Reality vs. Expectations—Remaining Calm When it ALL Goes Pear-Shaped
Today we are going to talk about something potentially embarrassing, but hey I have no shame. But I believe this is a cool thing because I talk about stuff A LOT of people have been through, but few are bold enough to talk about let alone post it in a blog for all to see.
The old way of being a “professional” was to portray you were perfect. Spin everything. Maybe some people still do that, but meh. Not my style. I take the hard hits then talk about them so you guys can learn and to me? That’s more important than anyone thinking I am “perfect.”
Want to know who people really are? Three ways. One. How do they act when they have everything? Two. How do they act when they have nothing? Three. How do they act (respond) when the proverbial caca hits the fan?
For the purposes of today’s blog, I’m interested in number three because it involves a lot of number two (the stinky kind). Before we start though, we must understand that….
Life is NOT Hermetically Sealed
I’d love to say that every time some land mine blew up in my face that my response soooo perfect that Mother Theresa was looking down gettin’ all jealous. That I handled said caca with grace, maturity, kindness, love, yoga, bible study and inspirational quotes. That my response did NOT involve a hell-mouth opening beneath my feet and then spewing out of my mouth. That my reaction did not involve a blast radius.
But one thing I promise on this blog is honesty.
One thing we must learn to be successful in this profession (or any other) is to forbid outside circumstances to own, control or derail us.
Sounds easy in an inspirational quote. The doing? Not so much.
How are we going to handle it when the proverbial caca hits the fan?
Because it is GOING to happen. It isn’t a matter of if, rather a matter of when.
If we allow ourselves to be at the mercy of circumstances? We’re going to be miserable and we’ll never finish the blog or the book. We’ll give up, tap out and take every carb in the house down with us.
Though I’m not where I’d like to be? I’m a hell of a lot better than I used to be. Making the decision to become a writer was the single best thing I could ever have done to grow my character, to mature me and to make me a better (not perfect) person.
Successful people don’t avoid stress, they learn to manage it….often the hard way. Yay!
A lot of why we make ourselves miserable and end up depressed is that our expectations fail to meet with what reality delivers. If you ever want to see this in action, just watch Bridezilla clips off YouTube. The bride has this absurd expectation of what the wedding day should be, an expectation that reality cannot meet (No, sorry, we cannot have cherubim deliver you to the altar on a cloud)…and they implode.
A sinkhole forms around the bride that eats all the bridesmaids, the caterer, the flower girl…and the groom is just standing there like he’s just landed at Normandy.
Expecting too much? Can be problematic.
But we need to be careful about the other side of this emotional coin—especially those of us from crazy dysfunctional families. We can stray to the opposite side of the spectrum and that’s dumb too. Maybe we’ve gone through a lot, been let down a lot so we just expect nothing. Or worse, we expect bad things to happen. We expect to be let down.
That is bad juju as well.
Thus, there is this fine dance we must master between expecting great things, but also being prepared for everything to just go sideways, too.
$h%t WILL Hit the Fan
Going to let y’all in on a little secret. Lean closer. This will blow your mind. Publishing involves…humans. Humans who screw up, make mistakes, etc. Even better? Now that we’re in the digital age? Humans can screw up much FASTER and INSTANTLY.
Sometimes things will go great. When I self-published Rise of the Machines? It was glorious. Beautiful cover, perfect formatting, not a single typo *gets cramp patting self on back*. Of course this was all run by Control Freak Perfectionist Kristen and I damn near killed myself doing it all on my own.
That and Hubby wondered if he needed to bring me more coffee or perhaps toss holy water on me.
The power of Christ compels you!
I’d written a novel The Devil’s Dance (ha ha). I even sent the manuscript to an agent friend who was unafraid to make me cry, just to see if the book was solid. Her answer? Great book and I don’t even like that genre. Thus, I felt cool to query. And I queried and queried and got a lot of “Love the story and the voice but not for us.”
See? Even I get rejected 😛 .
But with all the family stuff going on the past few years (my husband ordered to deploy to Afghanistan, deaths in the family, sickness, Shingles, etc. etc.)? I just didn’t have the bandwidth left to push my novel for a legacy deal and still have passion and energy for this blog and classes, etc.
