November 1985. I had done it! I had finished the manuscript I was working on, entitled Search For Peace. I’d made three editing passes to clean up the manuscript. After studying Writer’s Market and the Literary Market Place, I’d compiled a list of 78 publishers who looked like possible candidates to accept and publish the book. I spent three months researching the publishing industry at the Rice University Library. From the initial list, I had identified 22 publishers as the most likely to accept the manuscript, which would be my first round of submissions. With a new top-of-the-line personal computer, a Macintosh 512, it would be easy to print out sample chapters and query letters to send out to publisher. I’d done my homework, and everything was ready. I had made a commitment to myself to submit a manuscript to a publisher before the end of 1985, and now it was time!
Note: The following are segments of my journals because they express so clearly what was going on for me as I readied myself to submit my manuscript to publishers.
11-25-85. The next step on writing is clear — follow the original goal and submit the manuscript — before the end of the year. Take the next several weeks to review it one more time and make sure it’s completely ready.
12-9-85. I’m scared because it’s time to submit my manuscript and the thought freezes me. But later that day, I called a publisher on my list, to clarify their submission requirements. It felt good to take a small step forward.
12-10-85. I realized my confidence is still low regarding my writing. The fear block is keeping me from moving on submitting the first manuscript. I didn’t notice until I just read my journal that I was talking about “the first” manuscript — I had just unconsciously declared my intention to write more than one book. As I read my journals through to the end of the year, I noticed that I was really busy with social activities, and the manuscript was never mentioned again.
1-8-86. I woke up feeling drained and edgy. I have been hesitating on submitting the manuscript and trying to pin down why.
1-9-86. This was a neat day. I feel a real sense of peace, progress, and accomplishment. I realized on the way home why I haven’t been writing much recently. Partly emotional overload, but partly writer’s block, coming up on the hurdle of submitting for publication. I’m still holding on to responsibility for what happens to the book when I send it to the publisher. Why haven’t I told more people I was writing? Still low self esteem? I think this may have been the first time that I used the term writer’s block. It was surprising to see how readily the phrase fell out onto paper in my journal.
1-14-86. I worked up the submission information. I finished printing up my submission information for one of the publishers. My brain raced late at night. I mentioned this in my journal almost as an aside, and said nothing else about it. I was journalling extensively, and the absence of any commentary about getting a submission ready, and the racing brain it had brought on, was very conspicuous.
1-17-86. I went and mailed the first submission. No other comments.
1-28-86. I talked with my girlfriend about the block in not submitting the manuscript to other publishers. Some kind of wall to break through. She couldn’t believe I had stopped there. “So you’re setting yourself up to fail.” Bingo! It felt like she’d put a lemon in my mouth. Ugh! But it had the ring of truth to it.
1-29-86. A friend suggested if I was feeling resistance about submitting my manuscript, what about setting a deadline and sharing it with someone. Later that day, I decided to submit the book to 20 publishers by February 20th, and tell my friend Dave about it and ask him to hold me accountable.
1-30-86. Dave returned my call, and I committed to him that I would submit my book to 20 publishers by February 28th. He applauded my courage and affirmed what a risk I was taking. He said he was “the good kind of jealous” of me for living out my dream. I asked if he could help me by just calling me on the 28th, and ask if I had done it. Nothing more than that, the rest was up to me. He agreed to do that.
I had always thought the phrase “paralyzed by fear” was just an expression. Until I experienced it.
2-4-86. I lay in bed frozen by fear and unable to move. It (the fear) was about my past with Sheila, my present with Lynette, submitting the book – it was all jumbled up. Dave called with concerns and fears about his girlfriend. I shared my fears, the women, the book, and that I was not sure that was all of it. He suggested not looking at the whole of the submission project, but just one publisher at a time. When I had been laying in bed, it was very frightening, because it was like my arms and legs would not work – I felt like I physically could not move. I felt paralyzed. It was eerie. It was not the last time I would have that experience.
2-4-86, continued. I went and got the 1986 version of Writer’s Market, and How To Get Happily Published, and that was my next step. [later that day] I finished updating my publishers list from the new Writer’s Market. The next step seems to be to draft a query letter, read the publishing book, and start submitting to a couple of publishers.
2-5-86. I studied the Literary Marketplace today, and integrated that information into my notes. I realized how much homework I’d already done, how far along I really was, and how it was really flowing. How much I was learning about publishing. By looking just at the next step, I’m taking anxiety out of it, and enjoying each step.
2-6-86. I got a cover letter and query formatted. I set up 20 publishers cover letter files. I felt empowered. If the publisher requested sample chapters, I would send a cover letter which included the query. If they requested query only, I had drafted a separate query letter.
2-11-86. I went to the library and finished up looking at publishing resources. I came home and lost my lunch because of nerves and fear. I had a restless night, and realized I was in a lot of fear.
2-12-86. I realized I had to run to the fear. I printed out 4 of the query letters, and put them into the mail. I came home and started printing sample chapters and cover letters for the other publishers.
2-20-86. Lou mentioned that he knows a literary agent in New York, and has a publishing contact in Houston. I was shocked to see this entry in my journal notes – I must have completely blocked it out, because I never followed up with Lou about it.
2-22-86. I finished processing 10 more submissions and put them in the mail. I’m almost home free!
2-27-86. I dropped the last submission letter in the mail. I felt giddy excited – what a sense of accomplishment. Dave called, trying to work through in his head how to confront his boss on an issue. I listened as he worked it out. I told him I had finished the submissions, and he didn’t need to call and ask me about it. He said he was very proud of me!
The excitement didn’t last long. I didn’t mention anything in my journals about having letters out to publishers for a few weeks, and it was like it had never happened. I think I was in such fear I blocked it out completely. I had started to get responses — all rejections — but didn’t even comment on them in my journal. When I received the final rejection, I didn’t even mention it in my journal. Only peripherally did I allude to it later.
4-11-86. I haven’t felt the disappointment over all the rejections.
Later I realized I was relieved to get the last rejection letter. Not on a conscious level, but somewhere deep down in my soul. Some part of me had been terrified that a publisher would want my manuscript – but I had no idea why.
“Attack of the Lunesta Moth (cropped)”; original by Maxintosh @ Flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Rights Reserved.
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