Here it is.
Think of all your creative endeavours as ONE BIG PROJECT.
In other words, do not pin your hopes on one book. Actually, do not pin all your hopes on the query, the acquisition of an agent or an indie publisher sans agent who will stick with you; do not pin all your hopes on the success of said book, a linear and clearly burgeoning career and further books following on from that and, PLEASE, do not pin your self-worth of any of the things I just described OR sit around thinking that if you don’t have recognition it isn’t worth it; you’re no good. (I have done all of these things until someone gave me the advice and then I tweaked my thought and began to feel better.)
Now, it may be that you are lucky enough to find artistic and commercial success quickly, to find and develop a niche for yourself and to be able to form/be given a team around you with which you can nurture your talent. I KNOW that a good number of writers are in this position, but I would bet that the vast majority of writers are not.
My seventh and eighth books have just been placed. Well, seven years ago I hadn’t started a book, so I know I have the ability to be prolific. BUT MY GOD. There have been some wonderful adventures in that time and I have made some brilliant friends and discovered many wonderful things to read, but until I tweaked my thought I would feel really wounded by two episodes of bad treatment that seemed to come from nowhere, the exasperation of waiting and ghosting, of publishers not wanting a second book from me (see waiting again) and of books that weren’t good enough to take forward. I have yet to have a breakthrough book in that I have not been particularly visible yet in not having been with a major publisher. And yet and yet.
The one big project. If you think of it as a series of creative endeavours, things begin to look different. Two books have led on to two years’ teaching, university teaching and workshops. I have pitched and written features and columns for national and industry press and kept a focus on mental health and wellbeing; as a result of that focus, I have been asked to take on further columns and workshops and to speak to university students about imaginative routes to publication and lots more. Because I have written all of my books – and particularly in the past three years – managing additional needs for my family and then my son was very ill for three years, and because I was teaching all that time, I have been asked to speak to MA students on time and on productivity; I have written a new book on gentle productivity and just set up a literary prize for carers. Do you see how all these things are connected, and that I might argue I can likely do them better because I wrote in hardcore circumstances and have not had a smooth path? Like I said, no breakout book, publishers not wanting further work and, at one point, my agent removing rights from a publisher. Rocky!
So, if you are feeling blue, look at the possibilities of what you might do to make YOUR one big creative project. Writing in other forms and genres? Offering copywriting and editing, mentoring, gradually accruing some teaching, doing an online discussion group, making an online themed retreat – just for starters! Don’t make it only about one book or about your books. When you shift your thought and begin to hustle and then to jostle sideways, things begin to look very different.
Will you write and tell me how you got on?