It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
Wading into the publishing world is much like getting into cold water. You move slowly, one step at a time, uncertain that you should continue. You take another step, willing to prove you can be courageous, but shaking a little inside.
I'm hoping, that by the time I am totally submerged, I will have acclimated to my surroundings. Since last November, when I signed with my agent, Carly Watters , I have read dozens upon dozens of articles, blogs, digests, tweets, and online posts. I have read about how the industry works, what expectations most authors have, what expecations agents and editors have, things that you are encouraged to do and things that are frowned upon by industry professionals. I have lapped up every article that offers advice and suggestions and tried to decide what fits me. My own agent has a very powerful blog that offers great tips and insights. Another trick I've learned is to follow people on Twitter, that the people I follow, follow.Do you follow that?
For instance, my agency, PS Literacy, follows Rachelle Gardner, another agent. So I often click on links to her blog and read that (http://www.rachellegardner.com). This week, I read a post that spoke to the very heart of what I've been struggling with for a little while (or maybe forever). She talked about self-promotion and the natural inclination, for most people, to dislike it. I am in this camp: I want to write, I want to share what I write, I believe in what I write, but when I draw attention to my own writing, I feel like I am an attention seeker. Then, I feel that if I'm going to draw people to my writing, I had better say something important or they will be wondering why I took their time.
What her blog pointed out, however, was that I am not promoting ME, but more, my writing. She said that if we look at self-promotion in a business-like way, we are not saying "Look at me! Look at me!", but instead, here is something powerful (she makes the comparison to a product you have to offer) that I want to share with you. By promoting your book, you are saying, I think sharing this with you will enhance your life.
This is truly valuable advice for a burgeoning writer, especially in the world of social media. Everything I have read advises authors to build platforms, to connect with would-be audiences. I believe it was this blog that also pointed out that even very famous authors don't sell books just by writing them. You have to promote what you do to draw people in. If you have created something worthwhile, you will keep them hooked. Even when they're hooked, however, you have to continue to promote.
Even though, in the end, it will be a children's book that I want to promote, it is still me that represents it. So, Gardner is correct in saying it's the product you're pushing, but who is behind it, also has an impact. Which is where my thoughts have been focused this week. In my classroom, and in my own home, I believe in the philosophy that 'character is defined by who you are when no one is watching'. But let's be honest, when no one is watching, I'm likely not the best version of myself. What I have to consider though, as I wade deeper into this world, is who will the audience see when they look at me?
I am very interested in writing different genres. Currently, my agent is submitting my children's book. That was written by the part of me that is silly, rhymes a lot, and loves a good fairytale. However, the Young Adult Fiction, that I'm editing and reworking, was written by my angst-ridden, inner fifteen year old. Then there's the commercial fiction/romance novel I am working on right now; it is being written by the adult me that has seen the sadder part of life and the strength that is revealed when people are pushed to their limits.
So who do I reveal? My husband certainly can't handle three of me, even if it's only public representations of me. I'm working to establish myself as a Children's Book Author first, so should I only tweet about things kid related? What if my lonely, inner-teen shows herself and posts something? Or if the adult version of me shows up and tweets or posts about romance and love and marriage. Of course, all of this is about my online presence. If there's ever a time where I have to promote my book (and, because essentially they're linked, myself) in person, there's no way to escape the different versions of me.
They all come out whenever they feel like it, often stepping over each other, and on each other, many times in a day. In addition to my mini princess, grumpy teen, and frazzled wife, I'm also harboring a nagger, a pleaser, a worrier, a goofball, and an uncoordinated, wanna-be graceful dreamer. So, when the day finally comes that I have to do something and share myself with the world, all of my 'me-s' are going to show up and I'm betting there's going to be a competition to take credit for the book I've written.
This is why I have already informed my best friend that she will accompany me to any such event, as she knows how to reign all those sides of me in and keep me focused on the one thing they all have in common: I am a writer and I want to share that with you.
Balance is an important thing to me. Kind of like patience. I think the draw for these attributes, for me, is that I lack them both.
I want both, but they seem quite elusive. Like something fancy and shiny that you save for, only to find that the price has been raised once you go to buy it.
It was pointed out to me by my husband this week, that being patient does not mean waiting 12 minutes for cookies to bake. Apparently, it means allowing time to pass without trying to control every single minute of it. That's not one of my strengths.
Nor, as I've discovered many times, but repeatedly this week, is balance. I balance things in a fairly odd way. For example, I've been writing constantly for months now. I signed with my agent before Christmas and have not stopped writing since. Yes, this is a good thing. It's an outlet and it's rewarding.
Recently however, I realized that I am more than a little behind on my reading. I generally have anywhere from 5-8 books on the go. I plug away at them, whip through them, or re-read them. I read every book I can by an author I like and then move on to authors they recommend. Since I've started writing daily, however, I haven't been reading books as much. When I read online articles about the publishing and writing industry, one of the key suggestions is to read and write every day. Balance.
If I'm going out for the evening and my kids aren't joining us (or more likely, if I've spent too many hours writing or texting and my guilt kicks in), I grab a pile of books, suggest some games, or get a craft going. Then I lose myself in that and in them. Then the "I haven't finished that chapter" guilt starts up and I go back to what I was doing.
If I have something yummy but bad to eat, I eat something so-so but healthy to compensate. Or I go for a run and come home and eat five cookies. Balance. As I've said, mine is a little skewed.
