The Mixed Emotions of the Writing Life

My very first published book is starting to hit bookstore shelves around the country. Amazon reviews are beginning to roll in. And my insides are flipping out with all kinds of acrobatics maneuvers—so many that I think my stomach will be ready for the Olympic gymnastic tryouts.

From time to time, friends ask me, “How does all of this make you feel?”

My first answer to that question is, “I’m incredibly thrilled!” After all, I’ve spent years and years working hard, improving my craft, writing book after book, and chasing after publication. And now I’m at the point in my writing career where I’m seeing a lifelong dream come true.

But then my second answer to that question is, “I’m scared too.” I can’t help but wonder what people are really thinking as they read my book, if they’re just telling me they like it to be nice, or if some aren’t saying anything because they can’t find something positive.

Excitement and nervousness do the cha-cha-cha across my mind and through my heart. One minute I’m pulled in one direction with giddy anticipation, and the next I’m stepping back, wanting to protect myself from the negative that is just a twirl away.

In the debut dance, there’s also the self-consciousness that comes from stepping into the spotlight. When it’s our time to take a turn on the dance floor, we can’t cower in the corner any longer. We have to get out, let the light shine on us, and feel the heat. And for those of us writers who are used to a relatively unobtrusive lifestyle, the attention feels slightly uncomfortable.

On the one hand I’m pleased to have the newspaper write up a flattering article about me, to have my dog’s vet office send me a card of congratulations, and to get stopped for a handshake at the store. But on the other hand, I also want to stay the normal, busy mom of five, because I’m just an ordinary person with an ordinary life.

And finally, in the mixed emotions of debuting, I'm filled with deep appreciation for all of those who want to help make this debut successful. I love hearing from friends who’ve made a point of buying my book simply because they want to encourage me. But on the other hand, worry lingers in the back of my mind, nagging me with questions like, “Will I earn out my advance?” “Will my publisher be glad they took a chance on me?” “Will I have respectable sales figures?”

What I’m realizing is that no matter where we’re at in our writing careers, there will always be mixed emotions. Maybe it’s the high of getting a request from one agent, but the cold shoulder from another. It could be the pain of a harsh critique one week, but a contest final the next. Perhaps it’s the excitement of garnering interest from a publisher, but then the agony of having to wait for months to hear back.

We have to resolve ourselves to the fact that the writing journey is always going to have dips in the road. It’s a bumpy ride--before and after publication. If we can adjust our perspective and realize it’s not all smooth sailing, we’ll be better prepared, more realistic, and develop the stamina to keep going through the ups and the downs.

Through it all, I remind myself of how blessed I am to have the gift of being able to weave stories. Not everyone gets to do something they absolutely love.

What about you? Have you experienced the mixed emotions that come with the writing life? I’ve shared my feelings openly. Now I’d love to hear yours.

P.S. If you'd like the chance to win a copy of The Preacher's Bride, make sure you head over to Trivia Question #4 and leave a comment!


  1. Oh, definitely. I have a full request and I'm both excited and terrified. *sigh*
    I guess that's all part of following a dream though. :-)
    I'm soooo excited for you! Whether or not you earn stuff out, God has a plan for that book to touch people. :-)

  2. Well for me, you can rest assured that I wasn't blowing smoke just to make you feel better (though I understand that particular paranoia!) I truly, truly could not put your book down Jody. Just ask my husband. Every time he'd look at me, I'd be like, "This is SO freakin' good!"

    This post is spot on - a great reminder ot me and something I've been learning. Getting an agent doesn't make things all better. So I'm sure getting published doesn't either. I'm one of those who is waiting, wiating, waiting to hear back from a publisher. It's not all sunshine and roses, that's for sure!

  3. I love to hear your journey, Jody. The ups and's all part of the journey. Thanks for sharing, because it certainly makes me feel better!!!

  4. Up and down yes, every other week so it seems. I try my hardest to ignore both extremes because it usually has nothing to do with my writing just perceptions.

