Journey to Getting Published Part Three: Remain Dispassionate

This is a follow up to two older posts, Journey to Getting Published Part One and Journey to Getting Published Part Deux. You might want to start there!

TeapotWritingSince starting on this publishing journey, I’ve really had to quell The Voices. I decided late last spring that my book was finished, but that always feels a bit arbitrary: finished. Couldn’t you tinker forever? You could, and you could also whittle away at every last bit of good, too, with your tinkering. So at some stage you have to call it: done.

Since being “done” I’ve relished the more straightforward parts of sending out: writing the cover letter, polishing a synopsis. Even the agent research is okay. I continue to look at the Daily Deals from Publishers Marketplace, which I cross-check with Agent Query, and then I do some Googling, too. (I wrote about all of this in Part Deux.) Then, once I’ve identified a few agents, I tailor the query and send out.

This is when remaining dispassionate comes in.

Because, let’s face it—I’m about to spring into second person here, folks—you send out, and then you agonize. When you don’t hear back, you agonize; when you get rejected, you agonize. When you see on Daily Deals that someone has just sold a memoir about her childhood abuse and subsequent journey through addiction to her triumph at starting a charity in the Congo, you think, will anyone want to read my small, personal, navel-gazing memoir about the greatest love of my life? You worry you’re a narcissist for a while (who writes that book, anyway?); you think maybe you should start over, rethink “done.” You bite your fingernails until they bleed. But none of this changes anything. So instead, you take a deep breath and send, then remain dispassionate about it all.

I chose the word “dispassionate” carefully. Calm doesn’t cut it; unruffled is a different thing. I thought about unattached, which the Buddhists would like, and that one gets close. But dispassionate–as in, put your passions aside. Save the emotions for the work. Trust that the thing is good, and that the thing will sell. Resist the urge to change everything. Have confidence that what you’re sending out is “your best work.” And treat it like a chore, a job, a task, something to cross off the to-do list–not an opportunity for debilitating anxiety and wasted passion.

Easier said than done, I must say.

Have you see those funny posters with a crown on them that say “Keep Calm and Carry On?” (There’s one at my son’s preschool, which always cracks me up.) I think that’s what I’m getting at, here. Keep calm, and carry on.


Thank you, Wikimedia Commons

Thank you, Wikimedia Commons

Back when I was in graduate school in Western Massachusetts, fall was the loveliest time. I realized that when I was studying something I loved, returning to school felt great. And autumn in Western Mass came in like a wildfire, all the trees in flames. I remember walking around Northampton’s cemeteries and fields looking at all the life–pumpkins! By the hundreds!–and the death–leaves losing their pigment, landing on the ground. The days were warm and the nights, deliciously crisp–like an apple (more life). That pull between two worlds fueled me and all I wanted to do was write. For many years, fall was the most productive time of my writing life.

These days, I live in Northern California, where fall’s idea of change is that the fog is a little more absent and the air is very dry. Later in the season we might get a colorful leaf or two, if we’re lucky. And now I have a kid, and fall means packing lunches and figuring out aftercare and new clothes and new friendships and new beginnings. For the second or third year in a row, I am not feeling inspired and productive; I’m feeling quite blah. Every morning I wake craving that New England crispness, a vision of leaves, that lovely stretch of time between my birthday, Halloween, and Thanksgiving, before winter sets in (don’t even get me started on winter in Northern California). And I get…sunshine? No discernible change at all?

And so, herewith, is a poem for today. It’s a love poem, for fall, written during one of those seasons when all I could do was write. Nostalgic, maybe? Today, yes. I hope you enjoy it.

(Side note: does anyone know how to make WordPress format poetry? This should be in couplets.)


I would grasp your shoulders like a yoke

and ride you into the start of something.

How would it be to feel so useful?

And write a short book about the time

you broke your collarbone in three places:

your eyes on morphine green, unafraid, almost unseeing.

I think I’ll make up some words today, one to describe

yellow and orange and red trees in fog from the bus window,

one to replace lonesome,

one for mornings I hate to get up but do so

knowing it’s what humans do when the world’s a-light,

and love’s a thousand miles in the wrong direction.

© Susie Meserve 2013

Charles McLeod on The Quivering Pen

I wanted to share this lovely essay by my friend Charles McLeod, whom I’ve blogged about before.

PensOver on The Quivering Pen, Charlie writes about publishing his first story at the same time his dad unexpectedly dies of sepsis.

Here’s a teaser:

The copy of The Iowa Review that contained my story was among the titles.  It was the first time I’d seen the issue.  It was late at night, deep winter, and no one else was around, and if I’d felt my dad’s presence every second since his death, that presence was all the more pronounced as I stood there in the half-dark, staring at the magazine’s title.

The Quivering Pen does a semi-regular feature called “My First Time”; QP says: “writers talk about virgin experiences in their writing and publishing careers, ranging from their first rejection to the moment of holding their first published book in their hands.”

Good stuff, methinks. I might just submit something.

I hope you enjoy the essay.