I am a chronic worrier by nature. Always have been, always will be. As a writer, I battle the Worry Monster a lot, especially late at night, when I can’t sleep.
When I started querying for the first time, my head filled with worries:
- What if I spend hours researching each agent and customizing each query and all I ever get are form rejections?
- What if I get requests but then get more form rejections, which means my writing truly sucks?
- What if an agent is so disgusted by my writing that he/she sends me back a rejection that basically tells me I have no business even dreaming of being a writer and please stop?
- What if every writer friend I’ve met during The Writers’ Voice and Pitch Wars and all the other contests get agents and publishing deals and I’m left standing on the sidelines, like the last kid picked in gym?
I tormented myself a lot. As it turns out, I did get numerous rejections (both form and personal) and I did have to query three manuscripts before I was offered representation, but, eventually, it happened.
But now I have a new set of worries. I blame social media, because I love Twitter, and whenever I see a post from a writer about a “cautionary tale” or a warning, I have to read it. And then I the worries start:
- What if my book gets sold but then my editor leaves the publishing house and the new editor hates it and decides to put it on the back burner?
- What if I get some crazy-huge advance (yeah, right) but I don’t earn out and then no publishing house wants to touch me again, ever?
- What if I get a bunch of harsh, one-star reviews and a friend responds in my defense, and then I get caught in some awful online comments-war?
Now, you could argue that I’m putting the cart before the horse. Way before. And you’re right. So, in order to tame that Worry Monster, I need to remember how What to Expect when You’re Expecting almost send me over the edge.
When I was pregnant with my first child, 16 years ago, my OB/GYN gave me a copy of the book, What To Expect When You’re Expecting, along with a bunch of pamphlets. Maybe things have changed now, but that was the drill back in the late 1990s.
At first, the book was great—each month I checked to see what the baby was doing, growth-wise, and what I should be “expecting.” (I also went into paroxysms of guilt over my weight gain—which was more than it should be). But then, one day when I was bored, I made the mistake of checking the back of the book, the section entitled “When Things Go Wrong” (or “Pregnancy Complications” or something like that).
It was terrifying. All of a sudden I was reading about pregnancy disasters that I’d never heard of before. I started stressing about all the things that could go wrong. It gets worse. At my baby shower, someone gave me What To Expect: The First Year and What to Expect: The Toddler Years.
Did I flip through them? Hell, yes.
And then I freaked out again. Because, holy cats, toddlers. Now I was worrying about public tantrums and potty training and night terrors and a bundle of other issues. If the thought of having a baby freaked me out, the thought of a toddler sent me into a five-alarm panic.
Keep in mind that I hadn’t even given birth yet.
But here’s the thing. I have two teen-age kids now, and I’ve done okay as a mom. There have definitely been rough patches: emergency room visits, sleepless nights, friendship issues, arguments, moments of crushing mommy guilt. But the hard stuff hasn’t come all at once, like a blizzard of epic parenting fails. And I haven’t had to deal with it alone. I’ve turned to my husband, or my mom-friends, or other people I trust.
Writing is the same way. In my journey thus far, there have been tough moments and setbacks I didn’t anticipate, along with blissful surprises. I have no doubt there will be more twists and turns in the road ahead, as well as unexpected bumps and detours. But I don’t have to worry about them yet. And when I do hit those bumps, I have writer friends I can talk to and confide in. I have people I can turn to for advice.
So the best thing I can do is shove that Worry Monster back under the bed and try to forge ahead, as best I can.