Non-attachment

I am forever trying to determine the magic formula for setting my personal energy for writing success. You write the book, edit it so it’s the best it can be, research agents and send it out. Then what? Start writing the next one, sure. But what is the best method of anticipation as you wait to hear back from agents and editors? How does one stay neutral without being pessimistic? How does one visualize success without risking disappointment?

I recently had the opportunity to interview Tracy Weber, author of Murder Strikes a Pose: A Downward Dog Mystery. Tracy, a yoga studio owner and a voracious reader of “cozy mysteries” (a sub-genre of the Mystery genre), set out to write her own series of novels based on a protagonist who (not surprisingly) owns her own yoga studio.

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After writing her very first novel, not only did she find a literary agent, in less than two weeks of her agent sending out her manuscript, she managed to get a three-book deal. Yes, you’ll want to tear your hair out when you hear that. Clearly, Tracy is an outstanding manifester. As a yoga instructor and habitual meditator, I felt she might have insights into setting the energy for success. During the interview, I asked her how she sets her energy for success.

After a moment’s reflection, she said, “The yoga sutras talk about the persevering practice in yoga.  And persevering practice in yoga has several components. One is that it’s something that you do over and over again, over a long period of time, with energy and enthusiasm, that is geared toward your personal growth, without interruption, and without attachment to results.” [The emphasis mine.]  “And so,” she added, “I suppose, when I look back at it, what it was was me trying to manifest that non-attachment.”

I’m going to list those things again, because they’re so important: 1) Something that you do over and over again, 2) over a long period of time, 3) with energy and enthusiasm, 4) that is geared toward your personal growth, 5) without interruption, and (most importantly) 6) without attachment to results.

Her answer is like Joseph Campbell’s follow your bliss but articulated more precisely. Let’s face it, writing takes a lot of effort. Countless hours in front of the computer, writing, editing, querying agents and editors. And in the end, we want all that time to pay off with fame, fortune, at the very least with an audience for our work.

What Tracy is saying is that the payoff is the process itself. The payoff comes during all those little moments of creation, whether it’s writing the first draft, getting that paragraph just right, or crafting a query letter that incapsulates the essence of your work.

Think about it. What if the joy of writing could be solely about the page in front of you and nothing else? What would it take for you to let all the rest of it go? By that I’m not saying not to do all the things along the path of authordom. But what if you resolved that being a successful author was not, in the end, what mattered most?

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine’s Author Blog.

_________________________________________________________ Author Photo 2 Square - Copy copy 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.  URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com tumblr_inline_msw15rad8T1qz4rgp

Mindset

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.

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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.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Rejecting the Rejection

 

Back in the days when one used to query literary agents by way of the U.S. Postal Service, I used to go to great lengths to ease the blow of rejection letters. In those times, not so long ago, with every query letter you were supposed to include a SASE: Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope. This increased the chances of getting a response, usually a softly worded generic letter letting you know that your material was not right for that particular agent at this time.

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Even though those form rejections had clearly been photocopied a thousand times, I never could resist the urge to search for meaning in those blanket-rejection forms, looking for some reason why my writing wasn’t good enough.

In an effort to combat this, I devised something new: a self-addressed stamped post-card with three checkboxes: ___ Send Sample Chapters, ___ Send Full-Manuscript, ___ Not Right for Us at this Time.  This way there would be no agonizing interpretations of meaningless rejection prose. It was all business.

However, after enough of these little cards came back, it didn’t take long for even the sight of one in the mailbox to cause the feeling that a mule had driven its hind legs simultaneously into my gut. Or worse, a sense that I had been lanced through the heart by forge-hot steel.

It took many years to put rejection letters into perspective. A rejection letter is not saying that your writing is not good enough. It is not saying that you are not good enough. It is only saying that this particular agent isn’t the path to your success.  The path is out there, this just isn’t the way.  Keep looking.

There is a narrow little trail wending its way through the trees, waiting for you to discover it. It exists. You just have to to find it.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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The Unfolding

I learned about The Law of Attraction in college from listening to motivational speakers like Brian Tracy and Denis Waitely, reading Master of Life magazine, and taking meditation classes, and I’ve always taken time to write down, visualize and feel the life that I want to create.

