Panicking Over Ghosts

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I have seen a lot of friends in various states of despair over their revisions, changing their latest novels through and through because either a) agents aren’t biting, b) they’re getting feedback, or c) because they simply want to.

And a lot of them are getting tired and disillusioned because no matter what they change, it’s never enough. Or because they don’t want to, but have to change things in order to make their novels more commercial. Or for several other reasons, and they’re weeping and panicking because they don’t know what else to do.

I’ve been there. I’ve done that. My advice? If you’re pulling the hairs out of your head, if you’re screaming because you can’t find the new path you need to take, if, in general, it’s making you miserable, then please:

Stop.

I’ve had a lot of anxiety-related problems in the past. I have them still, sometimes. I’ve driven myself into holes I couldn’t get out of. I’ve cried myself to sleep over the most menial things, and was it worth it?

No.
No matter how important something is to you, it’s not worth it if it puts you in a constant state of self-deprecating madness. Nothing is.

I get that it’s your dream, but sometimes, you should take a break. Don’t force yourself into changes that are not organic just because you want to please someone else. If you love your novel as-is, don’t change a word because agents aren’t biting. Don’t tire yourself out over something that’s beginning to saturate you. It’s not good for you, and it’s not good for your novel.

No one benefits from complete exhaustion. Not you. Not your novel. Not anyone.

Sit back, relax, leave it be, and come back when you have a fresh perspective. In the meantime, write something else, or play a game, or watch a new TV series – do whatever you need to do – but put yourself first. Your writing won’t exist without you, and it certainly won’t benefit from you being so sick of your story you can’t stand it anymore. You’re not abandoning your child, although it can feel like you are. But rather, think of it as going on a much-deserved vacation, and your novel will still be there when you return. And when you come back, you’ll see that everything will flow much better.

No one’s after you. You don’t have to be published right now. You don’t have to be published next year. If it’s meant to be, it will happen, and it will come at the cost of hard work and dedication – but those things rarely happen when you keep on beating a dead horse with a stick. There’s no pressure, except the one you put on yourself.

My point is: don’t drive yourself mad over something you’ve been constantly changing to please someone else. If you’re doing it for yourself, fine. Otherwise?

Yeah, take a break. Or don’t. What do I know?

I’m not your mother. Just a stranger giving unsolicited advice.

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