Thus, the book sat and I just kept feeling inside that I needed to take that step. I needed fiction out there because 1) my original goal was to be a novelist 2) I have enough unpublished novels sitting on the hard drive, no need for one more and 3) I needed skin in the game. I can’t blog week after week challenging you guys to be brave…while hiding.
To make a long story longer, I finally let go of my novel and handed it to a new indie press. I loved the cover. They did a great job proofreading it and I was really happy with the final version. My launch date got pushed up a week. Was supposed to be May 25th and instead it was May 16th but whatever, right? Roll with it.
So we put it on sale for .99 and I am promoting it and messaging people and then all the sudden this inner is voice telling me, “You need to go look at the sample pages.” And I argued with said inner voice. “Nah. What are you talking about? I saw that final version. I approved it.” Inner voice. “Seriously, GURL. LOOK.”
May I welcome y’all to every control freak’s nightmare…
I pull up the sample pages on Amazon and the world drops out from under me. I have no idea what happened. Sun spots. Mercury in retrograde. Essential human error.
Suffice to say the wrong version was uploaded. Better than that? An un-proofed version. Good news is a lot of people bought the book. Bad news? They bought the wrong one.
Excuse me while I go shoot myself.
The publisher immediately corrects the problem, but then Amazon takes their time and it was a mess. The correct version wasn’t syncing and BLARGH. It certainly was NOT how I envisioned launching my debut novel. There were way more typos and way fewer calls from Hollywood involving talks on an HBO series.
Class, What Did We Learn?
I’m a huge fan of failure. No I’m not high on anything, and trust me. If I have a choice between failing and winning? Winning always feels way better. But failure often can be better FOR us long-term.
If we never fail, we never learn. Show me a person who never fails and I’ll show you someone who’s never done anything interesting. They’ve never done a damn thing themselves and often they have a profile that looks like this…
Then they go sprinkle one-star reviews on Goodreads like frigging fairy dust when they’re not trolling blogs.
I learned not to allow myself to be rushed. I was people-pleasing again. I’d just come off the road and was tired, emotional and thin. I went along instead of saying no, then getting rested and making sure what was being put out there. When it blew up in my face? Aside from scrambling to make it right, I refused to make any big decisions because this Kristen when she’s tired…
Yes, I do turn into Danny Trejo with an ax.
And I’d love to say this would never have happened if only I’d been a Random-Penguin! Everything is perfect for legacy published writers. Right? Yeah, no. They have their own (albeit different horror stories) and one day I am sure I will have my own to share.
See, a lot of bad things will happen to us in life and definitely in publishing. Often is it not our fault, but it is ALWAYS our responsibility. People will make mistakes. The mistake is not the core issue, rather what do they do to FIX it?
And how do we handle it when everything goes pear-shaped?
Obviously this is not me being laissez-faire about mess ups, but there is a balance. Yes, strive for excellence as a standard but also recognize there’s this inconvenient thing called reality 😉 .
I was extremely blessed, namely because of this blog. A lot of fans messaged me to tell me my digital skirt was tucked in my digital underwear instead of hammering me with one-star rants.
I was able to explain what happened and get them the correct version. This only happened (I feel) because 1) I had an established reputation for quality and 2) the fans I’ve cultivated here genuinely want me to succeed because of a long-standing relationship.
*prostrates before you*
***NOTE: If you happened to get the wrong version, feel free to email for the correct one. Send a message to captivequillpress at gmail dot com and either a screenshot of the receipt or image of it on your device and include the email for your kindle. We will get you the correct version.
All In All?
Try stuff. When it goes pear-shaped? Examine it. Study. Learn. Try new stuff. Grow, improve, evolve. Get better, change tack. Wood moths did it and surely we’re as smart as a wood moth, right?
And to quote Teddy Roosevelt…
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
What are your thoughts? Have you ever had something go so bad, SO sideways you thought you’d die just from the embarrassment? If so, comment and give us proof of life 😀 . A cover go wrong? Formatting that bit back? Amazon issues? Whatever it is! I like hearing from people who have failed because those are my kind of peeps! People brave enough to at least DO something and give it a go.
LOVE hearing from you guys!
****Just FYI, in an effort to combat spammers your comment won’t appear until I approve it, so don’t fret if it doesn’t appear right away.
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I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
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She is an unbelievable editor, mentor and teacher and a serious expert in these areas. She consults numerous very successful USA Today and NYTBS authors and I highly, highly recommend her classes.
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