So, this is a thing I do every year because I compose a lot of thoughts and rants and have a lot of semipiphanies and basically my head is a busy place. I was actually gonna skip it this year, because my schedule is a busy place too, but my year’s been pretty marked by prioritizing the wrong things, and so here I am.
1. Your mental health should come before everything, always.
I get how publishing can be. I get how crazed it can make you. I get all the things you feel like you have to do, have to be, have to learn. I get how hard we all push ourselves.
And I also know that almost every single one of my writer friends suffers from anxiety, depression, or both. Myself included.
This was a horrible year for my mental health, which probably escaped exactly nobody who follows me on any form of social media. And in the process, I discovered some weird coping mechanisms (Kardashian Hollywood. Seriously.) and that I have fantastic friends who will stick with me through anything. Social media breaks helped a lot, even done in a halfass way, like “I’ll only use Twitter to respond to tweets but never check the feed.” It is really, really important to figure out what resets you and to do it, without feeling bad or embarrassed or silly or less than. Writing is not a business that can be survived without something; we spend far too much time in our heads for that. There’s no shame in talking about it, in therapy (inpatient or outpatient), in meds, in breaks, in calling a hotline, in going off the grid for a while, in anything that works for you without hurting other people.
2. The internet is a really public place.
People seem to forget this a lot. I seem to forget this a lot. (See above.) What you put out into the world, you really can’t take back. What you choose to share, you have really, really shared. No forum is as private as you think it is; that’s just not how life works.
Also, when you trash someone on the internet in “a private place” you both have access to, you’re just an idiot.
3. Transparency is not for everybody.
There were a lot of things I was prepared to upset or even depress me about publishing, and that helped a lot when the time came. I knew my book wouldn’t be in indies, so that was okay. I knew what people would hate about both Ally and Lizzie, and that made reviews that focused on their unlikeability much easier to handle. I knew other authors would be able to tour and I wouldn’t.
I had no idea what the thing would be that would break me the hardest.
Turned out, it was other people’s transparency. It was other people revealing their sales, their advances, their numbers. It wasn’t a comparison game; it was a feeling of “We are not even in the same universe.” And just like that I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere, didn’t feel like I could call myself an author. It sucked. And I didn’t even see it coming.
4. Care less about the people who don’t care all that much about you.
You can spend a lot of time kissing the asses of pub pros or big authors and thinking of making relationships in the industry as wearing the clothes for the job you want and not the job you have or whatever. But those aren’t the people who are going to get you through this. Friends are. Betas are. Fans are. Those people deserve your respect and attention more than anyone else. And the thing about being a dick to the “little people”? Not only does it make you a dick, but it’s also really short sighted; it’s amazing how fast the industry can move for someone, or how much power there is in someone genuinely loving your work and talking about it. Underestimating anyone just makes an ass out of you.
5. There is no objective “best.”
This is true for “Best Books of the Year” lists, and it’s true for deals, and paths, and all that jazz. If you had told 2012 me that I would one day voluntarily be going without an agent – like, literally made the choice between keeping one and flying solo and deciding to do the latter – I would’ve laughed. It would never in a billion years have occurred to me I’d be at a point where being on my own felt like the best choice. But it happened: I hit a point where all my sellable books were sold, I wanted to self-publish for a little bit, I didn’t want to feel like I had to run all my choices about the latter by someone else, and I wouldn’t have anything else to sub for a long while. My agent was lovely, but I needed some time by myself. And several months later, I still feel good about that. I don’t care that someone else’s idea of the “best” situation is to be agented at all times; I care about it being right for me.
6. Publishing is a really, really small industry.
That doesn’t just apply to how few houses there are, etc. That means when you’re aspiring to higher, and you’re an asshole about it, people notice and remember you. That means if you’re a jerk to agents when you’re querying, or to mentors in a contest, they remember you. They talk about you. There is literally nothing to be gained by being a jerk in this world, and so, so much to lose.
Yes, like half of my messages are on this theme every year, but weirdly enough, jerks keep happening.
7. Things change as you get further along, for better and for worse.
Here is one of the biggest things that changes that you don’t really think about or anticipate and then it’s obvious but kind of still sucks even though it’s nobody’s fault, really: people have less time for you along the way. In a crit group where everyone’s really pulling their weight and possessing actual talent, it’s pretty inevitable that while you all may start pre-sale or even pre-agent, you’re probably all gonna rise. It is great when this happens. It is so, so cool when you look around at your closest writer friends and realize what you’ve done together. The only thing that even approaches the feeling of seeing your book on a shelf is seeing a crit partner’s. But you get busy. And they get busy. And you’re all still writing books, but the time you used to have to read theirs and writing extensive notes slips through your fingers, and vice versa.
And this happens with agents too – it’s all very exciting when they first sign you, and they spend so much time on that book they fell in love with so hard that they offered representation! But your future books may take a lot longer for them to get to, and yeah, that’s a thing. They’re not rushing to sign you anymore; they’ve got you. And they’ve got lots of other stuff to do, too.
C’est la vie.
8. Book bloggers are not the enemy of authors.
This is a weird one to even have to say, but hell, it’s been a weird year. Book bloggers are literally people who use their time and money to talk about books authors write and get pretty much nothing in return except maybe free books. (Which, as someone who gets a ton of free books, I can tell you ends up feeling like an anxiety-causing burden pretty quickly. Yes, I know, my diamond shoes are too tight, but I really need people to stop assuming they know exactly what it’s like on the other side until they’ve been on the other side.)
Bloggers don’t dislike books to ruin careers; they dislike books because people dislike books. It happens. And if you’re an author who thinks it’s unfair that people get to trash your book and you don’t get to say anything, please remember that you get to paid to write, and they do not. The same way you can talk shit about whatever movie or TV show you like – it’s not different because you choose to give yourself access to those reviews and Angelina Jolie couldn’t care less. The amount of effort put in to discussing a book and pulling together a post on it is phenomenal and admirable whether for the positive or negative.
9. Diversity – still a really important thing.
I’m not going to babble about this much because a lot more important people talk about it far more eloquently than I do. All I’ll say is read it, write it, buy it, support it, keep up with the fabulous #WeNeedDiverseBooks initiative, and listen to marginalized people when they talk about their experiences. It’s okay to get shoved to the background on this, fellow able cishet white people; I promise it’s been happening to marginalized people a whole lot longer.
Happy almost 2015!