Sliding Doors

Fuck, fuck fuckitty fuck. I have just made a decision that could be the best or worst thing to ever happen to my writing career. Yes, people: I turned down an agent’s offer to represent.

I know. WHAT THE HELL AM I THINKING?

As a first time author, it’s safe to assume I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. But surely everyone knows, if you get an offer, even if it’s just digital and not quite what you were hoping for, you take it, grab it, hang onto it with both hands and say thank you A LOT. Right?

Wrong, apparently. Although, as you may be able to tell, I have been asking myself why that might be for several minutes now; in fact if I’m being totally honest, I’ve been asking myself the question for the entire five days it took to press ‘send’ on the email. I’m still wondering if I did the right thing and I’ve spent the past five minutes since I sent it writing ‘fuck’ a lot on my blog, so I think you get the gist of my angst/regret/torturous self pity.

But was it the bad decision I make it out to be? Setting aside my affection for dramatic, attention seeking first paragraphs, things are, of course, much better than they appear. The agent I pitched to at the LBF is also interested in the book, says she enjoyed it and it’s right up her street. What a position to be in! I’m liked by two agents! This should be the bit where my ego takes me out to dinner and thanks me for getting stroked so much. I’ve got off the slush pile twice, which is no mean feat. Yay me!

So why the torture? Why the angst? Because as yet, the other agent isn’t offering representation. They want me to make changes – pretty major ones – in order to make the book something they can take to publishers, and to make it something which could go the distance and become a series of books rather than just the one. Which seems like sensible feedback. I’m not scared to take advice from people that know what they are doing, because, let’s face it, I sure as hell don’t. In fact, during our call, I agreed with her 100% about the work that needed to be done; I came away feeing hugely positive about making the changes, and that it could only make the book (and me) better. And as the agent put it, ‘I wouldn’t be spending this time talking to you if I didn’t think it was worth it.’ So how could I possibly be feeling bad after that?

I knew what I had to do. An agent that offered editorial input was the right choice, no matter the end result. Right? Probably. Other people said so. It seemed like something you would read online if you googled it incessantly until you found the answer you were looking for. So, after a mere five days of churning anxiety-riddled thinking on the subject, I turned down the other agent.

Now, of course, I have the fear. Fear that I picked the wrong horse to back. That I should have taken the offer because I might never get another one. But mainly, the utterly paralysing fear that I won’t be able to deliver on what is required to take it to the next level. That I’m not good enough.

Strange fact coming from a writer: I’ve never felt like I’m not good enough. Most writers feel the opposite, but I think I either have a massive ego or I’m completely unaware of my own limitations, or both. However, right now, self doubt is all over me like a rash. And God, it’s horrible. Crippling. I start to think about the changes I need to make and suddenly I’m completely lacking in the confidence that I can. What if my new world building is crap and the agent doesn’t like it? What if I write a load of rubbish in response to their feedback, that isn’t want they wanted at all? I guess the answer is, they won’t offer to represent me. And that’s where that horrid little voice in my head suggests I should have taken the sure-fire offer in the first place and not let the temptation of bigger and better things (or being published in print, as it’s known in the real world) get the better of me.

Of course, once I’ve finished this self-indulgent wallow-blog I just need to get on and write. See what happens. Focus. Use every bit of the toolkit I’ve slowly built up over the past couple of years to make the book better than it was before. Hope that I paid enough attention to the agent’s feedback; that I can do enough to get me over the line. And if I can’t, know that the book will be better anyway, for the extra thought that has gone into it.

I never realised at the time that the hard work and perseverance it took to write 80,000 words was the easy bit. I look forward to when I can start writing the second book and think, gosh, that will be so nice, to just get back to writing again instead of having to think. What a journey this is, what an experience to embrace. Even if it all comes to nothing, it will never be nothing. I do hope I made the right decision. But whether I did or not, it’s time to own it. #amwriting

The one about winning.

Last month, I wrote about failure at some length on my business blog. I’m a big fan of failure. HUGE fan. I’ve done a lot of improv comedy in the past five years and it’s not something you can enjoy or get good at without accepting that you’re going to have some unfeasibly bad moments, usually in front of a lot of people. When I teach, I teach that failure is good, and I believe it. I get itchy when I see stuff like this, especially when it’s attached to a ‘Motivational Monday’ hashtag:Screen Shot 2018-06-27 at 09.11.25

because I don’t find it the least bit motivational, and don’t get how anyone else could either. What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail? Not much, I imagine.

Failure is how we learn. It’s a way for us to understand how we can be better. If you never take a risk, if everything in life is handed to you on a silver platter, wanting, or needing success – striving for it in every possible way – would become unnecessary. Everything we said or did would be ‘safe’, and consequently, we’d probably say or do very little. A world where you couldn’t fail would be a very boring world indeed.

There are days, though, I think that boring might be quite nice. Days like yesterday, where I just seemed to fail over and over again, culminating in the fastest, most cut throat book rejection I’ve had to date. And I’m going to be honest and say that on top of an already shitty day, it hit me really hard.

Let’s get this into perspective: the sort of stuff I’m talking about isn’t the huge crushing blows of a shark body-slamming me. It was more like jack frost nibbling at my toes. I’m super aware there are people with far bigger problems. But yesterday, for whatever reason, my failures got to me. They made me wonder whether I’ll ever achieve anything past the level of mediocre, and getting past that to more familiar ‘fuck ’em’ territory has been unusually difficult. ‘I’m usually much better than this’, I think, and realise I’m failing at failing now, too.

But the life coach in my head (hey there, tough lady) keeps on telling me none of it’s worth getting upset over, that things will be better for finding the right people and paths to tread and these ‘failures’ were just things that weren’t meant to be. And whereas yesterday I was trying not to cry with frustration, today I am busy getting over myself and getting back to business. It’s not nearly the end of the world, and there are plenty more days to fill with successes and failures of all shapes and sizes. And that, in itself, sounds like winning.