Whether you realize it or not, you and I and everyone else walks around with scripts that we deploy in common social situations.
When someone dies, we express sympathy, and they say, “Thank you.”
When someone gets a promotion, we express excitement, and they say, “Thank you.”
When someone keeps making the same relationship mistakes, we express bewilderment, and they say, “I know, why do you think I drink so much.”
This is all well and good and natural. They’re frameworks that help us from having to start from scratch every single time we encounter an emotion in the wild.
But there’s an unintended consequence to these scripts: they are rote, they are unthinking, and they don’t allow for nuance or complexity.
When people direct “the script” at you, it can feel as if they’re boxing you into feeling a certain way. You start to think you’re *supposed* to feel in the exact way they think you should feel. And when you deviate from “the script,” people may react with confusion or even outright hostility.
When someone dies, what if you also feel some relief?
When you get a promotion, what if you secretly want to quit your job?
When you keep making relationship mistakes, what if you secretly love the drama?
Authors can feel this acutely when you ascend a rung on your publishing journey. You spend so much time writing a novel, so much time trying to find an agent, and then when you find one, according to “the script” you should be filled with unbridled joy, not, well, joy mixed with terror and doubt.
Then when you find a publisher, according to “the script” your problems are *really* solved. And good luck trying to complain about anything ever again when you’re a bestseller.
The best people in your life will give you the freedom to deviate from the script and see you with all the nuance and complexity you possess. Because it’s *OKAY* to feel something other than what you’re “supposed” to feel. You’re a human being, not a robot.
Seek out these good people who will let you complain when you’re “supposed” to be happy and let you be happy when you’re “supposed” to be sad.
But most importantly, ignore the rigid people out there who try to make you feel badly because you’re flipping their script. They’re not seeing you as a human being, they’re seeing you as a faulty computer program.
It’s fine if you are terrified after you get an agent.
It’s fine if you feel more down after publishing a book than you were before it was published.
It’s fine if you are filled with terror, doubt, elation, sadness, confusion, all at once, and/or separately at different times of the day.
The publishing journey is tough enough without being boxed into feeling something you don’t actually feel. Toss the script out the window and let yourself be a human being.
I’m available for manuscript edits, query critiques, and consultations! And if you like this post, check out my guide to writing a novel.
Art: Two Wives by Carl Bloch