The Confusing & Constantly Changing Landscape of My Brain

Damn, that’s a long-ass title.

I was talking about this with Lauren Dane yesterday, and it seemed to me it was post-worthy, which is sort of like sponge-worthy, only it’s a measure of how much I want to spend the time formalizing my thoughts. Roughly equivalent to the Seinfeldism, no? Anyway. I have a point to make. Stay with me.

A few years back, my goal was to find an agent. I found one. But it didn’t work out. So the new goal became find an agent who can sell my work. I signed with Laura Bradford and omg, she was the THE ONE! So that goal met, instead of being happy and basking in my accomplishment, my brain chemistry immediately rewired itself, so it wasn’t enough. My new goal became sell a new project ASAP so if Jax tanks, you’re not screwed for a follow-up contract. And so we sold Corine! Woohoo! Time for me to be really proud of myself. I can relax, yes?

HELL NO. The devil brain in my skull casing whispers to me, is this really enough? Yes, you’ve diversified, but you need lots of irons in the fire. You need to build buzz around your name! Are you promoting effectively? You need to get on a bestseller list!

At this point, I am thinking, brain, why are you NEVER HAPPY? But I am a slave to my brain; I carry it around all day, and it is like a nagging spouse. Sometimes it doesn’t let me sleep at night. So I busted my ass, and lo, and behold, I made the bestseller lists. I can now put national bestselling author on my books.

But the brain is not satisfied. It still wants more. As I level up as a writer, it is constantly updating my goals. But some of them (like making the NYT or whatever) are pretty far out of my control. I can’t make one of my series “take off” magically. Of course I want them to, but I seriously have little impact on it. And it’s frustrating because my brain is like, None of your slacker-talk, missy! Make it happen! But I really feel like at a certain plateau, you almost need a lucky break or an increase in publisher support to bump you up to that next level. So the “goals’ I make at this point might as well be find a magic lamp or locate a four-leaf clover.

I write all this out in hopes of opening a dialogue. I don’t think there’s a magical formula for hitting big; otherwise more people would do it, surely! Is it confluence of timing, subject matter and publisher push? I know there are no magic beans–I’m the original proponent for hard work. But does there come a point where the success really can’t be improved at the author’s hands? Is there a mid-list plateau?

Thoughts?

Posted in opinion

12 Responses to The Confusing & Constantly Changing Landscape of My Brain

  1. katiebabs says:

    It’s great you still have goals. Go for yours!

    I seriously don’t know how you do it all. You are truly and idol in my eyes because you have accomplished your dreams, while I am barely meeting them on my own end.

  2. Stacey Kade says:

    Robin Wasserman wrote about something like this on a blog I just read:

    http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2010/02/09/guest-post-robin-wassermans-book-is-due/

    This part in particular: “But it’s also because writing has no track to follow. It has no mutually agreed upon mile-markers, no seven-steps-to-success, no tenure track, no nothing. So as soon as we succeed at X, we move the goalposts, and wonder why we haven’t succeeded at Y. (Not to mention Z, which our friends A_____ and B____ were just bragging about on twitter.)

    If you have no tangible measure of success for yourself, it’s always ridiculously easy to talk yourself into feeling like a failure.”

  3. Rosie says:

    My only thought was “Whew! My brain isn’t the only one!”

    I know, not constructive for you, but very comforting for me.

  4. Has says:

    I think you have been amazing with the amount books that you have published in the short frame of time and not one book in my opinion has lacked in quality, far from it. I think it’s pretty rare to gain success with the first book and those who have done so, found it difficult to maintain that in their followup. I think its normal to worry about the next big goal :D
    But I think some people are lucky in writing a book that propels them to the big league – but there is also those who grow an audience and then make it big and I think its the latter group that has a better chance.
    But I love the fact you have written in so many genres in a distinct voice – means more books for me to read :D

  5. Sadly, I DO see a mid-list plateau. I don’t think you’re stuck on it, however. I think you’re positioned to take off for the stars and leave the rest of us mere mortals behind.

    Keep working the media — online and off. With your publisher and on your own. I know there are lots of outlets and places where we can introduce you to readers. You have a really cool appeal that crosses genres, and you’re hitting a time when genre lines are blurring.

    I dunno, Ann. I see great things ahead for you.

  6. Back-to-back releases never hurt. Not that I know from personal experience, of course! I can barely manage to write one book in a timely fashion, let alone an entire series. :wink:

  7. I love the way your brain works Ann! I think it’s natural to always want more…I mean, I’m just starting out but dreaming big…It was killing me to see all you bradford chicks announcing sales and I was waiting on my option…the day laura called i was ecstatic….and then started planning the next phase….always looking ahead is key. It just means you’re serious, talented and well, you want MORE…nothing wrong with that…..the good thing is, you’ve got the talent to get it!

  8. Michele Lee says:

    I think goals are great. Absolutely fantastic, because they encourage yo to push your own limits. But you should be sure to enjoy your accomplishments too. Don’t spend so much time pushing that you forget the joy and success that you have already earned.

  9. e_bookpushers says:

    I am not a writer but very glad to see I am not the only one whose brain just won’t settle down and be happy when I have achieved something. Keep making your goals!

  10. I was thinking about this watching the Olympics, wondering what the writer’s equivalent of a gold medal is. Hitting #1 on the NYT list? It seems like so much of that is luck and timing. Even publisher support only goes so far if they misjudge what booksellers and readers will like (I say that as one who is finally getting major support but is convinced that means I’ll just be a BIGGER failure than ever–I will be Bode Miller in Torino ’06).

    I think that never being satisfied with good enough is what separates great writers from hacks. As long as we focus on writing better and bigger books, hopefully the rest will take care of itself.

  11. Monica says:

    Heh, my secret is to fail so spectacularly, there is really nothing else to worry about. It’s done. Finis.

    But, seriously, I think the real secret is merely luck. Either you have it or you don’t.

  12. Your post had me nodding my head. I totally get the drive. I’m pretty much the same way. My brain is never happy. There’s always another project that needs completing. There’s always something else I could be doing. My main goal this year is to sort out what’s important and figure out how to get rid of the rest. And to learn how to be satisfied for longer than five minutes. :)

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