When Expectations Fall Short

Anyone who is driven has expectations.  As writers, I suspect we all are driven, or we would lack the discipline to "sit butt in chair" to write, to finish a first draft, to persevere through edits, keep up with the querying of agents, or commit to book formatting should we choose to self-publish.  But with that drive, and igniting of passion for the craft, we have expectations.  Examples of this can be goals that we set for ourselves.  We might give ourselves a target word count, a completion goal date.  Now, these are things we can control, but what about things we can't?

For example, you want to land an agent by a certain date, you want to have your book picked up by a publishing house by a certain date, you have a sales target in mind where you'd like to see your books by a certain time.  But here's a question for you:  how do you handle it when your expectations fall short?

Honestly, we are in control when it comes to our writing.  That all rests with us whether we sit down to write, or whether we use the time surfing the internet, or procrastinating in another manner.  (And let's admit it, there are times us writers are rather ingenious when it comes to procrastinating lol).  If we don't reach those goals, or expectations, we've set for ourselves, normally we only have ourselves to blame.

With expectations that involve other people, though, these are the trickier ones.  We're not in control.  And, sometimes, that's hard for us writers to accept.  We're so used to being control of our "worlds", and our characters.  After all, we're the "master mind", the "creator".

Things to remember when your expectations fall short:

It doesn't change your long-term goal.
   You want to land an agent, you keep querying.
   You want to secure a publishing house, you make the necessary changes/edits they may ask of you.

Things don't happen just because you want them to.  Things take time.
   Remembering this will go a long way for helping you keep your sanity.

You're not always in control.
   Even just reminding yourself of this will help a lot.

Pick yourself up.
   Don't allow yourself to wallow in self-pity, or self-doubt.  Oh, no agent's going to pick me.  The slush pile is larger than ever, why would they?  or Why would they buy my book?

Remember you are unique, as so is your writing.
   It's true there are a lot of stories that have been done, over and over, yet they keep selling.

Reach out to others.
   Reluctantly, I admit my mother was right.  Put other people first.  If you're focused on helping, and encouraging other writers, you'll have less time to "fret" over your not reaching some imposed expectation.

Keep your expectations realistic.
  This is a key right here.  If you place expectations upon yourself that rely on other people to fulfill them, then you're off to the wrong start already.  I'm not saying you can't rely on other people, but you have to take responsibility for your goals, and whether or not you reach them.

Don't whine.
  Here's a big one.  I'm part of a writing forum, and I was appalled to read a thread started by a self-published e-book writer.  Let's put it this way.  Because of the way they presented themselves, I would never buy their books.  They went on and on...I wish people would buy more of my books.  This person even went as far as to say, I don't even care if they read them, as much as I wish they'd buy them.  GASP!  I even re-read this to make sure I read it right!  As writers we want, no we crave, that people read our books.  After all, isn't that the point?

  The same holds true when you receive a rejection from an agent.  Don't go on Twitter, or Facebook or your blog and discuss the rejection.  It doesn't cast your reputation in a good light.  And isn't that a great percentage as to who we are as writers?  Obviously first and foremost is our writing, but it's our reputation that draws people in, and that along with the writing that keeps them there.

Anyway, these are few things I could think of to help pick oneself up when expectations fall short.  What about you?  How have you handled in the past?


  1. Carolyn,
    This is an AWESOME post. You are so right on all of these things. And unfortunately, like you, I've seen some crazy things happen. Writers: Keep your integrity, keep your chin up and keep doing what you do... which is write. You do it because you love it. And it is a marathon, not a sprint. You're in it for the long haul. :)

    Great post!

  2. For me, the hardest part is to not set unrealistic goals and also remembering that I am not always in control. But this post was perfect timing - I have two pretty big goals set for myself this weekend. I've warned my husband ahead of time to leave me alone. We will see what happens...

  3. Realistic expectations are definitely key, Carolyn.

    Set them too high and you are destined for disappointment and will evntually give up. Set them too low and you'll never get that first foot on the ladder.

    As a successful self-published author I'd say the most - perhaps the only - realistic option it to take control and self-publish.

    It's not vanity publishing. It's putting your book to the one test that really matters. The readers.

    Your book's finished The best you can do? then what are you waiting for? E-publish.

    You think nobody will find it? How will they find your paper book, if ever published, spine out on the bottom shelf at the back of the bookstore? How many bookshops will it actually be in? For how long?

    You need an agent? Wake up and smell the coffee. It's 2011, not 2009.

    Self publishing is a realistic goal. Getting an agent is not.

    Getting an agent who then finds you a publisher is even less realistic.

    Getting an agent who gets you a publisher who gets you a plinth in the high-street store is so unrealistic it's off the scale.

    It just ain't gonna happen.

    If your book is good. Not just "finished" but good enough to sell, go and sell it! There's nothing stopping you any more. Publish today, make money tomorrow. Literally.

    You don't need the gate-keepers approval anymore. Just your own. Will you let yourself try?

    Or are your expectations so low you daren't risk it?

  4. Courtney, that is so true about it being a marathon, and how important that we remember we love to write.

    April, all the best with reaching your goals this weekend.

    Mark, I'm very happy that my post inspired you with so many pointers.

    Thank you to all for your comments.

  5. Love this post. A timely reminder to all of us - it's not what happens to you, it's how you deal with it!


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