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The Grass is Always Greener

This morning I was swapping emails with a writer friend, as I do on most days. Having friends who write is kind of essential, becuase they're the ones that get it.

Our converation was something like:

Me: It would be nice to get some random, epically awesome news.
Her: I know. It seems like every day a new award or list comes out, and we're not on it.
Me: I know. Sigh. And where are my foreign sales?

Some version of this conversation plays out once a week. Man, is it easy getting sucked into that mentality. It is SO easy to focus on what's not happening-- bestseller lists, movie deals, foreign sales, ALAN/YALSA lists, awards, etc. Becuase for other people? Those things ARE happening. So why can't it be you?

And yet, here's the thing: I've sold 7 of my own books. #4 and #5 come out this year. PRADA & PREJUDICE is in its 6th printing (and has earned out) and YOU WISH is in its 3rd (Edited: Just found out YW is in its 5th printing). YOU WISH is on track to sell more books in 1 year than Prada & Prejudice will in two.

The problem is being an author-- being published-- isn't a destination. You never "get there" and then feel as if you've made it. There will ALWAYS be a bigger deal, a better selling book, an author who seems to have it all.

When you're unagented, you think, "If I can just get an agent...."

And when you're agented, you think, "If I can just get a book deal..."

And then... "If it just sells a few copies, I'll be happy,"

And then... "If it just goes into a second printing...."

And then... "If I can just sell another book...."

And then.... "If the second book can just sell better...."

The hardest part of being in this career is that you can control what you write, but you can't control how well you're published. Or even if you are published. You never quite reach the carrot on the stick, becuase what you want never stays the same.

Becuase the thing is, of course you're going to care how well your book sells. Its your book. your baby. And of course you're going to freak out if your cover sucks. Or if B&N stocks it. Or if you're a one-hit wonder.

And you're always going to think someone else has it better. The downside of so much social networking-- blogging, tweeting, etc--is that you can actually SEE what other people are doing. you can view their good news in real time. And you can drive yourself absolutely insane.

2007 Mandy? She would run a marathon in Prada heels to get to where 2011 Mandy is. But publishing is so bloody slow, you have plenty of time to think about what you want next--before your first book even hits shelves.

Someone once told me "Satisfaction is a dirty word." I always thought that was stupid. If you can't enjoy what you have, what's the point? But then I got into publishing, and then I understood. I understood what it was like to feel like it was never enough. I understood why people became workaholics. I understood how hard it is to be satisified in this industry. As an agent, it makes me a better agent. I hear a bunch of nos, and all it does is strengthen my resolve to keep going until we get a yes. But as an author, it can be maddening.

I've changed some things. I bought a big glass vase, and whenever I have something to celebrate-- a new book deal, a foreign sale, etc--I pop champagne and i write on the bottom of the cork what I was celebrating, and drop it in the vase. Seeing that-- seeing that I've had things to celebrate in my career-- reminds me of my accomplishments.

Not that I'm satisfied, or anything. ;-)

So here's my question for you guys: Do you feel like you'll ever be satisfied? Do you think it's about being ambitious/driven-- or do you think its unhealthy? Do YOU think you'll ever feel as if you've "Made it?"


( 38 comments — Leave a comment )
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Mar. 17th, 2011 03:48 pm (UTC)
I LOVE your vase celebration idea. And thank you for writing this post; it puts things into perspective. <3
Mar. 17th, 2011 03:51 pm (UTC)
This is so true, and the answer to your question is: I don't know. I don't know if I'll ever be satisfied. I definitely have some idea of what would need to happen for me to feel I've "made it" but... well, they haven't. Yet. Guess I should focus on that Yet and just keep working, right? As you say, it's the only thing we writers CAN control.
Mar. 17th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
The problem too, I think, is that in this industry, it's hard to get a confirmation from someone in the know that things are good! So we are constantly wondering, are things bad?

