Finding Joy in Writing While on Sub

Motivation & Inspiration, Writing Process

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Being out on submission with a book is a strange thing. On the one hand, you’ve reached a huge milestone by just having something that’s actually in good enough shape to send out. But it’s probably something you’ve been working on for a long time; something that feels finished even though it’s nowhere close (more on that in a later post).

I decided that during this process, it would be best for my mental health not to know much unless there was serious interest. I thought it would be easier to focus on my WIP this way. For a little while, this tactic worked.

But then there was interest. Suddenly. Shockingly. It all happened really fast and the next thing I knew I was on the phone with editors. Actual editors at actual publishing houses. And each one had a very different vision for my book. This thing that felt finished to me, was just a starting point for them. It was a little jarring and the more I mulled over the options, the harder it was to think about anything else.

I woke up every morning at 3:30AM, my mind racing. And not just about the book out on sub that now had the potential of being reincarnated into a million different things but also my WIP, the companion novel to the book on sub.

I tried desperately to re-enter that world, to continue getting to know these other characters, to flesh out a plot that made sense. But then I realized that significant changes to book one would inevitably lead to significant changes to book two and if I didn’t even know what those changes were going to be yet, how could I possibly keep forging ahead blind?

I’ve been struggling with this manuscript for a long time, and being that I’m the type of person who’s always looking for signs, I decided that this must be one. This book hasn’t been working because it wasn’t supposed to. Because things are going to change and I have to let them. I have to let go of what I thought these stories were supposed to be in order to make room for the stories they’re meant to be.

But I also need to write. In the midst of all of this uncertainty, I need to work on something that returns me to the joy of writing, that reminds me why I do it in the first place.

Right now, my middle grade WIP is that happy place. It’s about witches and magical burritos and prophesying horny toads. It’s about friendship and bridging cultural divides and families that function as one beating heart.

Trying to write something new while receiving critiques of something old is hard. It can mess with your head and make you second guess every creative choice you’ve ever made. But instead of avoiding the work, I’m trying to find a way to use it as an escape. The way writing used to be when I was in the midst of grief, when I was struggling financially, when I was experiencing an existential crisis (or two).

Maybe part of being a writer is figuring out what you need out of it every single day. What needs healing? Where can I go; what can I explore that will bring me closer to that healing?

Right now, I need to heal from my own expectations, from my inability to accept my own limitations. I need to find joy and feel good. So I’m getting back to what I know–that the world is magic, that when we love, fearlessly, wholeheartedly, we become magic too.

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