  5. If we never experienced any of those emotions we couldn't grow.

    Congratulations on a job well done. Hard work does pay off.


  6. I have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. ;)

    Coming from someone who often asks you how it feels, of course you know I'm in touch with the feeling conversations.

    I'm riding the waves with hands lifted.

    Finished TPB last night. Powerful. Characters will stay with me. Well done. I'll write my review next week.

    ~ Wendy

  7. Oh, I've been so mixed up of late, Jody. You make me feel like it's okay. That it's normal.

    I bought a book yesterday, it's called The Right to Write: An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life (by Julia Cameron). It's meant as an intro to newbies, or companion to those already living the life as navigating the world of creativity becomes difficult. I'm looking forward to reading it.

    Your dream is coming true! Even with the doubts and fears, it's a wonderful thing!

  8. Writing definitely a roller coaster ride life! Not just in the ups and downs of it, but in the I'm-terrified-but-loving-it kind of feelings, too.

    BTW--your book is featured on my blog today. :)

  9. "...develop the stamina..." Those three words say it all. Somehow, writers must find the balance between all the concerns and fears and waiting and disappointment; and the positives, the writing itself and success in the public when it follows.

    Jody, I haven't read Preacher's Bride yet...but I'm not kidding...deep in my heart, just from reading this blog regularly, I KNOW it is going to be good. After I don't win your next drawing, I'm hopping right on to Amazon. Truly, I can't wait to read it.

  10. So well said. It's easy for me to let others' opinions reflect on what I think of my writing. I can only imagine what this will feel like next year.

    Looking forward to starting your book!

  11. I talk to my husband everyday on my way to work. He heads one direction, I the other, and we talk without the interruption of children for 20+ minutes. This morning, I told him I would call him as soon as I got in the car at 7:30, and at 8:12, I realized I was late for work and had blown off my husband. I couldn't put the book down and actually thought for a minute in calling in sick with the sore throat I actually have. Alas, I need the paycheck.

    I'm loving The Preacher's Bride! I cannot wait to finish it, but then again, I think I'm going to be sad when I close the last page b/c it's over. Beautifully written, friend! The characters are going to stay with me well-after I finish the last page.

    Oh, and the answer to the question you asked -- I experience mixed emotions almost every single day. One day, I might receive encouragement from a critique partner, my husband, or even a professional, but the next, I'm staring at the edits I need to finish and I wonder if I'm truly capable or am I just pretending I can do this.

    Have a great day!

  12. As I'm reading this I can't help but compare your thoughts on the book coming out to the experience of giving birth and becoming a mom - another exciting, but scary experience.

    Although I am getting bolder with age, I am still a pretty shy person. When people comment on my writing I just try to smile and be grateful, even though I sometimes would rather hide because of the attention!

  13. Oh Jody, this is so spot on. I love the metaphor of doing the cha cha. Try to just enjoy the ride and don't worry about sales because truly, you cannot control that. All you can do are the things we are taught we can do to self-promote and let go and let God.

  14. Jody, I finished your book over the weekend and I can confidently say--your publisher, agent, and everyone else who took a chance on you (including the reader) will NOT regret it. Incredible! You have an amazing talent. I was so amazed at the depth of your research, your voice, and your storytelling. GREAT JOB! :0)

  15. I certainly feel like I've been living the roller coaster lately. From the insane high of an offer of representation a week a ago, to finding out with additional research that the agency was misrepresenting itself, to making the hard decision to turn down the offer, to the doubt that followed -- did I just make a terrible mistake and ended my own career? And then top that with passes from several other agents who quickly read the full with some very critical comments... *sigh* If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have told you that I was giving up because clearly we're not good enough.

    But what's the saying? When ever God closes a door, somewhere he opens a window? We got a request for a full ms last night. So onward ho. But it certainly is a roller coaster ride of emotional highs and lows and we haven't even gotten to where you are now.

    Thank you for a very timely post, reminding me that this is something that we all go through. And if we're good enough and if we get a bit of luck in our timing and our connections, we'll get to where you are in your career. Enjoy your premier week! You deserve a great one!

