Career Authors

Donna Andrews on Summiting

By Donna Andrews
I’m not sure when “summit” became a verb as well as a noun. “He became the oldest person to summit Everest.” Has it been that way for a very long time, or did it succumb to our modern tendency to verb nouns?

I’d look it up, but I’m too tired.

A good kind of tired, for the most part. The garage sale I put on is in my rear view window now. Parts of my life are gone. Or at least headed to a new life.

But the day after the yard sale I felt blah. Physically and emotionally drained. I stayed in bed till noon. Took a two-hour nap in the late afternoon. Went to bed earlyish.

Why did I feel like that? I had a nice wad of bills in my pocket. I waved goodbye to a lot of unwanted stuff I should be celebrating, right?

Well, I was. I am. But Sunday afternoon I realized why I felt so blah.

I’d just summited . . . a foothill. I had more peaks ahead of me. Possibly higher peaks.

Since everything that rattles around in my brain eventually comes back around to writing, I realized this was a familiar feeling. What writers think of is the goal . . . is always changing.

Aspiring writers think of getting published as the ultimate goal. The peak accomplishment. They struggle, and if they’re good and smart and lucky, they achieve it. Then what do they find?

More peaks. You’re published, but have you gotten good reviews? Any reviews? Is your book selling? You’ve managed to get published—now there’s staying published. Does your publisher want your next book? Can you finish the next book on deadline? Will readers like your second book as much as the first, or will they write you off as a one-hit wonder? Can you get a signing in your local bookstore? Why aren’t you making the bestseller lists? Or nominated for awards? Or—?

Conventional wisdom has it that if one member of a writing group gets published, the group is doomed unless the other members also manage to get published within a reasonable time. And while there are plenty of exceptions, it often happens. I can understand why. To a writer longing for publication, the problems her published friends are dealing with sound like wonderful problems to have. Enviable problems. First world problems! Why are these lucky published writers still whining?

Because enviable problems are still problems. And not until you summit the peak of getting published do you even see all the other daunting peaks ahead of you.

So that’s what I was feeling on Sunday. I’d summited the peak of holding my yard sale. A reasonably successful one, everyone assures me. But ahead of me are more peaks. More work. More changes.

This morning I’m taking a deep breath, and working very hard on changing “yes, but” to “yes.”

So when someone says, “Congratulations! You’re getting published!”

The right response: “Yes. Thank you!”

Not “Yes, but my Amazon numbers aren’t good . . . yes, but my agent isn’t happy with my proposal for the next . . . yes, but someone gave it a one-star review.”

“Yes. Thank you.” Enjoy the peak you’ve conquered.

And when someone says to me “Hey, you survived your yard sale!” the right response is not “yes, but not everything sold” or “yes, but I still need to finish decluttering my basement” or “yes, but it was so much work.”

They say: “Congratulations! You survived your garage sale!”

I say: “Yes. Thank you. Hallelujah!”

Are you celebrating your successes? Not always raising the bar? In this high-pressure writing world, one of constant change and increasing expectations, I learned the only way to success is to let go, give back, look forward, and keep going.

And when it’s time to let go—of baggage, and fears, and stuff you don’t use anymore, hurray. You’re on your way

And oh, if you need two ceramic shepherdesses and a Fiestaware platter, find me on Facebook.

 

Donna Andrews was born in Yorktown, Virginia and now lives in Reston, Virginia. Gone Gull (August 2017) is the twenty-first book in her Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty winning Meg Langslow series, to be followed later in 2017 by How the Finch Stole Christmas. She currently serves as the Executive Vice President of Mystery Writers of America and is active in Sisters in Crime. She blogs with the Femmes Fatales.