Yes, Please: Ten Things Amy Poehler Taught Me About Publishing
Note: If you haven’t read Poehler’s Yes, Please you should. One part memoir, one part self-help, and one part funny pictures, it’s a balm for a creative person’s soul. And being involved in publishing guarantees you’ll need some soul-soothing at some point in the game.
10. Your Phone Does Not Want You to Finish That Manuscript
We’ve all been there. You sit down, cue up your playlist, and open your manuscript. “I’ll just check Twitter,” you murmur to that seductive little bird. “Give me five minutes.” Three hours later, you’ve checked your email ten times, Twitter-stalked every agent on your query list, and looked up your ex-boyfriend’s mug shot. Stop. Turn your phone to airplane mode if you have to, but get off the Internet and write.
9. It’s Easier to Be Brave When You’re Not Alone
You sit down at your computer—with your coffee or your tea or your Sour Patch Kids—and you make some stuff up. Easy, right? But wait. Now you’re supposed to let other people read it. You’re supposed to ask them if your stuff is good or bad or full of passive voice. Holy terrifying, Batman. Find writer friends. Friends who are also waving their stuff around for everyone to see. You’ll be amazed at how much braver you become.
8. You Don’t Always Have to Win to Get the (Contest) Pudding
It seems like every week there’s a new contest. They’re all this weird, amazing mash up of hope and excitement and horror. You might final. You might not. You might get ten requests. You might not. IT DOESN’T MATTER. If it’s a pitch contest, make friends with others who are pitching. If you like them, con them into being your critique partners. If you get feedback on your pages, focus on strengthening your story. That’s real pudding.
7. Nice Manners Are the Not-So-Secret Keys to the Universe
Be polite. Be professional. No one wants to work with a jerk.
6. Listen, (Wait) and Say Yes
You’ve written something. You love it. It’s made of your sweat and blood and all that wine you spilled on your printer. Then you give it to your critique partner/agent/editor, and they tell you all sorts of things about it. Heavy things. Things that make you want to light your laptop on fire and roast marshmallows over its remains.
Listen to what they’re saying. Don’t try to rationalize or explain. Just listen. Wait—a day, a week, a month—however long it takes to dull the pain. Then say yes to the things that stuck with you, even if they’re heavy. Even if they mean a lot more work than you ever intended. Because, let’s face it, writing is always a lot more work than you ever intended.
5. Good for Her, Not for Me
I know people who write entire manuscripts in a weekend. I know people who take years to finish a first draft. I know someone who got an agent after sending out five queries. I know someone who found an agent after a hundred queries. There are as many paths to publishing as there are writers. Find what works for you and embrace it.
4. Learn to Stomach Other People Not Stomaching You
You’ll work on your story for months, agonizing over every word choice. You’ll get three new gray hairs and do enough research to end up on some kind of Homeland Security watch list. Doesn’t matter. Someone’s going to think it’s dull. Someone else is going to hate it. Your own editor might cut out all of your that’s-what-she-said jokes. (*waves to editor*) It’s okay. Take a deep breath. Go read some one-star reviews for your favorite books and remind yourself that art is subjective.
3. Great People Do Things Before They Are Ready
If you’re like me, you’re never going to feel ready. Not for querying, not for submission, not for seeing your book in other people’s hands. The story will never be perfect enough. It will never be everything you want it to be. At some point, you’ve just got to jump and hope you land on your feet.
2. Learn to Live With Your Demon
Every writer has a demon—that sometimes too loud voice that reminds you of your worst flaws. Maybe your demon sounds like Kathleen Turner. Smooth and edgy and a little bit sexy. Unfortunately, mine sounds like Gilbert Gottfried. “Your writing isn’t commercial enough,” he says. (Every. Single. Day.) “There aren’t any [rock stars/body guards/alpha heroes/take your pick]. You think someone will buy this? Ha. Not even your mother will read this.”
I’m learning to treat him like the drunk uncle at Christmas. I give him enough attention to make sure he’s still breathing, but not much more. “Yeah, yeah.” I keep typing. (Always keep typing.) “I know there aren’t any rock stars, but I’m busy writing this scene set in a nursing home bathroom. I’m having fun, so remind me how no one will want it later. Thanks, bye.”
1. Treat Publishing Like a Bad Boyfriend
Publishing isn’t the same as storytelling. The drive to tell stories—through books or songs or TV—is
what keeps most writers going. It gets us through day jobs and illness and all that crap we call being adults.
Publishing is another beast all together. It’ll whisper sweet nothings in your ear one minute and punch you in the ovaries the next. When things are good, they’re perfect. But there will always be a younger, prettier author with a movie deal waiting in the wings. (Her book will probably be full of sexy rock stars.) Don’t give publishing all your attention and energy. Don’t forget about the things you love. And remember, if things get too bad, you can always go sleep with somebody else.
Maybe even a rock star.
|Without Borders by Amanda Heger|
Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.