On a quiet Tuesday afternoon in March, I got a phone call from a publisher: they were accepting my novel for publication. It was the first acceptance I’d ever received.
Let me tell you what that feels like: Euphoria. It feels like Christmas Day and winning the lottery and being handed your dreams on a silver platter. It’s black text on a white screen that says, “You aren’t just a writer; you’re an author.” It is the best feeling in the entire world.
But reality hits pretty quickly.
I had no idea what to expect when I signed the contract for Whiteout. I follow a lot of authors on social media, had seem them talk about the publishing process, so I thought I had a good idea of what was to come.
I most definitely did not.
If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself three simple things:
- Stop procrastinating. No, seriously. Deadlines come faster than you’d think.
- You will feel like a fraud at least three times a day. You’re not.
- It’s okay to say ‘no’.
The last one has been the hardest for me to accept. The publisher asks if you can get a manuscript in by a specific date. Friends assume they can read your book (unedited, unpublished, for free). Your family want mentions in the dedication. Strangers in airports see that you’re writing and want to know all about it.
I’ve slowly learned to say No. I wish I’d known from the start that it was okay to do so; I would have saved myself a lot of stress. To say, “No, you can read the book once it’s published.” Or to take a deep breath and admit that, “No, I won’t be able to meet that deadline, can we push it back?”
I don’t want to let anyone down. People believe in me: the publisher, my family, random strangers. They have expectations, and the pressure to meet and surpass those expectations can be crippling.
But the hardest person to say No to has been myself… because I don’t want to let myself down, either.
So to my past self, I want to say:
No, you don’t have to write every day.
No, you don’t have to feel guilty because you spent the weekend watching Netflix instead of editing.
No, it’s not healthy to spend nine straight hours in front of the computer.
But most importantly? No, you don’t have to meet other people’s expectations… only your own.
I’m starting to learn how to say No, both to others and to myself. I’m learning more about writing, and editing. And the more I learn, the more I understand that saying “No” is okay sometimes.
Elyse is an author and world-traveler, whose unique life experiences have helped to shape the stories that she wants to tell. She writes romances with LGBTQ+ characters and relationships, and believes that every person deserves a Happily Ever After. When she’s not staring futilely at her computer screen, Elyse spends her time adding stamps to her passport, catching up on her terrifying TBR list, and learning to be a better adult.