I’ve been doing this for more than twenty-five years now and in that time I’ve experienced some startling, this-can’t-be-a-coincidence successes. Some things have manifested in a matter of minutes, others have taken years. They do unfold, though not always in ways that I expect. Okay, very rarely in ways that I expect.

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Last Wednesday, downtown Seattle traffic was gridlocked when I made my way to the bus.  The crowd in front of Macy’s where I catch my bus was thicker than usual, so it wasn’t surprising when I didn’t get a seat.

My bus, Bus 5, is one of those long, double-coaches, a “bendy bus,” as they say in England. At first I stood in the front coach, hands full, headphones on, listening to an audio book and trying to keep my feet as we headed up Third Avenue.

As more and more passengers entered the bus, I was forced to move back and back, eventually making my way to the rear coach. There I spotted a guy I used to work with, a guy who had left the company a couple of years ago. I wanted to say hi, but my hands were full, my headphones on, and I felt awkward having a reunion on this crowded bus.

He didn’t notice me as I stood next to his seat, engrossed as he was in a book on his Kindle. When I looked down at what he was reading, I noticed a familiar name, then a second, then a third. These were my characters. He was reading my novel.

How many times have I imagined a scenario like this, though it had always been on a plane, and the person sitting next to me a stranger. In my imaginings the book had been a book, not an eReader, and it had been the cover I recognized, not the actual writing, but it was the same moment. I’d visualized it enough to recognize it when it happened.

Okay, yes, it would have been cooler if it hadn’t been someone I’d known, though it’s unlikely that if he had been a stranger that I would have looked down to see what he was reading. I like to think  that a moment like that with a stranger is coming, too. In the meantime, I’m going to put this moment in the W column.

Keep visualizing. The life you want is out there, even if it hasn’t yet manifested in real-time three-dimensional reality yet.  It’s coming.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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Judging a Book by Its Cover

I reached a huge milestone recently when my agent sold my supernatural young adult novel, Aftersight.  It was a moment for high-fives, champagne, and general celebration, but after all that there was work to do.

As the content editing commenced, I began to understand that my story, which previously had only been words on a page, would soon be a book. It would be something tangible, something visual.

wrongful-death-novel-robert-dugoni-book-cover-artI’ll admit it, I was nervous about what the cover art would look like. My publisher graciously allowed me to have input on the cover design, an excellent perk, but it was still difficult to imagine what the process would be like. Contrary to my previous assumptions, the cover artist doesn’t actually read the book, relying instead on plot summaries and character profiles to come up with a visual that will sell the story. Would that be enough for her to conjure a compelling cover design?

There is a fine line between a truly good cover and something cheesy, or perhaps worse, something flat and lifeless. Every book is different. Ideally, you want an image that will appeal to your readers, but that’s pretty vague, isn’t it?

“A good cover tells a story,” New York Times best-selling author Robert Dugoni said at this year’s Pacific Northwest Writers Conference. To illustrate the point, he held up the cover of the paperback version of his novel, Wrongful Death. There an American flag folded into a triangle, as if from a soldier’s funeral, rests on a rough stone background. In the center of the flag is a smoking bullet hole.

What story does that cover tell? It’s probably something about the military, something about death (if the title didn’t already make that obvious). It’s not just a bullet hole, but a smoking bullet hole. There’s action to come, something yet unresolved.

“A good cover asks a question,” literary agent Sally Harding told me. “It’s not about trying to summarize your story or even depicting a key scene.” A good cover is like a door slightly ajar, just enough to give you a glimpse of what lies on the other side, just enough to prompt you to open it and explore the world beyond.

Weeks of content editing and line editing had come and gone. I was reviewing the galley pages when the email arrived with the subject line Cover art for Aftersight.

Here it was. The Moment had finally arrived. I took a deep breath, double-clicked the email, and was rewarded with a cover image that far surpassed even my best expectations. Did it tell a story? Maybe. Did it ask a question? Most definitely.

That was the moment when my novel, which had always been an amorphous blob, an idea, finally became real.

This blog entry was originally published for Author Magazine‘s Author Blog.

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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.

 URL: www.brianmercerbooks.com

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