Friday, July 15, 2011

The Zen of Being Disappointed

So my advice is, have reasonable expectations, and you will not evade happiness.

Oh.  That’s right.  You didn’t ask for my advice.

But still.  It’s free.  So take it.  Go ahead. 

After all, you want to be published, yes?

I am not an expert in publishing.  I am not an expert in writing.  But I have built a considerable wealth of knowledge on the subject of disappointment by participating in both of the former. 

Of course you know one of the songs.  Rejection.  You’ve heard it before, a thousand times sorting yourself through the treatises and opinions caught in the internet on How to Get Published.

You’re savvy like that.  Prepared.  Learned, one might even call you.

Disappointment, however, is like a different tune.  Another animal entirely, to mix metaphores.  Sometimes it happens when you aren’t being Rejected.  You might find Disappointment hidden in the tiny recesses of Accepted.  Save for the select fortunate, whom we both despise with all our jealous hearts, Disappointment can be a lifelong passenger on the road to Author Career. 

Why, just look at all the wonderful places Disappointment can be found!

Your query performance.
Your writing, and other people’s opinions of.
Your editing, and other people’s opinions of.
Your book deal.
Your sales.
Your relationship with editors, agents, readers.
How long it takes getting published.
Book covers.
And many more!

My goodness.  Who would ever want to be published?  It seems you lose even when you win.  On the other hand (Hand usage count so far:  One), for those with reasonable expectations, the effects of Disappointment can be somewhat alleviated.  How, you ask?  Start by adjusting those dreams of yours. 

You may get an agent.  You may get a book deal.  You may build a fan base.  But you probably won’t be snatching Stephen King’s throne from under him.  Twihards and Potterheads likely won’t be deeming you the next Thing.  MTV will doubtfully be approaching you for an episode of Cribs at anytime in the near future. The cover of your book will not leave the masses weeping uncontrollably. 

As some great philosopher once mused, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  Though, since you’re curious, what I would have said had I said it myself was, “Jesus, man. Chill the f*** out.” 

And I would also need a mirror.


  1. When I was middle school, my best friend and I had a saying - "It'll Never Happen." Mostly, we used this whenever we had a crush, to remind ourselves that the boy we loved would never love us back. We said it so that, when he in fact did not return our affections, we wouldn't be disappointed.

    It didn't work. LOL. I spent my entire youth, right up to my year of college, crushing on boys who would never love me back.

    Now, I do try to stay planted in reality and not allow my hopes to float too high. But I know I'm a good writer. That is one of the things I know. Will I be published? That, I don't know.

    Hang in there. :)

  2. I've actually been faily happy as of late. A little impatient, but happy. But in the past, I've lost one agent after having spent nearly two years editing and going through agency mergers. So...basically, I've got a doctorate in disappointment. ;)

    Really, though, you can only focus on what's within your power. The rest is up to the fates. Or luck. Or both, perhaps.

  3. So very, very true. Especially since we all have those lovely fantasies of being on Oprah, watching our stories be turned into movies (good, well-directed movies with fantastic actors that stay true to the book, rather than a Uwe Boll travesty) and getting heaps of fanmail from our devoted readers.

    But then, every basketball player dreams of being the next Shaq or Michael Jordan. Every garage band aspires to the fame and glory of the Beetles. Every coffee-pouring intern longingly gazes at the desk of the CEO.

    Not that this makes what you've written any less true-- in fact, it's moreso. People are so focused on fame, fortune, adulation and success that they forget that the key is to just sit down and do what you love (and hopefully make just enough money to keep food on the table). That's the important part. Everything else is extra.

  4. So true. I think writers are doubly cursed b/c most of us are readers, and inevitably we will read something cover to cover, put it down, and be unable to revel in the awesomeness of the book without that little twinge of "Yeah, I'll never write like that" in the back of our heads.