That Sinking Feeling
“Would Columbus have discovered America if he’d said ‘What if I sink on the way over? What if I meet pirates? What if I never come back?’ He wouldn’t even have started.”
Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
I am, in the words of my best beloved, an Eyore. Give me good news, and I’ll somehow manage to find the down side in it. If you manage to land an agent, for example, I’ll be terrifically happy for you and offer to take you out for drinks. If I find an agent, it has to have been a mistake, and it doesn’t really matter anyhow, because my book will never sell, publishing will go kablooey if it does, and if, by some sheer miracle of luck said book does happen to manage to make it into the bookstores, a hurricane and a wildfire will burst out simultaneously, not only keeping anyone from buying the damn thing but burning down all bookstores in the process.
Think I’m kidding? Not so much. I happen to have a lovely vintage bottle of Mumm’s DVX champagne sitting in my refrigerator. It’s about 10 years old, and I’ve been saving it for ‘when I sell a book.’ Did I pop that cork when I landed my fabulous agent? Nope. Did I pop it when he sold my book in record time to my fabulous editor? Still no. What about when I received my ARC? Negative.
That bottle still sits, perfectly chilled, labeled, and untouched. (Although to be fair, my husband has gone out and bought me a less expensive bottle of bubbly at most of these steps, intoning “Shut up and drink the damn thing, will you?” as he stood over me.)
So what exactly am I waiting for? What event or milestone is ‘worthy’ enough to pop the top? I don’t know, but I suspect it will be as close to the end of the process as possible — probably when I walk into my local bookstore and see it for sale on the shelves. Only then will it seem ‘real’ — and only then will I stop worrying that something could go wrong. (The title is Evenfall, if you are interested, and it comes out in February. Feel free to prove me wrong by preordering a copy.)
I bring this up only because this mental habit of assuming the worst is something I’m trying to change. My daughter turned nine this week, and she’s as lovely and wonderful as a dream. She’s unlike me in many ways — she’s graceful, for example, and already so kind I find myself trying to model her behavior when I’m frustrated. But in one way, at least, she’s starting to take after me — I can see her turning happy events over in her head and worrying how they can go wrong. The quote at the start of this post is from one of our favorite books. And while we cackle like hyenas whenever it is read (get the audio version by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame — it’s hysterical) I hate to say that at least one of us recognizes the truth of it.
Is this trait genetic or environmental? I don’t know, but I suspect a bit of both. Can I do anything to change it? Again, I don’t know, but I think I have to try. And if that involves popping open and drinking vintage champagne in the next few weeks, you can count me in …. probably.
Speaking of celebrating, we have a winner! Barb, A Devil in the Details belongs to you. If you didn’t win, stick around — I’m doing a contest a week till my new website is up, and there will be another chance for another book in a few days.