Confession time: I’m having a frustrating day. But hey, it completely goes with the territory. This is a frustrating business. There are more books than slots at publishing houses, and that’s the case now more than ever. Frustration happens. It’s the nature of life in the book funnel.
It’s also just built into the business. When you hear about a publisher jumping from $2.5 million to $3 million in an auction for a celebrity book, it’s easy to think, “Uh… that publisher just nickle and dimed my client and refused to give them even $1,000 more when they really deserved it. And they passed on another project because they didn’t want to take a risk on a debut. But they won’t even blink at jumping $500,000 in an auction for a book about Paris Hilton’s chihuahua?” (Okay, it is kind of a cute dog. Also I’m kidding, that’s not an actual book. Yet. UPDATE: Oops! Yes, it is.)
And then of course, there’s the aforementioned rejections, bad reviews, negativity, and strange whims of fate.
Depressed? Don’t be!
Here’s the only way to deal with the frustrations of the publishing business: don’t become fixated on the publishing business.
You’ll. Go. Mad. if you place all of your eggs in the basket of publishing, following the ins and outs, letting it consume your entire being, and living and dying by your rejections, reviews, and what mean anonymous commenters are saying about you on any given day.
It’s soooo easy to let publishing become an all-consuming force in your life. It takes so much time to write, and then there are the blogs to follow, the agents to research, the publishers to keep track of, the industry news, the rejections to track… it takes a lot of time. Combine that with a day job and there aren’t many hours in the day left.
But it just can’t be everything.
The best way to deal with the frustrations: ignore it for a while. Take a walk! Spend time with your friends and family! (Remember them? It’s okay to ask them to remind you what their names are. They’ll just be glad to have you back.). Take up a second, less frustrating hobby, like sunflower photography. Better yet: start rooting for the Sacramento Kings to see what frustration really feels like. The publishing industry has nothing on being a Kings fan.
If you find yourself becoming down in the dumps about your prospects or the business or the state of things: It’s probably a sign you’re spending too much time focused on it. It’s perfectly okay to tune out for a while. When you clear your head and come back: all of a sudden the industry will magically seem like a place of hope and possibility.
Because the difference between seeing opportunity and frustration in this business is all in your head. It’s just a matter of how your brain is looking at it that day.
Please share your favorite method of distraction in the comments section!
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Art: Ludwig Knaus – Mein Napf ist leer
This blog SOOO addressed what I’ve been feeling lately! For my bf, the writer, he plays NCAA football on his Play Station. For me, I guess I’ve just tuned out to helping out for awhile- forced myself to stop religiously checking email and researching agents until I feel a little refreshed. I nice, hard workout works wonders, too.
In no particular order:
Walking with my dog.
Very long nap.
Cuddling with the hub.
Calling my mom.
Cleaning the house (last resort)
Uh, drinking comes to mind. We’re writers, after all. Don’t the two go hand in hand?
Excellent for relieving frustration and sometimes even providing inspiration (although I would recommend some serious editing of said inspiration once you’re sober).
Have you ever wondered... says
This post is eerily on target. My mind has been on the subject of frustration with my hopeful career and how there never seems to be enough time/opportunity/luck when it comes to my writing. Thanks so much for the reminder of what is important.
Michael Pickett says
My distraction is sports. I love them. Can’t get enough of them. Although, I am from Sacramento, so the recent years have been kind of frustrating, too. The Sacramento Kings, which you know about, the 49ers and the Giants have been very bad recently. There are some glimmers of hope for the San Fran teams, though. Until they pick up gain, I lose myself in the love of sport. That’ll have to be good enough for now.
When I get frustated I like to pull weeds. There is nothing like jabbing that sharp pointy stick into the ground and prying those suckers out. I don’t know what I’ll do if I ever get ahead of the weeds but I don’t think that is something I need worry about for quite some time.
