Getting your writing published is largely a matter of practice, patience, and planting seeds. More often than not, high hopes are followed by broken dreams when reality fails to meet expectations. After a while is can seem like that classic Peanuts comic strip where Lucy holds the football so Charlie Brown can kick it, only for her to pull the ball away at the last second.
After reading the many, many versions of that comic strip, how can anyone fail to ask, Charlie Brown, why do you bother? She is never going to let you really kick that football, no matter how much it seems that she will.
Yet when we’re in Charlie Brown’s shoes, we assume the same attitude as he does. Something promising happens and we think, This time, this time, it’s going to happen. I’m going to kick that ball out of the park!
Last year, the week before Thanksgiving, my agent forwarded me an email from an editor who’d written two pages gushing over my supernatural YA novel, Aftersight. It was one of those emails that every writer dreams about getting, full of ardor and superlatives.
If you’ve read my previous blog entries, you’ll know that I originally wrote Aftersight in third person and rewrote it in first person on advice from my agent. This editor’s email, while full of praise, had one admonition: “While I loved the story, I thought it would be better written from a third-person perspective. Would the author mind rewriting it in third person?”
After reading that, most would have collapsed in a chair and cried, “Are you kidding me?” (Luckily, I was sitting down.) Instead I thought, Well, I happened to have a third-person version available.
There were some tweaks I’d made to the first-person version that weren’t in the third-person one, but it only took a week to get them in place and then it was off to the editor, exactly two days before Thanksgiving.
Now, the waiting.
For years I’d been baffled by the best mindset to have when you’re in such a position. Do you keep expectations low, so you won’t be disappointed? Do you try to distract yourself with other projects? Do you stay confident and visualize success?
Thoughts aren’t just what is happening inside your head, no mere signals flitting through your brain. Your thoughts are where you’re putting your energy. So, no, keeping expectations low isn’t the answer. That’s not what you want to put out there into The Universe.
Yes, you can try to distract yourself with other projects. If you have the discipline to work on new projects and completely forget an amazing two-page email from an editor like that, you are a Jedi. But likely, even if you try, you’re only burying it inside yourself. Your expectations linger, even if they’re not in your waking consciousness.
For me, I chose to visualize success. Okay, I felt success to the core of my being. This time, I thought, I’m going to kick that football into the end zone.
A week passed, two weeks, three. Too much time had gone by. By the week before Christmas, whenever I thought of my third-person manuscript in the hands of that editor, I felt ill. Was I putting bad things out in The Universe or was I sensing what seemed to be increasingly apparent: My third person effort failed to meet the editor’s expectations.
In the end, I’ll never know. Two days before I left work for Christmas vacation, I got the news: the editor was passing. No explanation given, even at the persistent prodding of my agent.
Merry Christmas to me.
So what is the answer? What is the proper mindset to have when one is in a position like this, when one is waiting?
I discovered the remedy a few weeks later, once there’d been time for my own expectations and hopes to equalize with reality. The technique I’m about to describe doesn’t just apply to getting published but for anything that you desire to the depths of your soul. Start practicing the technique now, so when The Universe sets a football down in front of you, ready for you to kick, you’ll know what to do.
There are two components to this technique. First, right now, this very moment, decide that what you want is going to happen, whether that’s getting published or whatever it is your heart craves. Take the “if” out of the equation. It is going to happen. Expect it. Know it. Doubt is simply your consciousness’s defense mechanism for coping with disappointment that hasn’t happened yet.
Next, throw out the How and When. You likely already have a mental timeline for when you expect your success to unfold. That timeline might be longer than necessary, in which case you’re undervaluing your abilities. It might be shorter, in which case you’ll grow frustrated if it doesn’t manifest as soon as you expect.
When you visualize success, you’ll often want to insert the How. When something good happens, like my letter from that editor, you’ll think you have the answer: This is how! Forget the How, simply trust. Somewhere, somewhen, somehow, it’s happened, your consciousness–with its limited three-dimensional perspective–just hasn’t caught up with that success yet. This might be the way it happens, or it might not. But it’s coming. It’s happened. Be patient. Trust. Let it come to you.
The Universe knows the best timing. The Universe knows the best way. In the meantime, it’s feeding you the tools and the talent, so that when it does happen, you’ll be prepared to take that achievement and carry it forward to something far better than you’d ever imagined.
Brian Mercer is the author of the supernatural YA novel, Aftersight (Astraea Press, 2013). He is also co-author with Robert Bruce of Mastering Astral Projection: 90-Day Guide to Out-of-body (Llewellyn, 2004) and The Mastering Astral Projection CD Companion (Llewellyn, 2007). A board member of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and senior editor at Author Magazine, he lives in Seattle with his wife, Sara, and their three cats.