  16. Thank, Jody, for posting. I am new here, still. I have already found you to be encouraging, thoughtful and well..real. I haven't gotten to the point in my writing career of being published, though I am learning a lot just reading about your own journey.

  17. "What I’m realizing is that no matter where we’re at in our writing careers, there will always be mixed emotions."

    I'm barely getting started on my writing journey and I've already found this to be so, so true.

    Thanks for the post, and congratulations on your success!

  18. I absolutely have the mixed emotions! I am grateful for the perspective since you are on the "other side" of this mountain now - YOUR BOOK IS ON THE SHELF (and soon to be on MY shelf!)!! It is a rollercoaster ride, but I don't want to get off! :)

  19. I can't wait to see your novel in stores!!! Congrats, Jody!

  20. Congrats, Jody!

    It seems like your experience demonstrates something psychologists say: that change is stressful, whether the change is positive or negative.

    And I think your ability to notice and report the simultaneous (and sometimes conflicting) details is one of the things that makes you a good writer. ;)

  21. Truth! Since signing our contact, this has been one heck of a roller coaster ride! But congratulations on your debut, and good luck!

  22. Jody,

    Thanks for putting into words the cyclone of emotions that we writers go through. It's a constant up and done, elation, defeat, terror!!!

    But we deal with it and keep on going because we love the craft.

    Can't wait to read your book. I'm putting it on my Christmas list!

    Take care and enjoy the wonderful ride!


  23. Jody, I have to tell you - with complete honesty and deep sincerity - that I LOVE your book! LOVE IT! Last night my husband told me that I either needed to put the book away or go sleep on the couch, because I was keeping him up. I am so in love with Elizabeth and John. You have created something powerful and beautiful and utterly suspenseful.

    If I don't finish tonight, I just might sleep on the couch until I do!! :-)

  24. I can understand, to some extent (haven't published a book yet:) - the writing road is an adventure. As far as my opinion and review of your book, it's all true! It is a wonderful book. Thank you for allowing me to feature you this week on the blog. So many good things yet to come for you!

  25. There are a lot of mixed emotions in the writing life... I go from excited to stressed (so much to do) to overwhelmed and back to excited. But, you're right, the feeling I have most often is gratefulness... I'm so incredibly grateful that God has given me this opportunity and to the people who have helped me along the way.

  26. As I wait for feedback on my novels that are out there. I'm wondering what the person I sent them to will think of them. Will she fall in love with them? Does one outshine the others? Will the manuscripts themselves reveal I'm a horrible writer, or will this lead to something wonderful? I'm right there with you Jody. I think it's only natural. BTW, I LOVED The Preacher's Bride!!~~ I'm passing on my copy to my girlfriend and I have another copy on the way and plan on passing it along too. I'll be reviewing your novel for the parents at my children co-op group as well, via the monthly newsletter. =)

  27. Anne's "I'm-terrified-but-loving-it" roller coaster comparison made me laugh! All of life is an adventure so I wouldn't expect publication to be any different. What I'm learning from others, though, is it's more personal than I thought -- more like the emotions connected to sending our first born off to kindergarten.

    Thank you once again for sharing your journey with such honesty and openness. Your experiences are helping to prepare me for the exciting adventure that I hope is in my future.

    P.S. Just one more day!!! Congratulations, Jody!

  28. I'm really excited for you. I can understand being nervous, having those mixed emotions. But try not to get so bogged down in the nervousness that you forget to live in this incredible moment that you won't ever quite get to have again.

  29. Jody, since you just helped me through my Proposal Panic, I don't have to tell you how I run the gamut of emotions. The writer's life is never dull. The way I see it, though, is that by experiencing the full range of feelings ourselves, we're better able to add them to our stories and evoke them in our readers. How's that for a positive spin? :-)

  30. Aww... I loved this post! It shows you're still a real person and pub hasn't gone to your head. I say sit back and enjoy the sweet taste of the success you've earned so far!

