This past week I’ve gotten two emails from writing friends about potentially career-changing opportunities in their future. An inevitable sinking feeling comes as I try to be as level-headed and encouraging about the news as possible. Because a part of me wishes they hadn’t told me.
I don’t consider myself a superstitious person, but after experiencing the “getting ahead of yourself” jinx many, many times in my own personal writing career, I try to make it a policy to not speak about important projects that are “in the works”, “almost a done deal”, or anything remotely close to that dangerously exhilarating point at which a writer begins to own an idea of success for himself without having a signed, written contract to back it up.
Verbal contracts, signed with a handshake over a latte at a Starbucks in Los Angeles for a potentially lucrative movie-to-novel adaptation do not count. Direct solicitations from acquisitions editors whose emails sound relentlessly upbeat until the final one-line Dear Jane email do not count. Signed contracts with small literary magazines that mysteriously lose your email address and go to press without your story also, unfortunately, do not count.
You may accuse me of being bitter, but I’d like to think I’m simply being wiser. It’s sort of a naïve idea to believe any project’s success rests in the hands of only one (or even a handful) of people. Books and movies require an entire team of people to ensure success, and many projects stall out in that terrible wasteland of production hell. A lot of other people have to sign on and commit resources and money for any project to succeed.
We as writers have to do our part to produce our very best work, put it out there, and let go of the outcome. We just have to let the process pan out as it will and move on if things don’t go our way. There are so many things beyond our control---an almost charmed confluence of events that must occur—for everything to come together at the right moment.
Ultimately the quality of your work must stand on its own. It is the one fundamental aspect of your publishing success that you control. Marketing strategies, publicity tours, all the other stuff you can and should commit yourself to doing well. But good writing is the key.
And I won’t hold it against you if you have to spin around three times and clap each time you sit down at your keyboard. Just don’t count your chickens too soon.Read More...