I am the luckiest lady imaginable. In the past year, Sourcebooks, Inc., has put four books on the shelves for me, one of which, “The Heir,” was a PW Best Book for 2010, while “The Soldier” was an honorable mention Best of the Best for The Library Journal in 2011, and “Lady Sophie’s Christmas Wish” was nominated for RT’s Best Historical Romance of 2011. The first two books made bestsellers lists, a gift that does not befall many talented writers in the course of long, hard-working careers.
What could I possible want for Christmas? A Nobel prize? An antidote to global warming? A cure for common cold?
I shouldn’t want anything for Christmas for myself. Christmas has come in the past year so often, I ought to change my address to the North Pole. And yet…
I am human, and I have been a reasonably good girl, sooo….
What I want for Christmas, for my life, is wisdom, perspective and good company. I want these things badly and I want them largely as a function of having become a published writer.
Along with all the big fun and good times, being a tadpole author has meant some rough patches as well. There have been some strongly critical reviews, and they have thrown me into a tailspin of doubt and bewilderment. There have been difficult decisions regarding the business end of publication, and making those decisions has been a lonely proposition. Then there’s the utterly confusing state of the entire publishing industry, and the befuddlement in store for anybody trying to ensure that book sales are strong. We’re told to blog, facebook, tweet, website, social network, and yet, nobody seems to know for sure if those tasks sell books, or simply channel anxiety about selling books.
I get daunted by these challenges, I lose my way with the writing, I forget the good news and make a mantra of the problems.
I’d like to find the wisdom to let the doubt and bewilderment bounce off me. I want to keep the problems in a healthier perspective—an unkind review hardly matters compared to poor health, homelessness, or a marriage in trouble. Fortunately, I’m stumbling onto some coping mechanisms, and maybe these are the Christmas gifts I need to make sure I find under the tree.
First, when I’m discouraged, the most helpful thing I can do is encourage somebody else. When I enjoy a book, I make sure to do an online review of it in as glowing terms as I can manage. I judge contests to try to give back to aspiring writers the generosity shown me when I was among their numbers. I thank people—it’s easy to forget this—and I positively wallow in the acknowledgements paragraph for each book.
Second, I try to protect the writing by “hermitting,” usually by spending time alone at home, but also by driving to the West Coast and back. The noise fades, the ideas come, and the joy seeps back in when I’m holed up in my imagination.
Third, I try to put myself in the company of positive people, people with a constructive outlook on their lives and (if applicable) their writing. Company such as this steadies me and helps me return to the pure pleasure of writing romance novels.
For Christmas this year, I wish you progress toward your heart’s desire, and—just in case you could use them too—I also wish you wisdom, perspective and good company.
Unless there’s something else you’d like to find under your personal tree?