I just got my royalties statement and one book of my books is doing so well, I couldn't believe it. And no one told me. Why don't they tell us these things? Does it give us more power if they do, so they hold back everything? I don't know, but it would be so nice to hear - we're happy with how your book is selling, good job! Instead we get nothing. So we worry and wonder and watch as others around us celebrate hitting the list or getting awards, and it starts to feel like those two things are the only true measure of success. And it's not.

And I, too, LOVE the vase idea! LOVE IT!!!
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
Yes!! Exactly. I now have a habit of checking the printing on ALL OF MY FRIENDS BOOKS whenever I go into a store, so that if the number is higher than what they know, I can tell them the good news. The only time I know about subsequent printings is if I email and SAY YO WHAT PRINTING AM I IN. Which could be really embarssing if its still the same one as 6 months ago.
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
I Love This!
Thank you for putting voice to something that can be hard to say. I am at a different point on my writing journey. My desire to write out in the open only surfaced a couple of years, and I am learning new things everyday. But already I can sense "the grass is greener thinking." What I try to do is enjoy my life as it is and what I can control.

Mar. 17th, 2011 04:02 pm (UTC)
I don't think I will ever be satisfied. If I were, I don't know that I would have the drive to keep pushing myself.

But, I do know that I can be *happier*. Everything has gone so well in the run up to the second book; there have been hitches and horrors, and disasters. But my editor is wonderful; my house is responsive, the cover is gorgeous, etc., etc., etc..

So this time around, my baseline is still screaming abject terror, but on a foundation of "This all came together really beautifully!" I'm always going to kvetch and want foreign sales, audio sales, movie options, awards, god, please just put me on somebody's top ten list, please, please!

But I *am* glad to discover that I *can* enjoy the things that go right!
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:14 pm (UTC)
This is just brilliant. Seriously.

And I'm joining the vase bandwagon. What a great idea!!!

Recently, I've been stressing about what to write next. But the reality is--this time, a year ago, I'd be happy to have this problem.
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:20 pm (UTC)
LOVE THIS. And I love the vase idea which I'm totally stealing for when I'm successful *thinking positively which is why I said when*
Shannon McKelden
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
So true!
This is so true, Mandy! And really, if you think about it...once you are "satisfied" (if you got to that place), what is left to do?? Always reaching for something new, something more, gives us purpose in life. It gives us something to strive for and keeps us Happy! We just need to stop thinking of it as a bad thing. :)
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:42 pm (UTC)
I like to think I'd be satisfied enough just having one book published, but I imagine that won't happen. Sure, I'll be happy but I think it's hard to be satisfied- like Shannon said above, what's left after you're satisfied?

In regards to "making it", I see a lot of really successful authors who don't feel like they've made it even though the rest of us think they have. It's a weird thing.
Mar. 17th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
No. I'll never be satisfied.

Melissa Marr told me that every writer she's ever spoken with continues to move the goal posts farther away. Making it impossible to win. Ever.

I think that's how you define passion.
Mar. 17th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
Wow, great post. I don't think one should ever be satisfied when it comes to career/dreams/aspirations. I think we can always evolve and be better and learn more. It's only natural to see what others have going on and *want* no matter how hard you're already working. AS long as we're appreciating what we already have as well, I think it's ok to never be satisfied.
Mar. 17th, 2011 05:28 pm (UTC)
I can't get no satisfaction. Cause I try. I try. I try. I TRY.

I think I need to stop trying.
Mar. 17th, 2011 05:38 pm (UTC)
Wow! I love that champagne cork idea. I'm going to start doing that right away - or the next time I get any good news!!
Mar. 17th, 2011 06:29 pm (UTC)
Love the vase idea! I'm not a big champagne drinker, but I love bottled cane sugar Coke. **wonders if Sharpie writes on metal pop tops**
Mar. 17th, 2011 06:34 pm (UTC)
That vase idea is pure genius! Almost as good as your mock tagl ines. I must must must come up with something similar.

Thanks for this, Mandy. Good to know I will always be as crazy as I am now unless I make myself stop and enjoy it. And it's nice to know other people are doing the same thing.
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