People that love to write often feel being paid for publication is the benchmark of a “real” writer. So they read all the books on writing and dutifully send off queries, filled with hope and fear that one will be accepted: hope they’ll get the chance to be a real writer, fear they won’t live up to the challenge. Sadly, for some, their fears will turn out to be well founded. The emotional highs and lows of writing for pay will be more painful then they can bear. Shocked, wounded, these natural writers will put their dreams behind them in the mistaken belief that they’re not good enough to write for publication.
Why does this happen? Because books on writing often fail to tell the aspiring writer the one thing they most need to know: the marketplace demands more than talent. It demands that the writer be skilled at dancing between the emotional states of passion and detachment. It seems like a conundrum, and it is, so let’s unravel this riddle.
The writer filled with fervor for the process of writing produces the best product. And in the marketplace, that’s just what your article, poem, short story or novel is—a product. Products, whether they are romance novels or car wax, are pretty much processed, pimped and put on the shelves the same way. All sorts of people, from editors to advertising sales managers, have their hand in the marketing process. They have the power to tweak, alter and otherwise transfigure the product. As a writer, it takes emotional detachment to watch, even help as your beloved work is worked on.
The ability to call forth and control your emotional states is a primary survival skill if you hope to write for print. Can it be learned? Yes. In his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More than IQ,” Daniel Goleman says the ability to master emotions often makes the difference between success and failure in people of equivalent intellectual abilities. He suggests these steps for increasing self-control:
(1) Pay attention to your emotional states. Don’t just let excitement or fear run riot over you. Use your writer’s “inner eye” to observe and record your own emotional states. Simply being aware of your emotions is the first step to controlling them.
(2) Get it off your chest. Rejection hurts. Seeing your carefully considered words edited for publication is painful. If your feelings have been hurt, by all means vent, but do it in a journal and not, under any circumstance, in a nasty email to an editor or a hastily posted blog. Nothing is learned from burning bridges, and you could seriously injure your chances of ever being published. Editors and publishers read the net, too, you know.
(3) Consider the other person’s point of view. Editors and publishers have to deal with issues you know nothing about. Before you take personal offence, stop to consider their side. If an editor doesn’t quickly answer your query, stop and imagine the view from their desk. If you got 1000 letters a week AND had to handle the work of 2 because of staff cuts, might you put mail on the back burner?
(4) Try not to take it personally. This can be especially difficult for writers, because our work is so very personal. But when your feelings are hurt, it’s important to take a step back and realize that in business, decisions may need to been made that have nothing to do with YOU, personally.
(5) Stay well-mannered and self-motivated. Being polite and persevering even when your feelings have been hurt is a definite sign of emotional maturity. The ability to keep your cool and keep moving ahead will take you places talent alone can only dream of.
Like any skill, learning to waltz between passion and dispassion takes practice and persistence. Some writers tap a tentative foot, then withdraw to be wallflowers the first time someone steps on their toes. But you can survive and even thrive by joining the dance with passion and purpose, accepting the thrills as well as the spills as you learn to step with the tune.