Anon @ 11:35–
Yes I saw that girl on ANTM with the huge eyes. I don’t think that freaked me out as much as the fact she has an odd fascination with blood o_O
Oh yes, and ANTM is one of my guilty addictions.
Vancouver Dame says
Frustration happens to me when the cause is something that I can’t personally affect. It’s that feeling of being the small human against the universe. My love of control in my own life is thwarted. So I usually first put on music in the jazz, or blues variety. Then I try to get outside for fresh air — something that the business or corporate world can’t control – yet. Distancing from the emotion of being frustrated can help. I also vent to the significant other to get it off my chest. I refuse to accept it as defeat.
I may curse the cause or the instigator, but not publicly. Maybe I’ll work that frustration into a scene, since the feeling is so fresh. Whatever works at the moment is my motto.
This is a tough question, since it can be affected by how you felt that morning when you woke up as well as by the weather. But it beats anger, for me.
Anon 11:43 – Rick Daley just started a site for people to submit queries and comment on them.
Nathan, I enjoyed reading your…what do you call it? Blog? Article? Post? Well, I thought it was well said.
I am really, really good at distraction. I’m so sad it’s not a marketable skill because I’m terrific at it.
I like e-mailing friends. That’s fun. I like computer games. Alot. I like reading and commenting on blogs. Major fun. I like reading my favorite books over and over. That’s fun, too.
When I get out of the house, seeing friends, of course. I love to go to Barnes and Noble and spend hours there reading books. And getting into nature. Just going somewhere beautiful and sticking your toes into a stream washes a bunch of stuff away.
David Eric Tomlinson says
Working out, hands down.
A 5-mile hike every day. And the constant presence of my 21-month old. Can’t really fixate on anything but what’s most important. And that is writing.
Stephanie Faris says
There came a time when I had to cut ties with my writing group. I’d become consumed with which publisher was looking for which type of book, etc. All around me were people struggling to get published, writing books tailor-made to what publishers supposedly wanted, but then constantly I’d see some newbie who had no idea what it was all about come in and sell without knowing she wasn’t supposed to sell so easily. I finally realized there’s a point where you take what you’ve learned and just WRITE. Write from the heart and put it out there and stop obsessing over what publishers want. Of course, that’s not working either yet…but at least I’m happier!
Thomas Burchfield says
Frustration? Oh, there’s plenty. Deep breaths, think about something else.
If the writing is frustrating, I’ll walk away from it by trolling online at a few news sites (I’m wrestling through two of the most frustrating chapters in my book; I finally nailed one down yesterday . . . but I’ll save that talk for the Red Room.).
One thing I’ve done is almost entirely stop watching TV news, whose only purpose is to profit off dread and frustration (I now prefer Turner Classics or one of the other movie channels).
Thomma Lyn: You’re very lucky! I wish I had mountains close by!
Thanks, Mira. That was what I was looking for. Is Rick still doing that? I couldn’t find it.
Sex Scenes at Starbucks,
I just looked at that site you posted. Really cool site. I tagged it to my favorites. Thanks!
L.C. Gant says
Didn’t Paris Hilton already come out with a book awhile back? Something about how great it was to be rich and fabulous and some other equally nauseating drivel? *head desk*
I love to pick up a book by a new author when I get frustrated. To me, there’s nothing more inspiring than seeing that folks are still having their work published and making a living off of it, even if I’m not yet one of them.
And of course, my hubby and kiddo always help me put things in perspective.
If all else fails, I’m with Kimber An–never underestimate the power of chocolate 🙂
ryan field says
TV is a great distraction…especially the home and garden channel or the cooking network.
Sports works, too.
Gardening is another.
But anything that isn’t publishing related works. You need a break every now and then, and you have to recognize the importance of stepping back.
I’m frustrated too! But I know how to deal with mine!
I will go over my apocalyptic fiction manuscript and remove all the comas, chop all the sentences down to be as short as possible, get rid of quotation marks and replace green trees and ocean vistas with roasting infants and bands of cannibals!
