I recently signed a publishing contract with St. Martin’s Press. While I won’t share the terms, I can tell you my agent Sandra negotiated an excellent deal. Even a lesser contract would have fulfilled a long-standing dream, and the one I signed goes far beyond mere fulfillment. The decision to pursue “traditional” publication, as opposed to self-publishing, was a personal one and made after thorough consideration. This was my choice, as well as my dream.
Ironically, and like so many dreams, the moment itself passed largely without fanfare. I woke up on a weekend morning, went to the kitchen table and signed the documents while the rest of the household slept. I drove to the post office, stuffed a priority envelope, and mailed the agreements back to New York – fulfilling a dream I have nurtured for thirty years.
Then I went home and mopped cat puke off the floor.
Since that morning several people have asked what it feels like to live a dream. The truth is, it feels a lot like the day before – and also completely different. Life doesn’t change overnight (if at all). You are still the person who burns the toast and cleans up after the cat. In most authors, the drive to write is equally strong before and after the contract – whether signed or unsigned, we still prefer to spend hours with our imaginary friends.
That’s not to say that nothing has changed. It has. But change is slow, and relative, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned from the process so far is this:
Enjoy the ride.
My agent gave me that advice in January, when the first Shinobi mystery (then titled SHINOBI, now CLAWS OF THE CAT) went out on submission. She was absolutely correct, and the result of taking that advice has been almost five months of celebrating milestones – and not just the ones related to this manuscript.
Here are a few of the reasons I’ve found to celebrate aside from the obvious contract-related bits:
Starting the second manuscript in the series. Finishing each chapter in first draft form. Finishing that draft – and each of the three that followed (with chapter celebrations at each step along the way). Finding a new title for Book 1. Finding a better new title. Choosing titles for the next novels in the series.
Figuring out that the cat sat on my F-11 button and de-windowed my programs. (This is cause for celebration because it stopped my computer from acting badly.)
Deciding on plots for book 3 and book 4 … and the list goes on.
With all those celebrations (and yes, I did something enjoyable to celebrate each) it’s started to feel as if every day holds a special reason for joy. The day I mailed the contracts to New York, my husband asked “Do you want to do something special?”
Before I knew it, I’d answered, “Yes, I want to go write.”
As I did the day before I signed with Sandra. As I did the day before the manuscript sold. As I’ve done almost every day since, and will do every day in the months and years to come.
A writer writes. Before, during, and after a sale. Through celebrations and sorrows. It’s who we are. It’s what we do. It’s easy to lose sight of that when you’re slouching toward publication (extra points if you catch the reference), but the lesson from the other side of the looking glass is this: the center will hold if you cling to the realization that it’s the writing – not the outcome – that drives you. Pre-contract or post-contract, the words reign supreme.
Don’t mistake my meaning – I’m thrilled beyond thrilled and excited beyond measure about publication. But when I look inward, to the place where that thirty-year dream was sheltered and nurtured, the ultimate celebration is the writing. The return to the keys, to imagination, to the fictitious friends who populate my writing and my brain.
And that bears an important lesson for me and for every other writer at every phase of a writing career: THIS DAY is cause for celebration. THIS day is as good as it gets – and that phrase has no negative connotations here.
So get back to your keys. Write your words, and take any and every reason to celebrate. Every day.
Enjoy the process. Because if you’re a writer, the writing itself is truly as good as it gets.