A Love That Will Break Your Heart – and Fill it Up

The publishing business will break your heart, if you let it.

Prior to publication, many authors believe that everything becomes sparkling rainbows and gold-bridled unicorns after the author signs with an agent/signs a contract/has a debut release/has more releases or meets another major publishing goal.

That isn’t true.

Fear is an artist’s traveling companion, the black dog resting on your shoulder that never quite goes away. It takes a hiatus from time to time — most often when those major victories happen, but also in the quiet days when writing goes well or a reader’s compliment fills the author’s heart with joy.

But the fear returns.

No author, published or otherwise, has learned to banish fear completely. Anyone who says (s)he has is lying. Some feel it more, and some have less–but in the pre-dawn darkness, with a deadline looming, when the words won’t flow the way you wanted, fear is right there with us in the foxholes.

Like the old story about G. Gordon Liddy holding his hand above a candle flame … the trick is not banishing the fear, or somehow learning not to feel it. The trick–with fear as with pain–is not to mind it.

The black dog can be put on a leash, and forced to sit in the corner when it decides to misbehave. It isn’t always easy, but with focus, it can be done.

Many authors fall into despair at various points in their publishing lives, mainly because they feel so alone. Nobody else seems to have any fear, and everyone else appears to be living that perfect, sparkly-unicorn life.

Allow me to pull the curtain back for a moment: you’re not alone.

Every author worries that this book might be the last one anyone ever wants to read. New York Times Bestselling authors get up in the night and step on the hairball the cat hacked up as a midnight surprise. Milk will curdle even in the hallowed halls of Edgar and Agatha-winning authors’ homes.

The difference between that sparkling unicorn they’re riding and the black dog drooling terror on your shoulder is perspective

Don’t compare your inner life with everyone else’s outer one. Instead, take a closer look at the things you have to be grateful for.

— If you’re writing a novel, be glad that you have the health and imagination to write.

— If you’ve signed with an agent, be glad that someone loves your work enough to represent you.

— If you’re out on submission, appreciate the fact that 99% of people who write a novel won’t get that far. Which means you’re doing it right.

— And if you have a book in print, consider the person on midnight vigil in a hospital somewhere who used your words to pass those frightened hours. (Unless you write horror, in which case consider the person who might not sleep a wink tonight…or any night this week.)

It’s true that this business can break your heart, but also true that publishing can fill an author’s heart and soul to bursting-full with joy. Few other businesses give a person’s lifelong dream a physical form.

Publishing is filled with joyful moments, if you look for them. The day you finished a difficult page…or chapter…or manuscript. The day the plot lines fell into place like beautifully oiled gears. The day your friends raised glasses to toast your success, or drank to your failure–either way, you have good friends, and they were there for you.

Celebrate every victory, every day, and every page. Pay attention to the blessings. Let the curses fall away. Some days will be difficult. Some will be simple. But all will be what you make them.

Yes, publishing can break your heart, but only if you let it.

If you give it the chance, it will fill your heart up, too.


11 thoughts on “A Love That Will Break Your Heart – and Fill it Up

  • September 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Well said.

    It’s all about the page. The page doesn’t lie. The page doesn’t abandon you. The page doesn’t double-cross you or steal your cookies when you aren’t looking. The page is the only thing that’s real, and that reality is whatever we want it to be. The rest is illusion.

    Thank you for your post.

    • September 11, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Thanks Piper – I feel the same way about it. Everything comes down to the page.

  • September 11, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Love. And just what I needed to read today. Big hugs!

    • September 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Thank you Kris. I’m glad it was timely — and I’m glad it helped.

  • September 11, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Absolutely fabulous, Susan! Great timing for me, who was wakeful last night as I worried about how I’m going to plot my next book.

    Thanks so much for reminding us of what’s truly important. I agree wholeheartedly.

    • September 11, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      The plot will come, and you’ll wonder why you ever worried. I’m sure of it (because it happens to me too!)

  • September 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    Too true. I find it to be an enormous privilege to be a support in those times. To see the light and focus of a story falter and to play a part in bringing it back to life is wonderful!

    • September 11, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      What a wonderful way to put it – and I wholeheartedly agree!

  • September 11, 2014 at 5:27 pm

    Well said and oh so true! Thank you, Susan!

  • September 12, 2014 at 2:08 am

    My sweet friend,
    I have a bit of an inkling who inspired this post. *wink*
    I love you for it and thank you so, so much for the uplifting words. Not just today, but all through the years. You are an amazing critique partner and I have learned so, SO much from you!

  • September 12, 2014 at 7:10 am

    So true. From time to time my nagging doubt makes me feel as though even if my first book sells that it will be a one-time fluke. My rational side is far more optimistic that I’ve got the “write stuff”. It’s a hard business, but I freaking love it!

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