- Connect. And Who Cares About the Cool Kids?
Before Virtuosity sold, I had no publishing contacts, no online presence, not even any real life writer friends. I was a lone girl, writing a book. Incredible, I know—was I even alive???? If a tree falls in a forest and nobody live tweets it, did it even happen?
Suddenly faced with the Twitter/Facebook/Website/Blog/Tumblr behemoth, I felt like a lifetime home-schooled kid being thrown into a high school cafeteria. Everybody clearly already had their group of friends, and I was the only one wearing head gear! (I’ve never been home schooled or worn head gear. I’m sorry if I’ve offended either of those groups. Lest you think I’m a cool kid making fun of less cool kids, I’ve included a picture of young Jessica below. I’m very young in this picture, but I didn’t get much cooler as a teenager. Mullet. Bach. Enough said.)
As a new author, figuring out the social and professional relationships going on around me on all of these different platforms was more than overwhelming. It took time. It took letting go of worrying whether I was saying the right thing to the right person, and just jumping in there.
In high school it seemed to me like everyone else already knew each other, and that people could tell that I didn’t. It made me even shyer. I probably came off as snobby. Online, I’ve had to consciously not be that girl. It did, and still does, take effort, but I’m glad I’m doing it, because I’ve met so many genuine people who’ve enriched this experience for me. We keep each other sane. Or keep each other insane? Whichever.
And do I still occasionally accidentally jump into a twitter convo with the cool kids and not even know it until none of them reply? Why, yes. I do. And then I say to myself, “That was totally lame of them, and little lame of me, but I’m not in high school anymore, so I’m not going to retreat to my corner. I’ll just tweet about gravy and my dental woes for a little while. Then I’ll attempt to talk to other writers who seem less lame and more like my type of people.”
I wish I’d have figure that out in high school.
2. Comparisons Will Kill You.
It is freaking hard to be Type A enough to write a book, but not so Type A that you’re psycho about the success of the book. Who owns that sweet spot? I certainly don’t. I can write the books, but keeping the side of me that compares my success to other writers’ success in check is a constant struggle. But as I told my son the other day when all his friends were able to do a move at karate and he couldn’t get it so he ended up having to do 25 push-ups instead, “Other people’s successes do not hurt you! You had to do the push-ups because you hadn’t learned the move, so don’t be mad at your friends for that!” Then I tried to do some push-ups to show solidarity. The last number I remember saying before I passed out was 4. So. Yeah. The moral of that story: sometimes in publishing all your friends get exactly what you think you deserve, and you have to suck it up and in the words of Chuck Wendig, “art harder.”
3. Make Your Own Happy.
Me. Alone. At my computer. That has to be enough.
There are other things that make this job great—a caring agent, an awesome editor, great reviews, new book deals, solid sales, etc. but the minute I start relying on any one of those things to keep me going, I’m in trouble. None of those are for sure. This business can be crazy, and one minute you can be everybody’s darling, and the next minute it’s all collapsed, and it’s just you sitting at your computer by yourself again. I’ve come to understand that the act of creating has to be enjoyable enough that I can continue to do this no matter what else is happening. Obviously not every day can be an awesome writing day, but I’m more cognizant of the good ones now, because it pays to recognize them and to be grateful for them. It helps me remember when I’m not getting what I’d hoped for from all of those other things, that it really is all about the writing.