I've been worrying this week because I have been trying my hand at an adult fiction novel. I wrote every day for weeks. I'm currently sitting at about 40,000 words. I hit a wall. Just a mini one, because I know what I want to happen and where it needs to go, but I have to figure out how to take it in that direction. I received valuable, strengthening feedback on my first attempt at a Young Adult piece of fiction that I finished over Christmas. So, one would think that since I hit a wall with one, I could work on the other. Instead, I haven't written anything in three days. Other than this, but it's the end of the third day. So I've gone from writing hours every day to missing three days. Balance? No so much.
The worst part is, a little piece of me believes that if I get too immersed in my books again or I take too many days off from writing, that I won't be able to return to it. That, somehow, it'll turn out that I don't have a lot to say, my characters have reached a dead end, or the edits are not something I can sort through. Instead of being okay with just taking a break, I invent worst case scenerios about myself as a writer. It's an all or nothing mentality and very far from my goal of balance.
So how do I find the happy medium that almost all of us crave? How do I enjoy my kids, provide healthy dinners, teach, work out, write, spend time with my husband, text, play on pinterest, tweet, sleep, and watch T.V. ? How do we fit it all in without losing one of them completely? I become too wrapped up in these questions and end up giving little pieces of myself to each of these things, which seems even, but not really balanced.
When I say balance, I think what I'm looking for is the ability to be engaged in an activity without feeling guilty about what I'm not doing. Quite honestly, feeling that guilt takes away from whatever it is I am doing. I want to be able to write for hours and then play games with my kids without feeling like either one of those things suffered from lack of attention. The fact is, I do all of these things, almost every day. Which could account for why I'm sleepy a lot of the time.
I'm not exactly sure how to achieve balance in my life. I've taken a little step this week by repeatedly telling myself that it is okay not to have worked on my story this week. I tell myself it's okay if I played one game with the kids instead of two. It's okay if the pizza wasn't homemade (but it was). Maybe, instead of balance, I should seek acceptance. Accepting my own need to do as much as I can and not waste a moment. Accepting the days where I manage to do it all, but also accepting the days where I don't. I've talked, in a previous blog, about seeing the smaller steps that lead to the end result. One small step at a time. Perhaps it is the same path to balance as it is to problem solving or having patience. One moment, one step, and one breath at a time.
Of course, searching for balance might turn out similar to my dog chasing her tail; entertaining, but futile. In which case, I'll at least try to enjoy all of the things I keep adding to my to-do list.
I have this symbol, and three others, tattooed on my wrist. It's sanskrit for breathe. People that know me were not surprised by my choosing this symbol. People who don't, like to tease, "If it wasn't there, would you forget?" The answer, actually, is yes. I often have to remind myself to do just that; breathe.
Everything comes to us so quickly now; information, access to people, updates on what our friends are doing. It's easy to get used to having what you want right now. I noticed I was becoming a little too dependant on this the other night, when playing a game of Ruzzle (I'm highly addicted to, and sadly pathetic at, word games), my friend had not yet taken her turn. Rather than being patient, I asked my phone to randomly search for an opponent for me. When this did not yield results fast enough, I texted my friend and told her to play. When I returned to the game, my random opponent had already played their round and my friend had not only played her round, but invited me to play an additional round. Okay. Now I could breathe.
Other signs that I may have a problem with patience include: texting one letter at a time to my friends when they don't respond, until they do. Also, while I wait for my laptop to load up, I have my phone beside me so I can text and my iPad beside me so I can surf the internet. When I watch T.V., I crochet, write, and lose at word games during commericals, or, occasionally, during the shows. So, when a moment comes that I have to wait, really, actually wait to get a response, an answer, or something I want, it feels hard to breathe. The lovely, hypocritical kicker is the number of times a day I tell my children, "You need to be patient!", "Just because you want it now, doesn't mean you can have it!", or "Why can't you wait just five minutes?" Well, because mom, what are they supposed to do in the mean time?
Truthfully, the reminder to breathe, for me, is not just about instant acccess to whatever I need. It's also about getting caught up in everything. I don't look at things in tiny pieces; I look at them in one big, huge, overwhelming wave. When we have a busy week scheduled, I am not good at the 'one day at a time' philosophy. Instead, I see that whole, busy week as insurmountable because there is so much scheduled. These are times when I remind myself to breathe. I remind myself to take a deep breath, and find those tiny pieces of things I can take care of here and now. Then I breathe a bit more and tackle the next thing. Or, I ignore the calendar, pretend I have no commitments and write.
With writing, I also have far too much impatience. Writing has always come easily to me. I think something, I write it. When it doesn't come easy, I have to remind myself to breathe. No matter how good you are, or think you might be, at something, there is truly never a time when you lose the ability to become better. I look at my new venture into writing (this part where I actually share it) as another reminder to breathe. Things are not going to come quickly as I try to establish a 'presence' in the writing world. Some things still take time. While I started with one follower on Twitter, I now have 44. I do not know most of them, but it is 44 pieces of proof that I'm establishing myself as an author; for that next stage. I look at people with thousands of followers and think, really? How? Well, likely one step at a time. One follower, one day, and one breath at a time. So, while I wait for the next stage, which I hope will include seeing my name on a picture book that I'm very excited about, I will remind myself to breathe.