There’s a type of cognitive bias that’s studied in psychology called the “optimism bias”. It basically says that people tend to believe they are more likely to have good things happen to them than the average person is, and less likely to have bad things happen to them. Clearly, that’s impossible, but too many of us had our moms tell us how special and unique we are.
Today I went to my second workshop for writers on how to get an agent and/or get published. The first was two years ago right after I powered through writing an 80,000-word manuscript in 3 weeks. I knew less than nothing about the publishing industry at that time, so I figured a workshop called “How to Get Published” was a good starting point. It was, in that it taught me all my instincts were wrong and I needed to do a lot more work. My secret hope that I’d get signed by an agent and sell my book that day was crushed.
The workshop today taught me that I know what I need to know, but now I just need to do it. So that raises the question: what is my problem (or, what am I waiting for)?
My main problem is my tendency to avoid anything that could lead to failure or rejection, which is 99% likely to happen in some form or another when trying to get a book published. It just is. Anyone with a laptop or a piece of charcoal and a sidewalk can write a story, and a good proportion of those stories are going to be utter lunatic garbage. So I believe the agents and publishers when they say they need something spectacular to grab their attention out of the slush pile. (Google slush pile if you don’t know what that is, but it’s pretty self-explanatory).
My second problem is that once I’ve experienced failure or rejection even a tiny bit, my instinct is to give up that activity entirely. See playing the guitar, karate, knitting and, what should have been a no-brainer, dating guys named “Chad”. Querying agents is like tweeting at your favourite celebrity over and over again hoping they’ll notice you and be your best friend. After hearing no, or worse, radio silence from a few agents, I had to put my book away for a while to protect my delicate ego.
But. Unlike my knitting needles, that manuscript stayed pretty fresh in my mind almost every day that it sat collecting cyber-dust in my computer files. My characters kept speaking to me, and I also kept getting new ideas for new stories. Somewhere along the line, writing became something I wanted to do regardless of whether anyone else agrees I’m good or not.
SO. Time to get on with it and start applying what I’ve learned to for reals try to become an author. Follow along to find out if I can do it or to witness me crash and burn.