Saturday, February 6, 2010

Swimming in Negativity

I stopped following a blog this week.

One that I've followed for years.

And I stopped following it for one reason, and only one reason. The bloggers have become just too depressingly negative.

This is a blog with a mixture of published and unpublished authors, agented and unagented writers. Every single one of them is extremely talented. Every single one of them has interesting things to say. And now, every single one of them seems to be depressingly negative.

I understand that we all have bad days, that we all have moments of extreme doubt. I even understand that it can be cathartic to cut into a vein and bleed all over your blog every once in a while. But when the bleeding goes on and one, through both posts and comments--well, then you start creating an atmosphere that just sucks the vitality and energy right out of you.

Anyone who haunts the various agent blogs knows the statistics. Anyone who participates in pitch contests, or queryfests, or any of the various agent and editor submission contests can see quite graphically the sheer volume of submissions to the miniscule number of requests. So what? Does that mean you won't ever achieve any success during the course of your writing career? Of course not. All it takes it one book, and one agent and one editor to hit the jackpot.

So what if an agent had 397 submissions during a given week and only requested four books?

Four books were requested, four authors have a chance to move forward. That's four chances out of 400. It's better than the lottery. It's better than any raffle I've entered. And at least with this gamble you can up your odds by writing a damn good book, and researching the agent enough to know you're giving them what they want.

When you sit there and dwell on the statistical improbability of even getting your work requested--or, if you're a published author you sit there and fret about your lack of sales/lack of royalty check, and question why you are even writing, how is that helping you?

Negative energy breeds. It feeds off itself. It can swallow you whole if you let it. It can suck every bit of joy out of your words and leave ashes in your heart. It can suck the soul right out of your stories and derail any chance at success. You can create your own negative tide, a negativity that will stop opportunity from pounding on your door.

Likewise, a positive outlook can create opportunities.

In the last two months I personally know one person who has sold Michelle Diener and one person who was picked up by an agent. Joan Swan

They were swimming against the same statistical tide as the rest of us, but they didn't let negativity swamp them. They kept swimming. They didn't give up. They didn't let the industry beat them down. They didn't sit down and whine about their circumstances. And they succeeded because of it.

It's time for the rest of us to either get out of the water or stop the whining.


  1. I appreciate this post. I am in the same boat, realizing the odds are quite steep, but appreciating every opportunity I get to take advantage of. The past two weeks my MS has been requested by 6 agents, and heck, if it never goes farther than that (fingers crossed it does, of course!), that's six agents who gave me the time of day. That's pretty stinking awesome. Appreciating the small wins that make up the major one in the long run is so important. Otherwise we get bogged down in the negativity, just as you've mentioned. Your post was a great breath of fresh air. best of luck with everything!

    Megan Curd

  2. I feel the same way about some blogs. I don't need toxic energy.

    Michelle was always confident that she would sell. She believed in herself. I admire that.

  3. I completely agree with you about negativity, and I apply this not only to the online world, but my personal life as well. Life is too short. I'd much rather surround myself with optimists... and BE optimistic myself! :) It goes a long way.

  4. Theresa, I think if you're going to keep writing, and keep submitting, no matter what, it is definitely better to close your ears to the negativity. I made a point of avoiding blogs by people who were 'just being realistic' and telling 'the truth about the industry'. As long as you know it won't be easy, that it is better to know and research whoever you submit your work to so you're not wasting your time, and work, work, work on that fabulous story, your chances are significantly better than the statistics would have you believe.

  5. Hi Megan,

    Wow, congrats on the interest in you book. I have my fingers crossed for you that one of those six will love it, take it on and sell it in multi-book contract for lots of moola...if we're gonna dream--we need to dream big, right? *GRIN

    Also, I've been sicker than a dog, so I haven't been around the net much. Sorry it took so long to get back to you.

  6. hey Edie,

    Yes, Michelle did aways have an innate confidence and sense of self when it came to her writing. I suspect both these qualities will be even more important now that she's sold.

  7. You are soo right, J. Surrounding yourself with optimism creates an atmosphere, where it feels like anything can happen. Negativity, on the other hand, creates an atmoshere that seems to suck the possibilities right out of the air.

  8. My feelings as well, Michelle.

    You don't need to be a pollyana about things. The smart person acknowledges the odds, and then tried to manuever themselves to beat them.