“Have no expectations. Have no disappointments.” – Often heard advice.
“Do you mind if I do?” – Right response.
Expectation is a powerful tool in a writer’s career. Without expectation of finishing the book, of finding readers, of publishing, of putting words on the page even if no one reads them and a host of other treats in store, writers have few rewards.
Here are some vital statistics presented at a writers’ workshop a few years ago (this was prior to the entrepreneurial digital explosion):
- only 3% of writers are ever published
- only 3% of writers who are published ever have their name on the cover of a book
When I heard these statistics at the beginning of this millennium, I was among the first 3% and the second 3%, a rarefied group but, for me, less than my ambition. I didn’t consider myself a published writer in the sense I wanted to be.
Through all the years I wrote and edited, I was also writing book-length fiction. This was my ultimate ambition, to be a novelist. I wrote for hours everyday but, as a product of an academic creative writing program, I wasn’t writing anything I felt worthy of publishing. I self-censored. As much as I wanted to write literary fiction, I wasn’t driven to write literary fiction.
In my search for meaningful work, I attended many business seminars but one in particular, in England, given by a dynamic wizard of inspiration who talked about the wonder and power of expectation. The fun in expectation is: it lasts for as long as you are expecting something good to happen.
Once I accepted that I wrote fairy tales, loved writing fairy tales, was driven to write fairy tales, my writing life was transformed. I happily ever after embraced writing happily ever after triumph of the human spirit novels in 2007. That was the result of expectation – the understanding thereof.
When I sent my first completed novel to an agent, I hardly dared expect any positive result but I worked at it. As long as the agent had the book, there was a possibility she would like it. After several months of anticipation and expectation, she requested the full manuscript with the line, “My reader quite liked it.” For the next few months, I enjoyed the possibility of gaining representation, floating around on the expectation of success, months and months of feeling the warm glow of attaining this first goal.
My full manuscript came back. Flat. She loved the story. She loved my characters. She wouldn’t be able to sell it. Was I devastated? No. Disappointed, but that lasted only a few days.
What followed was one life-changing decision after another until I ended up in front of an editor in Orland, Florida talking about three of my novels. She chose the third and I knew immediately that this was the one. From the moment I hit send – after perfecting my partial submission to the best of my ability – I prepared for the possibility this editor might say “Yes.”
Through September and October, I was on the anticipation cloud of great expectations. In those months, I prepared the full manuscript, just in case… She requested the full manuscript at the end of October. In December, the editor sent the manuscript back to me, asking that I make a few changes. I could live with the suggestions and sent the requested changes at the end of January.
Here was yet more opportunity for months of expectation while I carried on with my day job in rental real estate. At the same time, I lurched between expectation and disappointment with frequent rejections from agents.
February passed. March was coming to an end. No word. I flirted with the idea of contacting the editor but held off – because I didn’t want the expectation to end.
While you’re waiting, there is possibility.