    Kudos! Can't wait to read it!

  31. Oh yeah, those mixed emotions are always there. But it's nice to know that they affect all of us, from beginning to writers to published authors.

    I'm so excited about your book release! Congratulations!

  32. It can be a roller coaster experience, but sometimes the highs are higher and the lows are lower. I had a similar experience when I was teaching, riding a lot of highs and surviving a lot of lows.

  33. You've summed up my own feelings precisely, Jody. I've always been something of a private person, too.

  34. I just recently experienced the highs and lows...went from being runner-up in the Genesis to getting my final scores back. One judge was pretty harsh with their score and comments. I battled some big-time doubts but reminded myself that I got positive feedback from the others and that it's all very subjective. My husband brought up a good point, too. I just need ONE agent and/or publishing house to like it, not ALL of them.

  35. Well, I can't wait to hold your book in my hand and dig in!! Enjoy this time with your FIRST book--it happens only once!

  36. I'm still so new I think I have more doubts than confidences:) I don't trust myself yet, and maybe that's a good thing. I'm relying completely on the Divine direction.

    My critique partners do a job job of helping build my confidence that I am on the right track.

    Hearing about your successes is just the medicine I need:) I'm treating myself to your book on Friday, I can't wait!

  37. Thanks for being so open. I feel like I've been given a window into the future (hopefully!).

    God bless

  38. As writers, I think we're just naturally filled with doubt. The journey is a roller coaster ride, that's for sure. I love how we're all in the car on the tracks with you, through the ups and downs.

    I'm on chapter 8 of your book, and I'm loving it! I'm not just saying that, although I'd be thinking the same thing. Just know that you've done an amazing job, and I love Elizabeth!

  39. Am I wasting my time...and the time of others?


  40. Oh, yes. Giddy one day that an agent chose to offer me representation, sucking my thumb the next that ten editors have rejected my proposals. Dancing one day that I've sold two stories to a major publisher for anthologies; stuffing my face with dark chocolate the next when that same publisher rejects my next two stories.
    Sometimes you have to tell your emotions to shut up, and just do your best.
    BTW, I LOVE PB!!!! You are brilliant!!!!

  41. Jody, I'm so excited for you! Your honesty about the mixed emotions you are feeling is so refreshing. I think that I fall into the trap of thinking that once I've found an agent, or once I've got a book deal I'll be "there" - and everything will be happy and perfect. I see by reading your blog and following your journey that it is a mix - a journey with ups and downs. I do hope you'll be able to enjoy and celebrate the ups of this amazing time in your writing journey!! I'm looking forward to reading the book :)

  42. Like you, I've spent all of my adult life writing books, trying to get published, feeling elated when agents ask for the complete manuscript, then deflated when they reject it. From what I hear from even the most successful writers, the mixed feelings never go away. Every new book requires the discipline to sit down and write it, and every new book has to be sold once again to the public. The process may be bumpy, but how lucky we are to have something that every day gives our lives meaning, eh?

    Congratulations and good luck! You deserve it!

  43. Jody, mixed emotions is a part of a writer's life. It happens with me often I tend to feel the ups and downs of my character's life.

    Even when I am reading I experience mixed emotions as some characters really suck me into the story.

  44. Hi Jody -

    I also get mixed emotions. The idea of putting my work out there for all to see makes me go weak in the knees. At the same time, I know God has called me to write.


  45. Jody,

    I guess I'm a caboose comment here, bringing up the rear.

    Writing is very hard on the writer in many ways. It helps us most if we truly love what we are doing for it's own sake.

    Even so, there will be ups and downs, sometimes all mixed together. And the ordinary life that goes on is a gift. We need that to keep us grounded.

  46. Writing drives me nuts with the roller coaster ride of emotions. But would I do anything else? Nope, because it's all worth it in the end.

  47. Emotions? Oh, yeah.

    Fear of failure, fear of success.

    I hope the agent wants a proposal.

    I hope he doesn't want a proposal.

    Where's the chocolate?


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