Friday, August 26, 2011

Waiting for the Shoe...

I've had some near misses in my writing career. And by "near misses" what I mean to say that if things had gone a little differently then I'd have had far more success than I ended up having.

I guess I shouldn't complain too much. Most writers never come anywhere close to the kind of success that Lady Luck failed to deliver. But I've come close.

And what I mean to talk about--briefly--in today's blog is that you need to be careful about your reactions when waiting for the next shoe to drop. A few times I've made a really weird mistake, and I've repeated it a few times.

When I was a lot younger it looked as if I was going to land a couple of really fat scripting jobs in the comics industry. Pitches had gotten through to editors who liked them and in one case it seemed that I was close to being considered for a writing job on a major title for one of the biggest companies in the industry.

In each of these cases I ended up not getting the work. And I'm really good at dealing with rejection. If you can't deal with rejection, then writing isn't the job for you, because most of us are rejected far more often than we're accepted. Dealing with the negative news wasn't the problem.

The problem for me those times, and in a few subsequent cases, was how I responded to the specter of looming success.

And how I responded to it was that I froze and waited for the news.

That's right. I just stopped what I was doing, which in this case was writing. While I waited, nervously, I didn't produce a single thing. No scripts came out of the wordprocessor. No stories occurred to me. No novels-in-progress were pursued.

All I did was wait.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Only when the news--in these cases always bad--arrived could I, and did I, start to write again. The tension was gone, the barricade was down, and I went back to working on my latest projects and continued to pitch to any editor I could reach.

This also happened to me when it looked like I had made sales of manuscripts to publishers of novels. My agent would call or send me a note telling me that things looked good at such-and-such a publisher with somebody-or-other editor. And I'd just freeze up and wait for the news. No work would progress. No dialog would be written. No characters would be created and no plots would unwind. I'd just sit there, frozen, waiting for the news the news the news.

You would think that I'd learn to fight through this, but almost every time I've had some kind of really positive news possible on the horizon, I would just find myself creatively locked up like an engine completely out of oil. In a few cases I didn't allow this to happen, but I can't say how I avoided this particular species of writer's block to come crashing down on my imagination. Once, I let the pressure get to me so bad that I fired my hard-working agent who was, even as I fired him, laboring to make a deal for me. That was a particularly sorry event which I was able to make right, thank Jove.

At any rate, I've been kind of lucky-in-unluck many times this way. Most writers I've known would love to have even been considered for some of the writing jobs that passed me by, and I am happy that some editors thought enough of my work that I made it down to the final cut, only to be passed by. There's a kind of sad optimism to be had there, I reckon.

So if you ever happen to be sitting on the edge of writing success, my advice (to you and myself) is to do your best to put it out of your mind and keep chipping away at whatever you were working on before the possible offer was manifest.
Keep working, no matter what. Take a chill pill and don't let "what ifs" rule the day.


Wayno said...

Good advice for those engaged in any creative pursuit.

HemlockMan said...

Thanks. Took me a long time to learn the lesson. A hard one to figure out.