October is royalty month for some publishers (along with April). When my first book was published and had earned out its advance before it was even released due to sub-rights sales, I loved royalty month. It meant getting a check for which I’d already done the work. How cool was that?

But after other books were published and sales were only okay, those months became an exercise in feeling bad. I dreaded opening the big envelope from my agent. I’d feel a knot in my stomach as I looked at the numbers and have thoughts like “I’m a failure” and “These publishers are never going to take another novel from me because my track record sucks.”

I’d relive all the marketing I’d done and try to do more–often doing things I didn’t like doing–while I placed new projects on the back burner.

I’d repeat the coulda-woulda-shoulda mantra. I could have done more marketing. If I would have done more marketing…I should have done more marketing.

STOP!

What did all of these thoughts have in common? I felt crappy when I thought them. I realized that my book sales didn’t define me as a person. My book sales weren’t me. I wasn’t a failure. I was still a writer and a darn good one. I was still a person and a darn good one.

This month when I received the big white envelope, I hardly had any thoughts when I opened it. There was the teeniest niggle of “dang” when I saw the numbers, but I quickly shifted away from it. I thought about how we’d sold a picture book last year. How I’d had some bites on my rhyming board books series and had revised it and re-visioned it three times before coming up with something I loved. (It’s currently out on submission and I feel good about finding an editor who will love it as much as we do.) How I finished a good draft of FADE AWAY, my YA novel, and was making progress on revisions after getting feedback from my agent.

And I focused on my prize: Joy. Besides the big stuff like having something out on submission or placing a manuscript, I thought about the everyday writing things that give me joy:

  • Making progress on a manuscript
  • Planning a new story idea
  • Finding the perfect word
  • Finding the right way to approach a scene
  • Straightening up my writing studio
  • Teaching my classes because I get to bask in the glow of talent and excitement of the writers with which I share time
  • Hearing the progress and successes (big and small) of fellow writers

I could go on, but I think you get the drift. Knowing I have a choice in my thoughts and where I put my attention has given me the freedom to choose joy. To choose fun.

And I feel great.

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