Beware this sentence.
We all have one. I if I could only find an agent/ get a book deal/ lose seven pounds/ get promoted/ get married then I would be happy. But the problem is, it’s a lie.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all about goals. Goals are great (and lists!). But the ‘if only’ is something far more insidious because it’s the thing you come to regard it as a panacea for everything else.
For me there is no ‘if only’ more powerful than the idea of getting a book deal. Two years ago, I tried to sell my first novel and was unsuccessful. I came maddeningly close but ultimately my ‘if only’ proved elusive. I was a mess the whole time: from the first query letter I sent out to my conversation some months later with my agent after the publishing house that had been dangling a carrot of interest for a while passed, when I knew it was over, that there was no one left to send it to.
I look at pictures of myself from this time and I don’t think I’ve ever looked worse. That kind of malaise tends to manifest itself physically, like it’s coming out your pores, like your hair knows your miserable. The problem wasn’t that I didn’t get published; the problem was that I was unhappy with the rest of my life and I thought that getting a book deal would make me SO happy that it would make me not care about any of the other stuff. And it probably would have, for a week or so.
Fortunately I’ve made a lot of huge changes since then and I am a much happier person than I was the last time I went down this rocky road. Make no mistake, the query/ submission process is still awful and some days I feel the weight of it pulling me down. But when I find myself going into that familiar downward spiral now, I mope for a bit and then move focus to one of the other parts of my life that is currently awesome. I didn’t really have that option before because there weren’t any other parts of my life I felt good about: I was unhappy with my job, my love life, my social life (three of my best friends had just left New York) and myself.
So well I still have my moments, I’m coping better. When I get frustrated or even a little angry with the whole process- I have a glass a wine instead of the whole bottle and I don’t cry after EVERY rejection letter, more like after every fifth or sixth. This is progress no?
And I try to think about what I can do on a practical, daily basis to get myself to where I want to be; as opposed to just longing and fretting. This to me is the difference between owning your ‘if only’ and it owning you.
What’s your ‘if only’?