|Yesterday, I turned forty-nine and embraced an important truth: I’m not a unicorn.|
My one wish for this year has been a publisher who will champion my book and an editor who can help me realize its vision.
In the lead up to this birthday, people have been asking about my submission process–a process that requires all the writing resiliency you can muster.
I want to tell you it’s been a festival of rainbows, sunshine, and confetti flickering in the air that has landed me—the special unicorn—a quick and easy book deal.
But in reality, it’s hella vulnerable and uncomfortable and filled with more waiting than you want to do.
Like most parts of the publication process, it’s also filled with lots of rejections that can screw up a person’s birthday, if you’re not careful.
So far, there have been some passes, and some kind and generous rejections from big five editors who’ve said:
“I started this proposal many times and found it really compelling…Lisa has a firm handle on how she’s going to tell this story and I think her writing is terrific.”
“I thought Lisa’s proposal was so inspiring and brave…”
“Lisa is a rapturous storyteller…”
On the other side of each generous line was a reason why they’ve passed on my book.
When reading each rejection, I had a choice. I could focus on the part of the no that’s either outside my control or could be interpreted as deficiency, or I could harness my inner Julia Cameron and focus on the yes to come.
That doesn’t mean ignoring any feelings of disappointment or impatience. But it does mean refusing to magnify those feelings to the exclusion of the good I’ve also received.
Training your brain to think this way won’t just help you cope with the trials of publication; it can help you become a better writer.
Last week, I gave you three tips for creating more delight for you and our readers. Number two on that list was writing with greater specificity. But specificity isn’t enough. Ross Gay defines delights as moments of connection. To delight a reader, you want to take those moments of connection somewhere unexpected.
Here are five ways to train your focus toward the unexpected:
Join my Thirty Days of Delight Challenge on Instagram or Facebook by sharing your daily delights in the comments. This will train your brain to see your surroundings in a new way.
Do some people watching: If that’s not possible, pull up a few movie clips on YouTube. Write down what you observe. Then take a second pass, and notice what you’ve missed. For example, what are people doing with their hands or feet? What about their hips, spine, or temples. You can also do this, by starting with the line, the second thing I observed…
Find something new: Grab a photo, look out your window, or study more people, and pay attention to the one thing you haven’t seen before. Jot that down.
Do a cliché swap: Write something that includes as many clichés as you can. Highlight every cliché. Then rewrite them using some of the observations you made in exercises one or two.
Complete a scene experiment: Select a scene from something you’re working on. Identify the excerpt’s primary feeling. Note what happens at the end of the scene, and the way you’ve described your characters. Write the same scene with another feeling tone. End in a place where something happens that we don’t see coming. If you’re looking for some inspiration, read the prologue for Terry Tempest Williams’ memoir When Women Were Birds.
After trying one of these exercises, hit reply, and let me know what you discover. If you’re saving these for later, tell me about your biggest birthday wish—either one you’re holding on to or one that’s already come true. I’d love to hear from you.
Because it’s my birthday week, I want you to know two things.
I’m glad I’m not a unicorn, . They’re amazing, but they’re also rare, and what they do isn’t repeatable. My life’s mission is to teach people how to write, heal, and achieve their publishing dreams. That means working my process, and at times, embracing the struggle to achieve them, so I can show you how to get there.
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