Thursday, February 24, 2011

I would be happy if only __________

                                the view from the beach house where I am thinking deep thoughts

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’?


  1. This is so true!!! It's interesting to how the minute you forget what you think you want and focus on what you actually have and what is good in your life, how that other stuff seems to get answered.

  2. If only I could get out of Vegas ... then I'd be happy ...