Merrie Haskell, author of many books and winner of sweet awards (you might wanna check out Handbook for Dragon Slayers) said something very illuminating during a recent panel regarding the writing life. The gist was that we, as writers, will often plan six ways till Sunday for failure, but when it comes to success: Crickets; success is for the gods to decide. We'll, for instance, have in the backs of our minds 'Well, if this doesn't sell I can always go back to fighting honey badgers. Hours weren't bad.' And we'll have a file of local honey badger tournaments saved in multiple locations. We'll have 15 other markets to submit to if this, our best, most awesomest story, receives the expected rejection. We'll think no way is this agent going to rep us so we either don't try them or we ride into their query pile on the ship Half-Assed Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (full disclosure: I have been mate on that ship).
Plans help center us in reality. They tell us where our heads are. Please no one send the hastage #NotAllPlans.
Back-up plans are great and necessary...but what about the go-forward plans? How often do we think 'Wow, when this book finds an audience I can go to cons and fill myself with enthusiasm and set up a Thank You, Readers fund for pizza and ice cream socials'? Granted, the failures and successes, there's no guarantees for either, but that's kind of the point, innit? We treat failure as a given when it is not, but give the options for success not even half that due.
As writers, hell as people, we need to remember that digging a hole means we have the physical and mental strength to move dirt out of the way. Planning for success means when somebody says yes...what's your next step? You don't want to be caught just sitting there going fuh-fuh-fuh. You want to feel a little more that you're more active than that. It's perfectly cool and all right to take a little pride in flipping the script and planning how you want to arrange your dirt piles.
I suspect there's an art to that, and I look forward to seeing your earthen gallery.
Life, the universe, and everything creative
Towel Photo credit: EvelynGiggles via Foter.com / CC BY