Sunday, 26 February 2017
There are two things about being a children's author that sit at polar opposite ends of the Happiness Spectrum.
At the unhappy end is the waiting to have work accepted for publication. The uncertainty. The not-knowing. The agony. The at-times-sheer-desperation. The working your guts out only to have someone else (or several someone elses) hold your creative future in their hands.
It can be intense and it can be utterly happy-sapping. When you're passionate about something and dedicate such gargantuan blocks of time and energy to your work, deflation and even derailment become sad companions.
At the other end of the spectrum, however, is the When You Finally Get Published roll. Things DO shift once your work hits the shelves. Your publisher will always be happy to view more of your work, and the chances of being taken on by a different publisher are also higher, because they can see what you've already produced, and your name in the market is starting to catch hold.
Well over 90% of my book contracts have been through established publisher relationships and connections, and have been works that are pre-contracted. I'm published by 6 or 7 companies now, and I'm also able to submit directly to other Australian publishers, but it's taken a LOT of dedication and work to get to this stage.
And it's a happy-making stage. Hugely happy-making. Creating pre-contracted books is wonderful. There's no angst. There's no worrying if all your hard work will be for nought. It's a good place to be.
It's been interesting, then, to have spent much of these past 12 - 18 months on uncontracted works. Normally, that would unnerve and worry me, but, curiously, it hasn't. I have contracted books in production this year, so I guess that gives me something of a safety net, but my lack of worry goes deeper than that. I think I'm not worried because I'm pushing myself beyond boundaries and trying something new. New things, stretching personal limits... these things are inherently happy-making.
The first new thing I've been doing is writing junior fiction. That was a leap-over-a-canyon thing for me, and gosh, it was a good decision. I've loved every carriage return, and am keen to write (and re-write) more. I'm submitting these now.
The second thing I'm stretching myself with is this little girl:
She's someone dear to my heart, and I've longed to write about her for--well--a very long time. There have been several barriers around her journey (long story!) but I last year made a commitment to myself to write about (and illustrate) her. And what did Goethe say? That at the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you?
I met someone wonderful via someone else wonderful and I now have the support and contacts to write about this girl. It all happened in a supremely serendipitous way that still has my head reeling. Then I was introduced to someone else who can help me even further. Things have just fallen into place... and this girl has just fallen from my paintbrush and from the magical tapping of my keyboard.
It's been quite miraculous, and I have to say, it's been the most joyful, fulfilling, blissful experience of my career to date. I have not submitted her, I have no contract, I have no deadline, I have no restrictions or expectations. And it doesn't matter. I'm just creating totally from the heart, and with no boundaries. I have pushed so far beyond those boundaries, I feel like I'm floating in mid air.
I guess, especially for those just starting on this author journey, this is a good way to think about the endless hours and heartbreak you endure while waiting to be published. Being an author is not really about the book--the end result--even though we tend to place so much importance on that. The REAL guts of being an author is in the creating. That's where the joy lies. The journey. A shelf full of books with your name on it means nothing if the journey hasn't been one of creative happiness.
It's true that our best work always comes in an altered state of bliss, when we are HAPPY, in the flow, and pouring our heart and soul into our work. Not worrying where it will end up. Just having faith that you'll produce something amazing. And even if it isn't contracted in the end, the skills building and learning you've achieved... the happiness you've experienced along the way... absolutely priceless.
So, dear reader, whether you are established or emerging, contracted or uncontracted, are worried or unworried, are clear with your direction or fumbling about aimlessly in the dark, trying to make sense of this crazy career, remember this: the journey is everything and heart is everything. Passion and drive and commitment and that sense of bliss should be in EVERY work you do--no matter its publication status. That's how you create works that attract magic. You'd better believe that.
If you are serious about creating great books, then this will be a long and convoluted journey of major ups and downs. Might as well point the bow of your ship towards the Happy end of the creative spectrum whenever you can.
Create that masterpiece without worrying where it will end up or who will love it. Immerse in the journey, commit love and focus to your projects and watch miracles unfold.