So people pointed out (on livejournal and via email) that my last post was snarky and wrong, and I'm sorry about that. Snark feels soooo good to write, but yeah, it's hardly ever a good call. (In a blog. In fiction, snark away!) Prose poems do have a place in the world. I'm no good with them, and they're not for me, but I also don't like mochi and know many people who do, so clearly prose poems can now be found at Trader Joe's.
Seriously, I'm sorry for being an absolutist jerk.
In other news -- I wrote 2500 words this morning, bringing Shapeshifted up to 57, 200 words. And I got copyedits back for Nightshifted! I want to dig in, but my brain's mush, and I know I really need to pay attention to these. It's my last chance to fix things. After this...it is all final. FINAL. (Noooooooooooooo!)
Every step along the way of this publication process has been more nervewracking than the last. Which is dumb, right? I'm in the gate. I've made it through the initial flaming hoop. I've waded across the pit of despair, climbed up the stairs of pseudosuccess and am now taking a shower in the garden of minor endgame irritations. Consciously, I know that. But subconsciously, my stress is off the charts.
The thing is, that writing is like that. Its the emotional version of Zeno's paradox. The closer you are to getting something you really want, the more frightening it becomes.
In a weird weird way, it's easier when you're just starting out and getting form rejections. Because its all formless, inchoate. Your talent and the the publishing world's response are all parts of one undifferentiated blob.
It's when you start to get the personalized rejections that life gets harder.
Which is dumb, right? Because it should be easier. Someone is noticing you! Someone read all the way through to the end, and maybe made a few kind comments, or changed their adjectives.
But for some reason -- which perhaps I could come up with if I had more brain cells tonight, but I don't -- those personalized rejections hurt worse. They did notice you. They did read your story, all the way through to the end. And it actually wasn't good enough.
It's like the difference between getting blown off on the dance floor, versus being blown off by the boy that you sat next to all semester in bio. You can easily shake off the one, but the other stings worse, even though qualitatively the experiences were the same.
Nothing was more depressing than a rejection from a pro mag that told me they would have published my story if they had had the right amount of space. (This was an odd rejection, from an odd editor. It was still depressing. HELLO, USE IT NEXT ISSUE.) The irritating checklist forms (Analog, I'm looking at you. Or whoever had the whole "we may have rejected you for any of the following reasons lists" back in the day) -- those hurt, but they didn't sting like the maybe-means-no handwritten notes.
I know so many people -- me included -- who have paused in their efforts right when they started to get really close. And -- especially when you're on a lower rung of the ladder than those people -- them pausing so near the top seems outright dumb. It makes you want to shove them off, until you get there yourself. (I've also known people who've fallen off the ladder entirely after a long pause. I have no small amount of survivor guilt because of this, too.)
And now I'm going through that same cycle here, with the book stuff. (And with all the finding an agent-stuff prior to this, too.) It's all amazing, but the higher up you get the more frightening it is. I'm getting cover copy and seeing preliminary covers for and getting copyedits on my book -- I should be ecstatic, but it freaking scares the pants off of me. I'm flying high like Icarus, but the sun freaking burns.
I don't know how to be less scared -- but I can recognize the cycle, because Lord knows I've seen it before. And deadlines help with the pushing through, but I'm finding I can only sublimate so much panic, heh.
I started looking at copyedits tonight and got to page four where she wanted to take out a line and ZOMG the sky was falling down again. Should I take out that line? Is she, my mysterious copyeditor, right? Or not? What if she's wrong? What if I'm wrong? What if what if what if?
I expressed my concern to my friend Sam Schreiber who wisely told me this: Look, I don't know the future. But I don't think flubbing a typo or two is going to be the difference between what you want and what you don't.
Which is completely true.
So this is the part in this blog where I tell you (me) again to be nice to your(my)self. (Especially when our thyroid is off-kilter and is making us fret all the time.) Stay on the ladder wherever you need to be for a bit. It's okay to be scared when it feels like it counts more. Pause, breathe, then keep going.