Then I will be a best selling artist!
Emily Breen says
Just as the first commenter I turn to Gilmore Girls repeats in the afternoon – for me though it's a love-to-hate thing. Bad chick lit works the same voodoo.
When times are really tough I buy a gallon of coffee & a disgusting amount of ice cream, then hide out in the cinema. One long afternoon at the movies with Ben & Jerry makes the world a warm & fuzzy place once more!
Laura D says
I side with writing to ignore all the literary/publishing rules to relieve frustration. Knowing they wouldn’t like it spurs me on to be rebellious. And a nod with Dara about the Gilmore Girls. Fav line “monkey monkey underpants”. Sometimes that’s what’s in my brain too! lol
Amber Lynn Argyle says
When I can’t stand it anymore, I read.
Right now, my agent has sent out my MS out to ten different publishing houses. I’ve been waiting to hear something for over five months.
*groan and shudder*
I think I’ll go read some more . . .
Anon 11:45 – Re. Rick’s new site – I have it linked at home. I’ll post it later today after work.
Anon 11:43 – I found it. The Public Query Slushpile. Go up to Rick’s name above, and click on his profile. There’s a link there.
Thanks for this.
Joann Mannix says
No certain order:
Pretending to dissect the complexities of the wine,when really just getting my drink on.
Working Out-clears the head and keeps the dreaded upper arm wobble, under control.
Watching those shameless bitches-Housewives of New York and Atlanta.
Really dark chocolate.
A daily dose of Nathan’s sunshiny positivity!
And for all you frustrated Cubbie fans-rent the charmer of a movie, “Diminished Capacity.” Great movie that perfectly captures our legendary frustration.
Margaret Welman Paez says
Interesting article here on publishing:
Mercy Loomis says
The way I deal with any kind of stress is to take a nice long bath and read a book, preferably with fruit or something to munch on. Recently I’ve started playing Rock Band 2 – I love to sing and it’s very therapeutic to sing through a few songs – especially ones I don’t know. I used to hate sight-singing but now it’s a challenge! My husband is also very good at getting me to stop thinking about things, at least for a little while. Ah, what would I do without him?
As for when stuff is sent out, I just refuse to think about it. Once it’s out of my hands I start working on something new. We have a rule – never worry about what you can’t effect. But venting about it is just fine.
Vodka Mom says
I go an all expenses paid conference at Daytona beach= stay at the Hilton, drink a LOT of martinis and get fried at the beach.
that’s what I do.
Music, long walks, cooking, playing with my kids, plus I have a new puppy, who is beyond cute, and a wonderful distraction.
Ultimately, I just have to step away from the ‘drawing board’ for a minute, which is sort of like coming up for air sometimes. Take a few breaths and start it all again.
I have to add, once I was voicing a few frustrations along these very lines to my mom, who listened for a long time and then said, “I thought you liked writing?” I had to laught, and say, “Oh, yeah I do.”
For me, nothing is as good as dancing. I study street latin, so a bit of salsa or cha cha or anything else that’s fast and takes a lot of concentration always leaves me in a much better mood.
Also, old movies from the 1940s to transport me to a different place. Oh, and I can distract myself for hours on end messing around in Photoshop!
Mystery Robin says
I agree that the Gilmore Girls are always a good choice.
Then there’s always Bejeweled2. Or if you want to be more cutting edge, Peggle.
Bubble bath is good, as is shouting in the attic.
At the moment I’m going through a prolonged phase of distraction shaving.
Shaun Hutchinson says
For me it’s anything and everything. TV, friends, vacations. It’s difficult, but we have to keep reminding ourselves that we’re more than just writers. Sure, we’re writers and that takes up a lot of our time, but if we don’t enjoy the worlds outside of the ones we create, then we’re missing out on a heck of a lot.
A Product of Fear
When I can’t stand the frustration, I read or watch a good movie.
