The Inevitable Traffic Jams on the Journey to Publication

Last week I had to be away from home due to a family emergency. The week was tense and stressful, but I was glad I could help my dear mother through a difficult time. If you didn’t see me around cyberland as much as usual, that’s why. (Plus I had very spotty internet connection, which was a huge trial too!)

During the long nine-hour drive home, I chugged coffee and worked hard to stay awake—especially because my kids were along and I wanted to drive safely for them. As I crossed the border into Michigan, I finally started to breathe easier. I was on the home stretch. 

Or so I thought . . . Only an hour away from my town in the center of the state, I got stuck in two traffic jams. In ninety-plus degree heat, there I sat on the interstate in a bumper-to-bumper crawl. A legless tortoise could have gone faster. 

As I tapped the steering wheel and craned my neck to see what was causing the hold-up, I realized I could allow myself to go crazy with the frustration of waiting, or I could sit back and take it in stride. Either way, I wouldn’t be able to change the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere.

Many writers are zipping down the highway with the end destination of publication. And yet, just when we think we’re getting close to reaching our dream, the road narrows, goes down to one lane, and is no longer wide enough for everyone. 

As we merge, we get stuck in an epic writers' traffic jam. Writers who once could move along at their own pace suddenly screech to a near-halt and find themselves in a massive clog of other writers, unable to move forward or go back. 

Let’s face it, the highways that lead to “Agent City” and “Traditional Publication Town” are popular and busy and can’t accommodate everyone at the same time. Therefore, in today’s mammoth, somewhat antiquated writing industry, traffic jams have become an inevitable part of the journey

Unfortunately, when we’re in those hold-ups we have no control over how long we’ll have to wait or how fast the line moves. But . . . we do have control over our attitudes during the frustrating standstill. Here are several things we can do to make the most of the traffic jams:

    Distract ourselves.

When we’re waiting to hear back from an agent or publisher, it’s very hard not to check our email a hundred times an hour. We can drive ourselves crazy—just like constantly looking ahead in the traffic line to see if the end is finally in sight. We’ll only feed our impatience and stir up our discontentment.

We need to stop craning our necks to see the future. Instead we can look for ways to distract ourselves in the present: think about other things, study good books, read fiction how-to guides, brainstorm ideas—anything to take our minds off the situation.

    Stay productive.

It’s one thing to distract ourselves, but it’s another thing to keep working on tasks that will really help us.  We can get sidetracked with social media, our blogs, or a hundred and one other things. But we have to ask ourselves, are we staying productive in the work that will really help our careers?

During my waiting periods, I’ve found that the best thing I can do is to write another book. While The Preacher’s Bride sat in a slush pile for nine long months, I completed another manuscript. Then when agents and publishers started to show an interest in me, I had a second book to present to them. 

    Establish smaller milestones.

When we look too far ahead, it’s easy to get dissatisfied by the distance we still have to go. We start to wish we could trade places with those who are further along. And we grow discouraged with the slowness of the journey and the roadblocks before us.

Instead, we should look for ways we can still keep moving forward one inch at a time. We need to always keep writing in one form or another. I set daily and weekly word count goals. If I don’t meet the word count one day, I try to make up for it by the end of the week.

I also celebrate every time I reach a new milestone (no matter how big or small). This journey is tough, and we need to take every opportunity we can to give ourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.

How about you? Have you ever hit a traffic jam in your writing journey? What kinds of things have you done to keep yourself from going crazy during the waiting?

This week I'm giving away a signed copy of my next release, The Doctor's Lady (Sept. 1). Answer an easy trivia question to enter the drawing! Click here for rules and to enter.

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