Teens, Dark Chocolate, and Surviving Writer Limbo
Writer limbo - the time between your pitch/query being sent and an agent or publisher's response.
I'm smack in the middle of writer limbo. And yesterday, after talking to my agent, I had a meltdown. I'm not sure why, but I suspect it's because I delivered two completed manuscripts within four weeks. My agent immediately went into full-fledged pitch mode with both books, and after a month, we've heard nothing, nada, zippo.
I'm in writing limbo, stuck playing the publishing waiting game. And I'm also suffering with Phase IV Chocolate Addiction. For those who don't know, one reaches phase IV after consuming two pounds of decadent dark chocolate within twenty-four hours.
I couldn't help noticing my reaction to the dreaded publishing silence was eerily similar to my teen self when my parents announced the family would be moving to Brazil during my senior year of high school.
"Brazil?" I cried. "What about my boyfriend." "He's not invited," my dad deadpanned.
I inhaled ten pounds of peanut M&Ms that afternoon.
Since being stuck in writer's limbo, my brain has seized on the idea of going back and having a chat with my teenage self. I can't seem to let the concept go. Must be the chocolate. Yesterday, I finally gave in and made a list of all the things I'd tell my awkward, hyper-hormonal, clueless soul.
* The bill for basking in the sun to achieve a skin color ten shades darker than your normal comes due at forty.
* Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes. Even you. * Chocolate with seventy-five percent cocoa is not a good substitute for green vegetables. Note: Exception granted when dangling in writer's limbo. * The quote, "It is okay to be a little cracked, that's how the light gets in," is true. Chill out, girl, Brazil's going to be a blast.
I remember seventeen as an exciting, turbulent, and scary year for me. Seventeen was also an especially rocky year for my now therapist daughter. After one particularly combative morning during her senior year, I sobbed my maternal angst to a neighbor who'd successfully raised three college-educated, productive members of society. I had high hopes she could steer me into the lane of super-mom-dom.
On that sob-fest morning, my neighbor patted my back and gave my shoulders a sturdy get-a-freaking-grip shake.
"Do you know the number one misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder?" she asked.
I gripped the kitchen counter, my head spun like I was half-drunk. "You think my daughter is—"
"Hormonal imbalance," she clarified. Her husband was a psychologist. I took her at her word.
I grabbed a dishtowel from the kitchen counter, wiped my eyes, blew my nose. "I don't understand—"
"Your daughter's hormones are raging," she said. "Think of her as having a clinical disorder for the next five years. Be understanding and ignore her histrionics. By the time she's twenty-four, maybe twenty-six, you'll recognize her again. Until then, feed her chocolate."
Again, her husband was a doctor who was I to argue. And her plan appeared sound. As a teen, I must've eaten a hundred pounds of Peanut M&Ms.
I followed my friend's advice and fed my daughter a full menu of patience and chocolate. And sure enough, at twenty-four my she miraculously morphed back into a human.
But as in marriage and parenting, we learn as we go, and navigating our tumultuous teen years can only be done when we're teens.
And so it goes with writing. As writers, we have to discover our unique creative process. What works, what hinders our inspiration, what fosters imagination.
But this idea of talking with my teen self is stuck in my brain. And I've spent most of this week madly searching for other things to occupy my time. Here's how I've distracted myself and my brain.
* Eat pounds and pounds of dark chocolate.
* Scour the internet for the best diets.
* Check my email every ten minutes.
* Commit to one promising lose-ten-pounds-in ten-days internet diet.
* Spend a fortune on food I don't usually buy.Start checking my email every five minutes.
* Recommit to an exercise routine, walking, rowing, zeugma.
* Consider joining a gym vs. splurging on a million-dollar Peloton bicycle.
* Check my email every three minutes
* Buy an air fryer--(Okay, that needs an entire blog).
Finally, my exhausted brain spewed out an interesting thought, a story idea. And when a story idea settles in my mind for more than a few days, I figure it's a sign. I jumped on the premise like a teenager to a new iPhone, opened a file in Scrivener, and disappeared into story land.
So, if like me, you find yourself navigating the publishing waiting game my advice is: * Feed yourself chocolate
* Be gentle with yourself
* Ignore your meltdowns
* Remind yourself daily, hourly if necessary, you have no idea who's currently reading your story, loving your story, pitching your story in an editorial meeting.
* Remember, as when you were teens, we don't know what we don't know.
And in the meantime, should an idea dance in your brain and refuse to shut-up, stop, and listen. The little yapping nugget is a gift. Write down the idea. Create a story. Build a world only you know — a place where you are in complete control, and you make all the decisions.
But don't forget the chocolate.