Wednesday, April 20, 2005

F's

Fear. Frustration. Failure. These three F's are the kudzu on the path to publication.

Fears like TFIA (The Futility of It All.) One version of this syndrome starts with a general dissatisfaction with the work. That becomes an itching, annoying rash of suspicion. Nothing worthwhile is hitting the page, therefore, nothing will.

TFIA continues to work its magic until all the work, no matter how bad or good it actually is, resembles low grade manure. Other forms of TFIA include Rejection Depression, Lack of Recognition Rage, and No-Contract-Deal Damages. We have to take the blame for TFIA, guys, because we give it to ourselves.

Writers who survive TFIA face the second F, frustration. A working writer is still a scared writer, but also one who quickly loses control of many things. It's not just you and the computer and the mailman anymore. No, it's you and editors, contracts, revisions, cover art and copy, copy-edits, galleys, print runs, marketing, advance buzz, print runout, distribution, shelf positioning, release dates, sell-through, chains ordering to the net, etc.

That's just one book, and anything can go wrong with any or all of the above. Anything. Guess how much control the writer has over that? Little to none. Guess who gets blamed if anything does go wrong? Hint: whose name is on the book?

Which takes us to the third F, failure. Thanks to fear, frustration and a couple of other effing factors, all writers fail sometime during their career. For aspiring writers, it's having the work rejected so often that you decide the book will never sell, and shelve it.

For rookie authors, it's being paralyzed by publication, or worse, not being paralyzed by it. I've compared my rookie year to being like Betty Crocker in the court of Caligula. That's the nice analogy.

Further along in the career there's lousy numbers quicksand, aka future deal killer. A thousand other factors completely beyond your control -- your genre tanks, your agent walks, your imprint folds, your editor goes into a twelve-step program -- are eagerly waiting in the wings to help to wreck things for you. Guess again who gets blamed? Well, if the failure is large enough, they sure don't fire your editor.

Don't be depressed by the three F's. If you're a writer, chances are you are one of the most stubborn, contrary, mule-headed people on the planet. Most of us seem to come prewired that way. That's a strength, and that's what got me through my F's. That, creative denial, devout hermitage, frequently resorting to Zen revenge*, and never making the same mistake more than, say, four or five times.

Hunting around the net for alternatives, I found Tenali's four C's approach to fear management and methods to transform failure into success. He's got good ideas on adjusting your focus and learning from the missteps.

There's this problem with kudzu: it always grows back. Same with the three Fs. Hide from them, pretend they're not there, and you'll be up to your ears in them in no time. Fight them, cut them down, stomp them into the dirt, and refuse to let them take over your road, and they'll never grow back large enough to strangle you.

*Zen revenge: Do something nice or helpful for someone you like, then do something nice or helpful for someone you don't.

9 comments:

  1. Zornhau5:03 AM

    Didn't somebody say, "In death ground, fight"?

    How about, instead of hiding or fighting the fear: accept it but do what you have to do anyway.

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  2. Awesome! Thank you thank you thank.

    Can we make you St. PBW, patron saint of writers? :)

    M

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  3. "There's this problem with kudzu: it always grows back. Same with the three Fs. Hide from them, pretend they're not there, and you'll be up to your ears in them in no time. Fight them, cut them down, stomp them into the dirt, and refuse to let them take over your road, and they'll never grow back large enough to strangle you."

    I'm going to print that out and tape it to my computer. Thank you!

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  4. You've got good timing with this one. Thanks!

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  5. Timely entry for me. Thanks! I laughed when I read, "If you're a writer, chances are you are one of the most stubborn, contrary, mule-headed people on the planet." That is so me.

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  6. Excellent post as per usual.

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  7. Fabulous post, and all round inspiring blog. I hope you don't mind, but I posted a link to Fs on I'M REALLY NOT A WAITRESS, my blog on Publisher's Marketplace.

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  8. I have another F category, but I won't pollute your comment section with my potty mouth. ;)

    Thanks for the great post!

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