WARNING: This is a no-edit zone…
“Doing easily what others find difficult is talent; doing what is impossible for talent is genius.”
–Henri Frederic Amiel
This morning, I ran across this quote, read it, pressed on, and then stopped cold, went back and read it again. As on so many other occasions, I re-read it and saw a deeper meaning, I needed to see. When I mentally followed it out, it took my thoughts in an unexpected direction. But at this moment, it was the perfect direction for me.
Right now is a difficult time in my life. Those of you who know that Bombshell will cease publishing books after January 2007, and know that I’ve been dedicated to these books since long before they were published, understand that. We’ve all dreamed of something, seen it come to fruition, and then dissipate. It’s tough to swallow when you love your dream as much after seeing it become reality as you did when it was a gleam in your eye or a spark in your mind that you yearned to see manifest.
But there is much you don’t know. All three of my children are expecting, and all three women are having challenging pregnancies. One is due to deliver within weeks, one is sick in bed, one has been in the hospital. I firmly believe that they and the babies will be okay, but right now, they’re challenged and worried. Their husbands are challenged and worried. And so naturally Mom is challenged and worried.
When I returned from RWA, my computer crashed. A great deal of money and four gurus later, it’s still not right. And the day the announcement came out on Bombshell, my printer died.
For a mom, her kids being in trouble is a challenge of catastrophic proportions. For a writer, her computer and printer being down, particularly when her “next” career step is in a state of flux is nearly as catastrophic. Nearly, meaning, significant but down the line. You’re already unsettled and all this makes you more so.
Add to that a great deal of speculation on what went wrong on Bombshell, which you try to nip in the bud by publicly stating your views, thus enabling you to switch your focus to solutions–finding a new venue for your work and doing what you can to help the other writers find new venues for theirs–and then seeing the books and some authors bombarded in public forums by comments from others that you know are not intended to inflict pain on the writers of these books but are seated in the commenter’s own fears, or in attempts to understand and avoid the same career challenges, or (I’m sorry to say, in some cases) sour grapes, and of course some are seated in idle curiosity, and you can’t press on. You’re busy dealing with fallout–intended and unintended.
Fallout on the close of a publishing line or imprint is inevitable for all the reasons stated above. What isn’t inevitable but happens is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. Doesn’t change anything, of course. Doesn’t do a thing to help those impacted. But it is there in abundance. I’m not talking about trying to determine what went wrong. That’s constructive, and review and analysis is how we avoid making the same mistake over and again. I’m talking about the “I knew it would fail because________ comments” or the “this or that was wrong with the books” (offensive when stated by those who admit in the same breath that they didn’t read them). These things make the writer who is posting this bit of business in a public forum feel superior or vindicated or maybe less afraid that their own publishing slot will fade because they’ve got it all figured out. But it has unintended consequences on the writers who are in that position. Some the poster is aware of, some she isn’t–like the impact on a potential publisher. Will your comments tint a future editor’s perception of an author’s proposed work for a new publisher? It might not, but it might. Who knows writing better than writers? Who knows books better than those who read them?
All of the above is a taste of what’s going on in my world, and in the worlds of other writers in this position now. But the same traits that drove Bombshell authors to write Bombshell novels also drive them to say here’s where we are, now let’s get focused on where we’re going. And so they feel the stings and wounds, intended and unintended, try to understand them, accept that they can’t change them, absorb the fact that writers do this to other writers, support each other and try to regain their feet. For some it’s damned difficult. For others it’s far easier because they have a secret weapon: an agent who believes in them, and makes no secret of the fact.
I’m one such blessed author. And I have to tell you, my agent is a powerful weapon, who has been working double-time on my behalf. Not holding my hand–I’m a pro and don’t need that; spouses fill that role–but protecting my interests, making sure that I’m making the right next-step decisions, not just the easiest ones or the ones that I want for the wrong reasons. He knows my ambitions, what most matters to me, and even if my thinking is a little cloudy at the moment, his is crystal clear.
You’ve got to appreciate that. And the value of having a strong advocate who knows your mind, your professional strengths and weaknesses, and who isn’t afraid to say, “Wrong. Bad idea,” knowing it won’t be popular on receipt.
If you attended the RWA conference and sat in on the workshop I did with others, AUTHOR/AGENT RELATIONS: A MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN OR HELL, then you can read this post and you’ll see that what I said then is true. It isn’t when things are going right that you know how strong your agent is. When things are rocking along great, life is easy for you both. It’s during difficult times that you see the true value of your asset. When you see the effort expended, the care with which guidance is given and opinions are rendered, all the extra work taken on to make your professional life better–which definitely makes your personal life better–only then do you really know the strength of your advocate, and the true value of your agent to you.
I watched my agent for a long while before approaching him. I warned him that if I ever had a need for his services, I’d be coming after him–over a year before I actually did so. (He probably thought I was a wacky stalker at the time!) But I wanted to know the person I’d be dealing with. As I said in the workshop, that’s so critical for all those reasons mentioned and more. From my observations, I knew he was a winner.
In the years since we’ve been working together, I’ve been proven right. But I can’t sit here feeling smug because I still didn’t have the full picture of just how right I’d been. Not until the difficult times.
In the difficult times, your friends and family are fabulous. The support you receive from other writers, who truly understand the situation and the business, is just an amazing treasure. Yet it is that unqualified proof of faith in you and your work exhibited by your advocate agent and his actions and efforts that does most to stabilize you and your world, and that, my friends, is nothing short of a blessing.
Support. Treasures. Faith. Actions. Effort. Blessing.
Definitely assets at any time, but especially during difficult times. How lucky I am to know these things. How I fervently hope that you know them, too.
And that’s what’s on my mind this morning…
HER PERFECT LIFE
THE COMMON SENSE GUIDE FOR WRITERS
P.S. I received a comment yesterday on an earlier post but it was sent in anonymously. While I welcome comments, I can’t make myself post anything unsigned that contains negative remarks. I can’t contact the poster direct (no email address), but if you’re reading this and you’d like to have your comment posted, please repost it to the blog and include your name. Then, I’ll be happy to approve it.