Monday, July 19, 2010

Because pea green is such an ugly color for a complexion

Except for Martians, lizards, geckos, other creepy-crawlies and the odd fish, I know of no living breathing critter that looks good with a complexion of pea green.

Especially writers.

This writing business is a capricious ride. People are plucked out of obscurity, out a slush pile of thousands, and suddenly, they have a book deal -- all because (at first) one person (dozens later) said, "Gee, I LIKE that!"

To writers who have been struggling for years just to get agents to request a partial, that can sting. To published writers, always conscious that they're only as good as their last sell-through numbers and ever-cognizant of the shrinking mid-list, that can sting.

Add to that the possibility of sudden, overwhelming riches with movie deals and merchandise tie-ins, and the green meter goes from the palest apple green to that of a sun-tanned Martian.

Let's face it. We've all done it. We're all human. We've all ground our teeth at a less-than-stellar book and thought, "WHY HER? WHY NOT ME?"

For one thing, it was her (or his) time.

Yes, that's a fatalistic view, but I sincerely believe in it. I've seen that the very best things in my life usually come after the longest dry/rainy spell (depending on how you look at bad luck). My most heart-felt wishes came to pass only after I'd truly given up ... a chance at a college education. The possibility of The Kiddo's adoption. My first book sale. I'm a Christian, so my theory is that God waits until we have our backs to the wall so that we're SURE that it's all Him and not anything to do with us.

For another thing? Being pea green with envy hurts only us.

Yeah. I said that. It doesn't put one less dollar in Mr. Best-Seller's bank account. But if I choose to grind my teeth over his success, I'm really just substituting excuses for effort. Pretty soon, if I've convinced myself that it's either blind luck or that all editors are interested in buying is whatever the hot genre is, then I'll give up on the book of my heart.

The cure? It's to realize that anger and bitterness and jealousy are really just mixed up expressions of fear and disappointment. Just like a toddler goes into melt-down mode and screams in rage when he's sick or hungry or hurt, we grown-ups do the same thing. We get all mixed up.

So let's use our words. Let's tell ourselves, "When I see Mr. Best Seller's books, I'm afraid that I'll never sell/never be as successful/never have as much money." When we define the problem -- or at least when I do -- then we can figure out what part of it we CAN control.


Patty Blount said...

*stands, applauds*

Right on!

Again and again, I'll pick up a popular book and go, "Really?" I have my pea green moments but mostly, it spurs me on because I know if this person can do it, so can I.

What also helps me is always remembering why I write. Sure, an agent and a publishing deal would be wonderful. Okay, maybe more like cartwheel-flippin'-awesome, if I'm being honest. But they're not the only reasons. As long as I don't lose sight of that, I can wear the pea green for a bit. :)

Tawna Fenske said...

Thank you for this beautifully-worded (and timely!) reminder. Doesn't matter what stage you're at in the writing game, you can always find someone to envy, and THAT is poison.


Cynthia Reese said...

Patty, your time is coming! I just know it!

And Tawna, this is high praise coming from you!

Kelly Breakey said...

What a great shout out to remind everyone that there is plenty to go around. Bravo!