Diane T says
Best way to alleviate frustration: go to animal shelter and pet homeless cats. Purr therapy always works for me.
And to you Kings, Chiefs, 49ers, Browns fans … I say HA! I am a Detroit Lions fan, and it has taught me more about frustration and hope than anything else.
Heidi the Hick says
I am really lucky: I go to my friend’s place, head out to her backyard, and ride a horse. Best of all, she needs me to do that for her. Over winter she doesn’t have as many students in lessons, so the horses need exercise.
I actually stop thinking about agents and editors. My brain is full of walk-jog transitions and collection/impulsion, turns on the haunches, and getting that perfect soft whoa.
And I also notice the colour of the sky, shape of clouds, dog chasing snowflakes, and the sound of the snorting horse. I don’t know what I’d do without my horse time.
The best outlet – writing.
Michelle Muto says
Another great, uplifting, and VERY true post. Thanks, Nathan.
So, how do I deal? Writer friends, family, my dogs, and eating chocolate while reading blogs and posts like this.
Meg Trotter says
Thanks for this. I needed it today. It really applies to my area of work too.
I’m a journalist and have been hit with more discouraging news about the newspaper industry in general today (plus aggrivations at the place I work), and have been feeling pretty low all afternoon.
Reading this helped my mood. 🙂
I remind myself what the Tao Te Ching says…
When nothing is done nothing is left undone…
Meaning let the universe work it out. All is perfect as it is and everything will work out in it’s own time.
I also, like to watch Ambition To Meaning by Wayne Dyer as it helps me get a grip on reality. I highly recommened it.
And then I go eat a lot of chocolate!
Nathan, I hope your day gets better. ((Hugs))
other lisa says
Chargers fan here. Sigh…
Oh, and the Padres. Double-sigh…
I have a bunch of things I usually do, most of which boil down to being productive on some level, controlling the things you can control. None of those are working too well at the moment, so I think I’m going to read a book. Or, is there an ANTM marathon on today?
Re: Being a Lions fan. Okay, you win, but if there had been a Loserbowl for the 2 worst teams, the Chiefs would have been there with them! 🙂
Lady Glamis says
Ah, distractions for frustration. Yep, other hobbies for sure. As if my whining toddler wasn’t enough to distract me from writing….
I have another passion. I love growing grapes and have a small vineyard.
Also, in addition to working on my current novel, I’ve begun writing online nonfiction articles that give me a bit of instant gratification for each page view. Only pennies but it’s fun.
Balance is important…nothing can be your WHOLE life.
Wanda B. Ontheshelves says
Find Your Peeps – if you feel frustrated because you don’t have an audience (not QUITE the same thing as “getting an agent” or “getting a publisher”), think of fun marketing campaigns to get your stuff in front of people’s eyeballs. I don’t mean self-publishing – I mean something fun, that’s easy, that will “make someone’s day.”
Have a Political Laugh – I go to a certain website that shall remain nameless, and laugh and laugh and laugh, sometimes until my sides hurt (I’m thinking of a particular video last fall, that shall also remain nameless).
Visit Fabric Store – anyone with me on this one?
Dance. Have that one piece of music that centers you on why you write/create in the first place – for me, Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues – I love that song, it obliterates all frustrations.
Hmm, are these really distractions? Oh well.
I like going in fabric stores, but I can’t sew worth a hoot.
Cool Linea, I have always been fascinated by vineyards since “Parent Trap”, that and I love kool-aid wine (that is wine that taste like kool-aid).
CORRECTION: apparently I can’t type worth a hoot either.
“Cool, Linea, I have always been fascinated by vineyards since “Parent Trap”, that and I love kool-aid wine (that is wine that tastes like kool-aid).”
I gave up on the Kings when we gave away Jimmy Jackson, Keon Clark, and Damon Jones. Remember them? Sigh.
30 minute workout, 30 minute swim, hot shower. omg, all is right with the world.