Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guest Blogger: Jen McConnel on Staying Positive

Staying Positive

As writers, waiting is something we better get used to.
Sometimes, we have to wait for inspiration to strike. Then comes the waiting for the words to flow onto the page, the waiting for the head space to begin revisions, and finally, the waiting once your book is as good as you can make it and you begin sending it out into the world.

For me, that’s the hardest part of waiting. When my actions feel largely within my control, I can make lists, set goals, and prioritize. But once I release a manuscript into the slush pile, I start to panic. I’m no longer the one pulling the reins, and I find myself buried with “what ifs”.
This is the darkest part of the writing process for many of us. We’ve crafted a story that we believe in, deep within our hearts and souls, and now we have to trust that the time is right for us to realize our dreams. It can be hard to put your trust in complete strangers, but isn’t that what writing is about? If you are working towards publication (or already published) you are trusting that people who have never met you before will want to read your book. This goes beyond agents and editors: your readers will likely not know you from Adam, and that’s ok.  Your words must weave a spell, bringing complete strangers close within the web of your story.

Perhaps it is this component of anonymous trust that is most frightening about waiting: your blood, guts, and tears are in that book, and now you have to do what? But for anyone who wants to follow the traditional path to publishing, someday you will have to put your trust in the universe and release your book into the world.

It may take awhile. Some people have fabulous success stories that feel like they happened overnight, but if you scratch the surface, you will find that even the “instant” sensations spent years honing their craft and submitting their words, just like you are doing now.

So what is the key to handling the waiting period? Stay positive. I know, it’s easier said than done. I’ve found that the best way to stay positive is to apply for a mind wipe. If I can focus my energy fully on something that is not related to my precious story child, I tend to stay saner and happier while waiting for the right agent to read my book at the right moment. This month, NaNoWriMo provides an excellent distraction: we should all be so busy pounding out our 50,000 words that we forget everything else, including the dozen submissions loitering in agent’s in boxes.
Owl cupcakes from Charity to Huntress

Creature comforts and indulgences can help, too. Get a frothy cup of coffee, go for a massage, or treat yourself to that dress you’ve been eyeing for months. When we celebrate ourselves, we cultivate a mindset that is receptive to joy. Like attracts like, and you’re more likely to attract happiness when you find happiness in your daily life.

It’s challenging. Believe me, I know. I struggle with this whenever I submit a piece of writing. But if you find ways to keep yourself smiling, the trust you place in strangers will eventually pay off. So write your 1,667 words today, go to the spa, and do your best to forget about the thing you are waiting for. It’ll happen in its own time, and if you are relaxed and relatively happy, think how much sweeter your success will taste.

Jen McConnel

Blogging at: Carolina Yankee
Follow me @Twitter @YankeeWriter


  1. Lol, I've been waiting for that first picture to load. *slaps forehead*

    Great post! Patience is not my favorite thing, but comes with the gig. :)

  2. Trusting strangers - that is so accurate!

  3. Weaving a spell for strangers--that's an interesting perspective. It does take a huge leap of faith in our common humanity to believe what I have to say can touch other people I've never met.

  4. As writers, waiting is something we better get used to... followed by "Please Wait..." for the image. Too funny.

  5. Cassie, thanks for the laugh. As I mentioned to Liz, Jen and I make a good team. ;)

    Alex and Laurel, thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you enjoyed Jen's post. I think she hit it right on the nose.

  6. Well said. I have that same angst at the moment, waiting to see what my beta readers think of my current WiP. But I just keep reminding myself: you're doing this to make your story better. They're critiquing the writing, not you.

    I too was waiting for that first picture to load. Oops! Hehe... :-)

  7. Those owl cupcakes look delicious. And yes...the waiting process sucks. It's especially brutal when you want something really bad. Example: I kept checking the Writers of the Future forums to see if there was any word on rejections. Well tons of people started getting rejected so I kept checking my rejection was a good sign right? It went on this way for weeks. Finally, I got my kick to the curb by the scientologists. Anyway...I've been more at peace since then. Just knowing I was "out" of the running made it so I wasn't obsessively looking at my email every ten minutes.

    Honestly, the life of a writer kinda sucks. If I could choose from a basket before my birth, I woulda been way more beautiful and less brainy and depending on how much more beautiful I was...maybe I coulda been an actor. That sounds like a lot more fun and a lot less work.

  8. Waiting . . waiting; so not fun. And I'm not a positive person normally, so I feel more like I'm waiting for the rejection to hurry up and come in than waiting for an acceptance. I've had two short story successes and those have kept me at the writing process (I may be a little happier now).

    I'm with Michael O; I submitted to ABNA and waiting for the lists to be posted was agony. I made it through a couple rounds; but when my name didn't show up on the quarter finalists I was almost relieved. What a strange feeling for a writer to be glad they've been rejected :)


  9. LOL--I'm glad I wasn't the only one waiting for that first image to load! (I'm much better at the beginning of the day...with coffee!) ;)

    Great reminders, Jen--and great timing, too. My daughter was just asking if she could make something with icing and then I see those cupcakes. Perfect distraction, indeed...let's see if we have chocolate! ;)

  10. Good question. I've heard lots of successful authors say it's a myth and that writers must just write every day whether it's just a shopping list or a set of journal style entries to get your writing brain working rather than waiting for inspiration to strike.


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