Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dealing With Discouragement

It happens to the best of us.

We start out wide-eyed and optimistic, hoping for the best. We work hard, we do everything we believe we're supposed to do, and even go above and beyond the call of duty.

But no matter how good your book, how supportive your publisher, how enthusiastic everyone is---bad things still happen.

Publishing is a tough business. Staying idealistic is impossible. Sooner or later, something is going to disappoint you.

Perhaps your agent, thrilled to work with you when you signed on, doesn't seem to be answering your email with the same energy or frequency.

Perhaps your publisher cuts promotional dollars, or print runs.

Perhaps your numbers are getting smaller, or aren't where everyone hoped they'd be.

Perhaps you didn't get nominated for that award like you'd hoped, or get reviewed in a certain publication.

Perhaps your book(s) go out of print, or your contract doesn't get renewed.

Perhaps you agent can't sell your latest.

Perhaps your career is in a slump.

The list goes on. Success in this business takes a staggering amount of luck, and no matter how much you do, it still may not be enough.

Here are some tricks to dealing with the discouragement inherent in this profession.

Act Successful. This may sound like "put on a happy face" but the fact is, if your career is taking a downswing only a few people know about it. Your fans, your peers, and most of the publishing world has no idea your last book didn't do as well as expected, or that your agent isn't taking your calls.

Projecting confidence, showing the public you're a winner, goes a very long way.

Get Busy. Worry, regret, and guilt are useless emotions. They do nothing to help you. If you're discouraged about something, the best remedy is to act. Write. Promote. Write. Promote. Keep repeating this.

Depression can derail you. The only way to combat that is to get back on the horse and ride even harder.

Plan. Like chess, you should always be thinking several moves ahead. What you did in the past may not have worked out. Learn from it, and figure out what to do next. Maybe you need to change agents, or publishers, or genres. Do some soul searching, pinpoint what the problem is, and brainstorm solutions.

Vent. Talking about problems not only makes them feel better, it helps you deal with them. But you should limit this kind of talk to a few close, discreet friends. Keep your dirty laundry private.

Forgive. Both yourself, and those you believe have wronged you. Keeping all that venom stored up can poison you. Let it go, and move on. Blaming people for your problems won't change the situation.

Remember. You became a writer for a reason. It's easy to lose sight of that when something discouraging happens. Remember why you chose this path, because chances are good those reasons are still valid.

Of course, the most important thing to remember is:

Time Heals All Wounds.

We all have setbacks, and when they occur they may seem insurmountable. But you'll get through them. You always do. And you become stronger, smarter, and better because of them. Today's tragedy is next year's fond memory.

The scariest thing about this profession--the uncertainty--is also one of the coolest. You never know what will happen.

Some of what will happen will be good. Guaranteed. And the bad things that have happened will make for a terrific story to tell newbies some day...