The mantra of the writer — both published and unpublished and soon-to-be-published-again-someday-maybe — should really be: HURRY UP AND WAIT.
The career comes in fits and starts, feast and famine. A flurry of activity and a dead run into Nowheresville — a cursor spinning, crickets chirping, tumbleweeds tumbling, zombies gumming each other with rotten teeth just outside a Bed, Bath and Beyond.
It’s like drinking a glass of ice water and suddenly an ice cube dam releases and your face is suddenly the target of an ice cube avalanche and then your shirt is wet and your pants are wet and people think you aggressively urinated on yourself. Then you’re out of water and it’s like, “Hey, when do I get more water?” and the only response is a bewildering, sympathetic shrug. The glass sits empty for months and your mouth goes dry until suddenly — a firehose knocks you back.
You write a book, you put it out there.
Agent, editor, self-pub, whatever.
And maybe something happens, and maybe it doesn’t.
You sit, you wait, you gnaw your hand watching your email or your sales numbers.
Then maybe, movement — you claw your way to the next level but then that level is just another waiting room, another soul-crushing DMV line, another Satanic circle-jerk inside the deepest folds of Purgatorial Fuck-All. You get an agent, you wait. You get a book deal, you wait. The book releases, you wait. You wait for sales numbers. Royalties. Advances. This thing. The next thing. The thing after that. The career is a lot of you putting yourself out there and then you standing alone in a cornfield waiting until you’re pretty sure you’re going to be eaten by scarecrows.
That’ll kick you right in the spirit.
I’ve been there.
Every writer has been there, or gets there, eventually.
And you can fix it. (Or, at least, make it easier.)
All those things are outside your control. Your publisher, your sales numbers, which editors bite, which editors don’t, what reviews you get, all of that — you don’t control it. You vaguely affect it, ideally by writing a book that’s really good, though plenty of writers have written not-so-good books that tickled the pop culture pineal gland and made a success anyway, and certainly plenty of writers have written amazing fucking books that either got published and then promptly pooped the bed or never even got published in the first fucking place. It is what it is. This career is unpredictable and success is sadly not predicated on producing quality material, but screw it.
You do what you can do.
And what you can do is:
Think about writing.
Then plan your writing.
Then fucking write.
Then edit the unholy shit-demons out of it once it’s finished.
Then you do it all again.
Think, plan, write, edit, repeat.
Purity exists in this simple sequence. It’s elegant. It’s direct. And it’s entirely within your control. The other gears and flywheels will turn, and sometimes they need you to give them a push or check in to make sure they’re oiled and whirling appropriately, but then? Get back out and get back to work. Many stories swirl around your head. This is how you exorcize them and stop them from possessing your brain so that you can trap them in the containment unit of ink and page. Focus on what matters. Don’t get lost in the tempest of the industry. Stay on target.
Think, plan, write, edit, repeat. Each stage takes the time that it takes. There’s no clock, there’s no gun to your head. It’s on you to decide how much time you need to take. But take the time. Thieve the time from other activities. Make effort. Be active. Push, urge, growl, fight, fuck, spit, get shit done. Don’t stop. Don’t languish. Don’t give into inertia or ennui. Don’t fall to doubt or fear. Don’t stare overlong at the industry. Be a maker, a creator, a teller, a doer.
Times infinity, until dead.