December 22nd, 2006
Expectations…They’ll Get You Every Time

There is a discussion that’s taking place on the Novelist Inc. list that got me thinking about the publishing business and our expectations. When I first published in N.Y., I had such high, HIGH, HIGH expectations for how things would unfold now that I’d finally made it into the ‘club’. Snort. I couldn’t have been more WRONG.

Shortly after getting my deal, and by shortly I mean before my books ever came out, I was semi-abandoned by my publisher. The reason I say semi is because of discussions I had with my then agent. Later, I found out that wasn’t the case, but by then my disillusionment was complete. It was six months before I could write a word. I thought for sure my career was over before it ever began.

Why was I in so much pain? Because my expectations had been directed to the outcome and not the journey. I was so focused on staying published by any means necessary that I forgot what I enjoyed about writing in the first place. It took concentrating on a new genre and walking away from my old agent to get my expectations realigned. Keeping my expectations focused on the work is an ongoing struggle for me, but one well worth the fight. The detachment from the final outcome makes handling the disappointment much easier. For the first time, I feel more in control of my career, my level of happiness, and my work. This is something EVERY writer must learn, if you are to succeed in the publishing business. There are no exceptions.

What expectations are you harboring that would be better directed elsewhere?

12 comments to “Expectations…They’ll Get You Every Time”

  1. Hmmm…I don’t know that I’m harboring any kind of expectations right now. I am in a sort of limbo with a full ms with Avon. I don’t have an agent yet. Though not for lack of trying. *bg* I suppose there is my dream of getting that call, but beyond that, I don’t have the faintest idea of what to expect. I just know I can’t imagine life without writing the infinite stories bouncing around my head. 🙂

    I suppose my biggest dream, I don’t think you could call it an expectation at this stage, is to be able to make writing a full-time career. Now *that* is what I fantasize about often. When I don’t have a character badgering me to get their story on paper, that is.

    Excellent post, Jordan!
    Happy holidays,
    Sandy 🙂

  2. Sandy, I think that’s smart to keep those dreams at that level. It’s when the focus leaves the work to concentrate on the business that there are problems. Fingers and toes crossed you hear something wonderful from Avon. Happy Holidays to you, too. 🙂

  3. My favorite type A expectation game is as follows: get my calender, write down what I plan to acomplish which is way more than what can be done (unless I figure out that “alter time” spell I’ve been working on). Then, I do something completely different from what I wrote down, go back to evaluate, and have a good laugh. I think this is my Gemini at war with my Capricorn ascendent. I try to watch my expectations of publishing because it’s kind of a Wild West traveling roullette game and I’m not sure any numbers a sure thing. My one solid expectation is that I’ll ultimately get a Futuristic published by Dorchester. Nope, not writing any at this point, and not sure why I have that in my head, but there it is. We’ll see what happens over the next 5 years. By the way: I’m SURE Sandy will hear from AVON! She’s in my chapter RWA and we’re all rooting for her!

  4. Ursula, I can say with complete and utter certainty that there are NO sure things in publishing. *ggg* Good luck with your ‘future’ publisher. 🙂

  5. I think the expectation that gets me in the most trouble is that I keep expecting that one of these days I’m going to actually be totally confident in my abilities rather than doubting them at every turn. I just need to smack myself upside the head and realize that all I can effect is today, and if I can suspend my doubt and disbelief for a few hours each day and make my word count and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, then that’s all I can do…lol.

  6. Tina, Very good point. I’m certainly guilty of that expectation. I’m sure a lot of other people are too. :-/

  7. Good post. I’ve been working on the ‘detaching the self from outcome’ idea for some years now. And no, I’m still not very good at it, although I try. There’s a fine line to walk between that and believing in self-determination.

    As for what expectations I’m harboring that would be better directed elsewhere…I think I’ve pretty well cleared that deck. 😉

  8. Good post. One of the benefits *veg* of not getting/being published (yet, but paying attention from the sidelines as other writers–new and old– go through their paces, is that *expectations* are ruthlessly adjusted, whether you want them to be or not. heh.

  9. I think keeping in touch with other writers and writing enthusiasts helps to keep the things which are to some degree beyond our control (like getting published, agents, sales, market saturation, etc.) in the place where they belong; the background. Remaining excited by the product (your writing, the writing of others) keeps us grounded, and keeps what we love most about what we do at the forefront.

  10. Raine, I have to work on it everyday too. I do think it’s the most important thing a writer can learn in this business. At least if they want to stay sane. *ggg*

  11. Jaq, Very good point. You’re either flexible like water or you break. May you experience all the joys firsthand in 2007. 😀

  12. Camille, I’m not sure the writing of others helps all the time. (vbg) But I do think focusing on your own writing and perhaps positive reader feedback goes a LONG, LONG way in maintaining a positive outlook. 🙂