Monday, September 30, 2013

On overcoming doubt...

I think one of the hardest ongoing battles we authors fight is the war against doubt.

We come up with ideas, that to us seem unique and exciting. We love our characters. We pour our heart and souls into our books. They are a piece of us. But if what we want is to get published, then we have to take all of that hope and love and blood, sweat, and tears, and package it up in a little email and hit send. All with the prayer that someone is going to read what we wrote and ask to read some more. And maybe, hopefully, love it as much as we do, and ask to represent us.

Then you get to do it all over again when your agent sends your book out to editors.

Now, in a perfect, wonderful world, you would write your book, send it to ten agents, get ten offers, and then sell at auction within a week of going on submission. Right? Ah... the dream.

The reality is that most of us get to go through this horrible little detour on our path to success called REJECTION. Over the seven years it took for me to get my publishing deal, I accumulated hundreds of rejections. HUNDREDS people. That starts to sting after a while, no matter how nicely worded they were.

Enter my old nemesis: DOUBT.

When you keep getting told no, it's hard not to doubt yourself. To not start to wonder if your story is original enough (without being TOO original, because that can be scary to publishing folks, too). It's hard not to look at this piece of your heart and soul and wonder if it isn't good enough. And unfortunately, that can bleed over into real life. At least it did for me. Oftentimes I started to wonder if I wasn't good enough.

But here's the thing: the rejection never really ends. Not even after you do get an agent who loves your book as much as you do. Not even after an editor nabs your book and showers it with love and praise. Not even if you do sell at auction and get a hundred starred reviews, and make the top of every list.  (Which I obviously didn't or haven't, but I'm using my imagination here...) There will still be those who don't like you book, who maybe even attack it--and maybe even you.

And that doubt can wiggle and worm it's way into the happiest of moments, if you let it, because there will ALWAYS be people who don't like your writing, or your characters, or you-name-it. Reading is so subjective, which is simultaneously the most wonderful and terrifying part of being an author. It means, even if one person didn't like it, someone else will. But the opposite is also true.

So how do you handle it? How do you overcome the doubts and fears and rejection and keep going?

You surround yourself with people who love you and support you. You take part in real life, not just the book world. I'm lucky enough to be friends with some authors who are much wiser than I am, who help  teach me how to deal with all of this much better than I otherwise would. In fact, I was having a conversation with Ally Condie recently about all of this--dealing with doubt/rejection/etc, and she said some things that really stuck with me. She told me that when someone says something mean about your books or writing or anything else it hurts your feelings, but when something bad happens to your kids, that's what really kills you. (And this is true of all moms, I'm sure.) She told me, "I love my books, but my books are not my babies. My BABIES are my babies." And that is the honest truth--and something that has really stuck in my mind. My true loves are my husband, my children, and my family and my friends. My books and my characters are a huge part of me, and it hurts when people don't like them. But, as the release of DEFY grows ever closer, and more and more people start reading it, I know that I am going to have to deal with both sides of this equation: the love and the dislike that is bound to come.

And on the days when I struggle with doubt, because those negative reviews are going to come, and I know it, I will go read a couple of the letters and reviews that brought tears to my eyes because they were so wonderful. I will reread the letter my editor wrote me in the front of my arc. I will remember all the rejections that got me to where I am now, and know that not everyone is going to love my book and that's okay.

And then I will go hug my real babies, and remember that in the end, I did the best I could. I wrote the best book I could. I love DEFY, I love Alexa and Rylan and Damian, and in the end, that is what matters. And then I will go play another game of hide-and-go-seek with my kids.

So what's the point of this long post? I guess this: I don't have a magic formula to make it so you never have to suffer from rejection or doubt or fear. It's always there. Even for authors who have multiple published books and all sorts of accolades. There is always the fear of rejection. There are always the doubts, the worries that this time, they're going to figure out that you are a fraud. So all any of us can do is write the best book we know how, never give up, and when the day comes that you do get published, try to focus on the good. And then go outside, go for a walk, play with your kids, talk to a friend, go to a movie or to a football game or whatever it is that you enjoy.

And if I ever get down because of a bad review, will you remind me to do the same thing? Thanks. :-)

Now, for those of you who actually made it to the bottom of this post, congrats!! Here's your reward: Next week marks the 3 month mark until DEFY comes out! So, on October 7, I am going to start my first contest to win a signed ARC of DEFY + chances for signed swag for a few other lucky people!!

Here's the catch: I'm still trying to decide what exactly to do for this contest. Give me a suggestion in the comments, and if I love your idea enough to pick it, you'll win signed DEFY swag! So put on those thinking caps, and give it your best shot! (I reserve the right to not pick anyone's if nothing feels quite right. But I have faith that you will come up with something awesome!) Good luck!


Tracey Neithercott said...

Sarah, I love this post so, so much. You have no idea how much I needed to hear this today. Thank you, thank you. I'm bookmarking this post so when I feel this way again—and I'm sure I will, many times—I can look back at your wise words. <3

Tracey Neithercott said...

