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Agony Editor: What to do when your publishing dreams turn to dread

Dear Agony Editor,

When I’m working on a novel, I’m fine. Then, a few months before it gets published, I turn into an emotional wreck. I’m anxious, stressed out, and I worry about everything. I want to enjoy what should be a sweet moment. But I can’t. How do I worry less and enjoy success more?


Worry Wart

Dear Worry Wart,

That’s a $1 million question. And I’m not sure I have a $1 million answer. In fact, it might not even clear a hundred bucks, but here it goes.

I think you have two issues working against you: your need for control and your writer’s imagination. In terms of control, say goodbye to it when you publish a book. That tightly controlled fictional world you’ve created is now going out into a scary place – the real world. And for writers who are used to controlling dialogue, plot, settings, and characters, the unpredictability of reality can be unsettling.

Secondly, your writer’s imagination is likely conjuring up every possible bad scenario: your book getting panned, angry friends recognizing themselves in your characters, or – most terrifying of all – a typo. When we worry, we stress about things beyond our control.

And if you can’t control something, why spend your time worrying about it? Everyone experiences periods of anxiety, but when that anxiety acts as a roadblock to your happiness or, at least, prevents you from celebrating a huge accomplishment (Hello? You’re publishing a novel!), you might consider seeking professional help.

In terms of your imagination, one of the hardest parts of being a writer is learning when to turn it on and when to turn it off. It’s possible, but requires practice and long-term effort. Here’s a tip: when you find your imagination creating havoc, try shifting your thinking. Even a physical shift can go a long way, be it exercise or a change of scenery or even a craft. (Never underestimate the soothing power of papier mâché.)

If you don’t take time to enjoy your success, no one else will. The world can be a sour place at times. All the more reason to celebrate those sweet moments when you can.


July 16th, 2020

11:38 am

Category: Opinion

Issue Date: July 2020