Since starting on this publishing journey, I’ve really had to quell The Voices. I decided late last spring that my book was finished, but that always feels a bit arbitrary: finished. Couldn’t you tinker forever? You could, and you could also whittle away at every last bit of good, too, with your tinkering. So at some stage you have to call it: done.
Since being “done” I’ve relished the more straightforward parts of sending out: writing the cover letter, polishing a synopsis. Even the agent research is okay. I continue to look at the Daily Deals from Publishers Marketplace, which I cross-check with Agent Query, and then I do some Googling, too. (I wrote about all of this in Part Deux.) Then, once I’ve identified a few agents, I tailor the query and send out.
This is when remaining dispassionate comes in.
Because, let’s face it—I’m about to spring into second person here, folks—you send out, and then you agonize. When you don’t hear back, you agonize; when you get rejected, you agonize. When you see on Daily Deals that someone has just sold a memoir about her childhood abuse and subsequent journey through addiction to her triumph at starting a charity in the Congo, you think, will anyone want to read my small, personal, navel-gazing memoir about the greatest love of my life? You worry you’re a narcissist for a while (who writes that book, anyway?); you think maybe you should start over, rethink “done.” You bite your fingernails until they bleed. But none of this changes anything. So instead, you take a deep breath and send, then remain dispassionate about it all.
I chose the word “dispassionate” carefully. Calm doesn’t cut it; unruffled is a different thing. I thought about unattached, which the Buddhists would like, and that one gets close. But dispassionate–as in, put your passions aside. Save the emotions for the work. Trust that the thing is good, and that the thing will sell. Resist the urge to change everything. Have confidence that what you’re sending out is “your best work.” And treat it like a chore, a job, a task, something to cross off the to-do list–not an opportunity for debilitating anxiety and wasted passion.
Easier said than done, I must say.
Have you see those funny posters with a crown on them that say “Keep Calm and Carry On?” (There’s one at my son’s preschool, which always cracks me up.) I think that’s what I’m getting at, here. Keep calm, and carry on.