Now that I’ve got another novel out on submission to agents and editors, I’m back to chuckling at the lies I keep telling myself. I find it funny because I don’t tell myself these lies at any other time, or for any other reason. Every couple of years, though, like some deranged migratory bird, I come back to the same pile of lies. I suspect I’m not alone in fibbing to myself in this way, so allow me to share my lies and you can share whatever lies are eating away at your soul.
“It doesn’t matter.” This one is the most amusing to me. I keep telling myself that it doesn’t matter in the long run whether my novels ever get published or not. And, really, it doesn’t matter. Realistically, my books aren’t likely to change the world. There are so many authors and books out there that I doubt that one more voice in the wind will matter to anyone over the long term of humanity’s residence on this planet. The only person it matters to is me, and that’s where the lie comes in. Because it does matter a great deal to me. So while I can honestly say that publication likely doesn’t matter to the world at large, it’s dishonest to pretend like it doesn’t matter to me.
“It won’t change my life.” This one is a close relation to “It doesn’t matter.” No, publication will not change my life. That much is true. I highly doubt that publication would result in life-changing fame, a la J.K. Rowling, so I know that publication will not change the basics of my life. But it’s dishonest to say that it wouldn’t change my life at all because it would, likely in positive ways. I’d get to meet some cool new people, whether they are agents, editors, or readers. Some other doors might open to me and new opportunities might present themselves. I’d learn new things and be part of a “fraternity” of publishing people. And, truth be told, I’d probably think of myself a little differently. So while the basics of my life wouldn’t change, there would likely be some positive changes. I just hate admitting that because dwelling on what may never be is no fun.
“They’ll call tomorrow.” It’s hilarious to wake up every day telling yourself that today will be the day that the phone will ring with good news when you know that the odds are probably against you. I catch myself waking up like this every day, thinking, “Today might be the day!” while knowing there’s likely a 99% chance against it. But, I guess the lie gets me out of bed and to the computer, so it’s got some positives.
“Rejection Doesn’t Hurt.” Obviously I know that rejection isn’t personal. It’s business, and it may have nothing to do with the quality of my work. It definitely has nothing to do with me as a person. So the right thing to tell myself is, of course, “It doesn’t hurt.” But it does, even if it’s just a ping of pain and not a soul-crushing ache. Anyone who tells you that it doesn’t hurt at least a little to have your work turned down is a bigger liar than I am.
“My life is already great. I don’t need more.” This one is another cousin to “It doesn’t matter,” and “It won’t change my life.” My life is already pretty great. The truth is that do not “need” anything more. I already have more than 90% of the rest of the world’s population and I’m darn fortunate for it. So, yes, publication is not something I strictly need. I have plenty of other sources of validation in my life and plenty of things that make me crazy happy. The lie here is that, while I don’t “need” more of anything that publication might bring into my life (interesting people and opportunities, a little extra money), I sure would like it. Greed is so unflattering, isn’t it?
“I’m happy for that writer who just posted on Twitter that she got an agent and/or offer of publication.” Realistically, I am happy for such people. I know that they’ve worked hard and earned their shot. And, I realize that the success of one does not diminish the opportunities for the rest of us. I am happy for people, especially if I know them at all. Sadly, the happiness usually comes after the jealousy and that’s where the lie comes in. I’m not a big enough person to completely skip the envy and get right to the happy.
Basically, my lies are all concocted to disguise the petty parts of myself. I lie and say I’m happy when I’m envious. I say I don’t need more when secretly I’m as greedy as the next person. I pretend to be an optimist when really my glass is half empty and leaking. I say that I’m grateful for everything I have, while in the next breath admitting to being ungrateful for not getting this one thing. Seeking publication just reveals how badly I suck as a human being.
Of course, that’s a lie too. I don’t suck as a person. The wait to hear back from agents and publishers plays tricks on the mind. It’s like taking some strange hallucinogenic drug that makes you see things that aren’t really there. The mind has to try to do something to make sense of things that often make no sense, so it starts lying and telling you all kinds of weird stuff. Couple that with a bit of PMS and you’ve got a mind-warp worthy of the strangest, longest, acid trip. The trick is to not listen. Or, if you must listen, listen with a critical ear to separate the truth from the lie. Oh, and engage in a lot of ice cream therapy.