And of course I meant SARA, not Sarah. I hate when people leave out the E in my name, so I'm extra apologetic for gifting you with an H. I know too many Sarahs!

Katy said...

I pretty much wanted to hi-light every other sentence in this post. I needed this today! Thank you. :)

erica m. chapman said...

LOVE YOU!! What a wonderful post! I feel the same way and I'm SO SO inspired by you and your story <33

I can't wait for the world to meet Alexa, Rylan and Damian!! Sometimes the best thing you can do for a book is let go of the "baby" thing ;o)

Thanks for this ;o) <333

Lord_Kiwii said...

Great post! I am nowhere near getting published but I love writing and had a couple of doubt moments myself.

For the contest maybe have people share the cover of your book on fb etc. And/or add something creative like a little writing contest (ie describe a perfect *** or something :p)

Lord_Kiwii said...

Great post! I am nowhere near getting published but I love writing and had a couple of doubt moments myself.

For the contest maybe have people share the cover of your book on fb etc. And/or add something creative like a little writing contest (ie describe a perfect *** or something :p)

Lola Sharp said...


Jessica L. Brooks (coffeelvnmom) said...

Yep. You said it. The sad part is, we look to others for validation when, in reality, getting as far as we have should be validation in itself! Hurrah for you! And for all of us no matter where we are on the path to our dreams!

Jen said...

WONDERFUL post. And hooray for 3 months!! Doubt is a nasty monster, but as long as we hang onto the thing we love (our books, our people, our lives) we can ride through it. GREAT post, and something I really needed today.

Skippy Bo Bippy said...

Seems funny that someone who is being published, and by Scholastic no less, would have doubts.. but that's a very shallow view of it. Of course the struggles with doubt would continue, it's not like you change into a different person just because you get a book deal, your doubts just morph from what they were to an all new even more complicated set of doubts.

I wish I could say something clever about how I overcome doubt but I struggle with them now as much as I ever have. Maybe the trick is there is no overcoming them.. just learning to function despite them. *shrugs*

Unknown said...

Oh yes. Doubt is so troublesome. I've begun to keep awesome little snippets my friends send me (words of encouragements, compliments) so I can read them when doubt starts to surface. It's less common than before, but still a problem. I just try and rely on positive thinking.

Wonderful post! Congrats on DEFY coming out!

Renee Collins said...

Great post, Sara. It's worth reminding yourself at all stages. :) Our books are a part of us, for sure, but at some point you need to emotionally detach and say, "I love this book. I hope other people do too." End of thought train. (Easier said than done, perhaps, but there you have it.) ;)

Tammy Theriault said...

what a heartwarming post. love it!

Mara said...

I find it funny I see this post when I'm brainstorming for my creative thesis and doubting myself so much. Thank you :)

For the contest, I'd say changing our Twitter and FB pictures to DEFY's cover for some time and maybe answering a question having to do with something from DEFY you'd like to discuss? Sort of like with this post.

Kathryn Purdie said...

Beautiful words, Sara. I love your book so much and want the world to, but I guess I can't make them. :-) I think most will LOVE it like me. Thanks for helping me overcome my own doubts time and again.

N o v a - Z a y said...

For a contest, I'd LOVE it if you had one to make a mock cover of Defy! That would be so much fun and I've seen it before. It makes the author feel loved :)

Alison Miller said...

Such a timely post for where I'm at right now, Sara! Thank you for this!

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Beautiful post, Sara! It's true that the rejection never ends. And sometimes it's all just pulled out from under you and you're left lying in the dust wondering what to do next. In that case, I've just stood right back and up and taken matters into my own hands. It's really all we can do ... and you are absolutely right that it's the people in our lives that matter the most. Always will be, and I'm so glad I get to call you a friend and one of those people in my life. :)

Alyssa said...

I am intrigued by this post! I always hated when authors say, "This book is my baby". No, no, the book is not your baby, because one, if you're treating it like a baby, then you're not letting it grow. I can kind of see the comparison, because it's something you created, but still, I think it's a poor one :\

Anyway. I'm going to bookmark this post for future reference! :D

And for the contest - fan art is popular, but not everyone is artsy and creative in that sense. Maybe you could do a contest with a writing prompt. Like, take a short scene from Defy, post it, and the prompt would be for contest entrants to finish the scene. You'd have to work out the logistics, but I would totally participate in that kind of post. I'm a blogger, so promo contests are cool, and so so easy, but not always fun. Fun is good, right? And rewarding :)


Unknown said...

MADLIB. Make everyone do a madlib with a scene from your book (non spoilery of course!) and make them tweet you a screenshot or something of what they got! Follow on twitter and likes on FB for extra entries?

Fiction_TheNewReality (Jayne) said...

I love this cover because it's so simple, but leaves this picture in your mind for a while until you absolutely have to add it to your Goodreads list:)