Monday, February 11, 2019

What Success Looks Like (Maryanne Fantalis)

At the end of December, I finished Loving Beatrice, my second book in the Shakespeare's Women Speak series, and sent it off to my publisher.

That's success.

For some reason -- for many reasons -- I struggled to write this second book. Writers often talk about the sophomore slump: how writing the next novel, after you've gotten one published, is really, really hard. I thought the notion was ridiculous... until it happened to me.

I had always assumed that once I was published, the sheer joy of that notion would infuse my writing life with passion. Instead, the idea that people were waiting on this book -- real people, publishing people, readers -- nearly paralyzed me. For a long time, I could not write. I tinkered, I researched, I fidgeted, I pretended, but I didn't produce anything of substance. I, who had long prided myself on never getting "blocked" -- I could not write.

And so, finishing this book is what success looks like to me right now.

Overcoming the almost stultifying fear that I could not write another novel at a level I think is good enough for publication: that's success.

Reminding myself that, in fact, I did have processes in place to accomplish this task: that's success.

Rediscovering my main character's voice: that's success.

Remembering that, no, I do not have to write linearly and that when I sat for nearly SIX MONTHS in one scene, that was a really stupid thing to do and wasted a lot of time that could have been better spent writing other scenes and THAT'S a mistake I'll never make again: SUCCESS!

Figuring out that setting unrealistic deadlines and then beating yourself up when you don't reach them and then wallowing in guilt is a bad idea: that's success

Deciding to cheer yourself on when you make progress, even if it's only a hundred words or a bit of planning: also success

Jumping with glee right into the next novel within a couple of weeks after sending off the last one, feeling energized and ready to go, with a mountain of emotional baggage lifted from your shoulders...

Well, yeah. All of that is how I define success right about now. 

4 comments:

  1. Oh, I know this paralysis well! In 2015, SOME BOYS was an RWA Rita Finalist. I became obsessed with the thought that this book was the best I'll ever be and it still wasn't good enough to win.

    Wrong mindset! It took me a long time to reprogram my thoughts and get back to basics.

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    1. Isn't it strange how success can be our biggest obstacle? I never believed it until it happened to me. I'm sorry you had to deal with that, but congrats on the Rita honor!

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  2. CONGRATS on finishing, Maryanne. My second book was actually acquired by my publisher before the first book was published. I didn't know it at the time, but that may have been a real blessing. And I am completely with you on not writing linearly!

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  3. Thanks, Holly! For all my metaphors to my students about patchwork quilts and "Franken-drafts", I sure forgot that lesson myself for a while. It's so hard to lift yourself out of that place once you're in it, though.

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