I know of at least three people in my social network who have debut novels coming out in 2016. As happy as I am for each of them, and as much as I’m vicariously taking in their excitement as their respective release dates approach, a tiny voice inside my head will occasionally whisper, “So when is that book deal going to happen for you?”
When I describe the steps involved in becoming a published author to people, I’ll compare the process to trying to jump through a series of hoops, when each subsequent hoop is roughly half the size as the one before it. As generous and supportive as the writing community is, we all know how easy it is to compare our progress through those hoops with people who are further along than we are. It’s a trap I’ve fallen into many times myself, and it’s not a fun place to be. There are enough frustrations involved with writing and publishing already. What good does it do any of us to create even more stress for ourselves by internally ranting about things we can’t control?
It’s important to remember that dreams and goals are not the same thing. Dreams are things we hope will happen someday; goals are the steps we take as we work toward making those dreams into something real. Hope is nice and it keeps you going, but it’s not enough by itself. Idle hope is a cruel joke people play on themselves. Hope with action behind it stands a chance. Any writing goals you set for yourself in this new year have the potential to bring you closer to realizing whatever dreams you may have.
Nobody’s journey to publication is ever the same. No matter where any of us are on that journey, there will always be more hoops to jump through. If you’ve decided to commit yourself to this writer life for the long haul, that ultimate finish line you’re hoping to cross someday probably doesn't exist. No matter what goals you achieve or what dreams you manage to realize along the way, there will always be more milestones further down the road waiting to be reached. And really, isn’t that one of the things that keeps us doing this?
As for me, I’m starting off my 2016 in a good place as far as writing dreams and goals are concerned. I have faith in my manuscript, and I have faith in my agent. I believe that the right editor will cross our paths and things will come together in ways that will seem downright surreal. Meanwhile, all I can do is accept there are certain things beyond my control and happily move forward with a new project. In the big picture, that’s all any of us can do.
So when that tiny voice starts in on me with that question of “When is that book deal going to happen for you?” I can smile and think, “Shut up, tiny voice. It will happen when it’s supposed to. Now let me get back to work.”