me.

If this were two years ago, my method to get myself to write would have been to beat myself up a lot over all the failures I’ve had, beat myself into submission, literally, into submitting something, somewhere…in desperation and in fear. If this were two years ago, I would try to use failure as a motivator to write.

Not any more.

Sure, I heard the beating myself up words tumbling around in the head. Something like this: Look at you. You’re 40 years old and nothing to show for it. No book deal. No new publishing credits in years, other than your own blog or your own literary anthology. You have nothing to show for all the years of school and study in creative writing. YOU SUCK.

Then I was like, Hi there beating-myself-up-words. Nice to see you. Um, I’m not gonna buy into you right now. Actually, can you go fuck yourself? I’m gonna go…


Yep. I started to write. I started a blog post for another blog and then I started this.

Yes, yes, it’s true. I haven’t had anything published in a few years by anyone other than myself. Okay… I had an article in the SCBWI Bulletin a year ago. But in the scheme of everything, my publishing goals are still not reached. And, with the changes going on, it’s possible that my journey make take even longer than I once thought.

And, yes, I am 40 years old. But….look at other folks over 40 who had their big successes later in life:

So I take that. I take that concrete, real evidence that success after 40 is possible. I take, too, that my definition of success and my publishing goals may have to change. But who cares? Really? Who cares?

Not me. Not me.