Negativity is an insidious thing. Sadly, if you are anywhere on the path to publication, you have undoubtedly met it. This beast can run the gamut of disappointment, jealousy, or disillusionment. It happens when you’ve hit the wall one too many times or tired of banging your ahead against it. Sometimes the dream of publication can be likened to voluntarily putting your hand in a doorway and inviting others to close the door on it over and over. It hurts and sometimes it’s hard to remember why we do it. And when you feel your lowest, when your dreams seem the furthest away, that’s when that bastard Negativity sneaks up on you. If you’re not careful, that little troll will plop itself down in your head and color every experience you have. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at – whether you’re seeking an agent or publishing your third book – you’re not immune to Negativity. And if it’s not you, then you’ve probably met someone like this on Twitter or maybe on a board. The hopelessness and bitterness oozes off of them in equal parts, and you wonder why they cling to something so desperately when they’ve obviously lost faith in it.
There have been times that I’ve felt that hopelessness taking me over. The worst time was December 2009, just before I got my agent. I was sick with jealousy at the success of others and wondering how I’d fooled myself into thinking I could ever publish a book. Negativity had not only decided to vacation in my head, it had decided to set up a timeshare, complete with a Jealousy swimming pool and a diving board of Shame. There have been times since my book deals that I’ve gone back to that place. That’s when I remember a little talk a friend game me when I was so low that December.
This friend told me that I couldn’t measure my success against that of others. I could let others take away from my accomplishments - or even steal the joy from them myself – but what was the point in that? Honestly, who wants to live like that? I don’t, but sometimes I find myself slipping back to that place. (Oh, hai, today.) A little voice whispers about how this author has gotten this super-fantastic thing, or they make that really-hard thing seem easy. The whispers get louder and then that little bastard Negativity is there with a megaphone, shouting, “BUT WHAT ABOUT ME? WHY DON’T I GET THOSE THINGS/HAVE IT SO EASY?”
Usually, I find myself making those comparisons when I’m spending too much time online. Much as I love social media and the interwebz, sometimes all that industry knowledge can be a confidence killer. Or at the very least, a huge distraction. When I find Negativity taking root, it’s time for me to take a step back. The best antidote is to shut off the internet (or turn on the Freedom app if you have a short attention span like me) and turn back to the words on the page. All that energy spent eating your heart out can be put into your work. I just have to remind myself that I’m in it for the stories and remember how blissful it feels to fall in love with my characters. When I remember that, the words can be enough.