An Inability to Manage Expectations

It doesn't matter how low my odds are, or how many times I do it, whenever I enter a contest or send out a query (which, really, is just another kind of contest), I get all hopeful and excited and daydreamy and, basically, set myself up for a let down. I can't help it. No matter how much I try to tell myself it's not gonna happen, part of me refuses to believe it.

This goes for beta reading too. Right now, Air Pirates is in the hands of real people - with eyes and thoughts. Over the next few weeks they're going to tell me what they think of it. I constantly catch myself thinking, "They're going to love it, and I'm going to send it out right away." That's stupid, I know. I've been doing this how long, and I still think someone will say it's perfect??

Of course then I go the other way. I start thinking about what they might say, and suddenly I notice everything that's wrong with the story. I know what they're going to say. Well you don't have to say it, all right? It's terrible, I know!

You see my problem? The only thing I can do is stop thinking about it, but that's hard. Especially when I talk to my beta readers. There's this voice begging me to say, "So do you like it? Oh please tell me you like it. Wait, what if you don't? Never mind, don't tell me. Oh, but I can already see it in your eyes..."

It goes on like this. Now, listen. If you're one of my beta readers, I'm not fishing for compliments or early opinions here. Don't tell me anything until you've finished reading it, really. It wouldn't help. If you liked it, I'd be all, "They like it! I'll be able to send it out, I know it. But wait, what if they get to the end and they change their mind? Oh no, they're going to be so disappointed!"

And if you were more honest, told me you didn't like it... well, that's something I deal with better if I can focus on the reasons, the critique itself.

I'm such a mess. Fortunately I have distractions today. No fireworks (the Embassy has a party, but we can't bring our kids without IDs), but there's Transformers 2 and bowling with the kids. That's a good day.


BJW said...

Yeah, I get my wife to read stuff all the time then stop her half way, "you're not laughing" or worse, "you've only laughed twice during the last two pages" etc...

We writers are needy. No way around it. There may be some super-confident, self-sufficient writers out there, but nobody cares much for them. Maybe it's our vulnerability that allows us to empathize with our characters.

Or maybe we're just needy.

Great post. Hi, my name's Ben. I fully am a needy writer. Hi Ben.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Adam, on the one hand, I fully understand the inablity to manage expectations. We believe in what we're doing as writers, and we're human enough to want it affirmed by others. When we don't receive that, it's easy to become discouraged (or temporarily insane).

The only way to hold the gift of writing is loosely. It must be held and used long enough to show gratitude to the Giver, then returned to Him to do with it as He pleases. I can say this (even believe it) a hundred times a week, and still have difficulty leaving it in His hands. I vacillate between the struggle to not altogether lay down the gift (and thereby avoid the conflict), or hold it out to the Lord with no intent of releasing it.

A good day is when I find that happy middle ground of holding the gift of writing loosely enough to use but not too tightly to claim as my own.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

P.S. I'm glad when I clicked on the "temporary insanity" label I only found one post. ;)

BJW said...

PS how was transformers 2?

fairyhedgehog said...

I seem to be able to hold both ideas in my mind at pretty much the same time: that what I've written is brilliant and that it is also crap.

What's much harder is to hold on the the middle ground: that it is possibly good or has potential but that there is some or a lot to be worked on.

I haven't got a novel at the beta reader stage yet so I can only guess what it's like for you.

Adam Heine said...

"Hold the gift loosely." I like that, Anne. And yeah, I created the label just for this post. I hope not to have many more of them, but the process of letting people (agents too) see what I've written drives me a little crazy.

Ben: It wasn't as good as I wanted it to be. But I can't throw the whole thing out because it was too awesome to watch Optimus kick butt.

Hedgehog: This is my second novel beta, and I've had Evil Editor and others critique various other writings, as you know. All that experience has only given me what I stated at the end of my 2nd paragraph up there. It's just head knowledge, though. The emotions are all the same.

Talking about it like this surely helps though!

Zeeshan Khurram-Qayyum said...

great post. i feel the same way. i have finished my book and when ever i send it off to agents or give it to somebody to read i feel my story is rubbish.
but somebody would understand or like it someday and with that thought i move on to another story/book.

Natalie Whipple said...

I swing back and forth through these feelings everyday it seems, sometimes hourly. Even having a prospective agent so invested that we've been through 3 revisions together...there are still days when all I can think is that he'll drop me on the curb next week and it'll all be over.

Hope is a fickle thing in this biz. On the one hand, you need it if you're ever going to get there. But on the other, it's the hope that hurts the most. The whole thing would be easier if you could approach critting/querying with indifference. Too bad that's impossible.

Adam Heine said...

zkqayyum, I think that's the only sane remedy: move on and keep working.

And, Natalie, I can't imagine what you're going through. And yet I want it for myself. Is that not crazy?

Maybe the whole querying-agents system is designed, not to filter out the best writers, but to filter out the people with the strongest psyches...

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Adam, I'm confused. Did you mean to filter out the people with the weakest psyches? Or are we just talking about strongly psychotic here (since that's what we must be if we're pursuing publication)?

Natalie Whipple said...

Hehe, it is crazy, but I know what you mean. I want what my agented friends have, even if they whine about how terrible subbing to editors is. Just the nature of the game.