Every writer who's ever tried to get anything published knows the compulsion to check email. It's more than a compulsion; it's like an imperative. There's a pull that feels as undeniable as the tides, if the tide came in every three minutes. I've checked my email at stoplights, at soccer games, in restaurant bathrooms, on the tops of mountains, and on Christmas morning.
Email giveth, but email taketh a hell of a lot away. Try to get it back.
The road to publication goes like this:
1. Finish manuscript. Email it to people to read it. Check your email for their thoughts.
2. Once your readers say it's good enough, begin querying agents, several at a time, over the course of weeks and months (and sometimes years). Check your email constantly for their verdicts.
3. Once you have an agent (that you got after getting a happy email), go on submission to editors at publishing houses. Their responses will come at the rate of about one every three and a half weeks. Check your email every three and a half minutes for updates.
4. Once you get a book deal, prepare for publication. Wait for your cover, your blurbs, your reviews and promotion opportunities and interview requests. Check your email for all those, too.
5. Once your book comes out, start over at step 3 (if you have a single book deal) or step 4 (if you were lucky enough to get a multiple book deal.
I've been through all these steps, and while, like any writer, I really love receiving happy good news emails, the whole thing is unhealthy. Deeply, soul-killingly unhealthy. I love writing books, but I was a happier person before I started checking that email inbox so often. Especially while querying (step 2), which initially lasted fourteen months for my first agent and three more months for my second, my self-worth got way too attached to the ding of my email. I let that happen. I let those brief emails that said "not for me" or "not quite ready" define me and my purpose on this earth for far too long.
Don't let that happen.
Writing is not my only purpose on this earth, and I forgot that. By all means, write if it makes you happy. Write even if it's merely that you can't NOT write. If you value peace of mind and serenity at all--totally honestly--stop writing for publication altogether if you can.
But don't write because you need some stranger in New York or L.A. or wherever to tell you you're worthy. You're worthy even if you deleted every word you've ever written right this minute. Try remembering the rest of your life. Take a look at your kids and think about how recently they were tiny and how soon they'll be gone. Hug your spouse or your mom or a dog. Go climb a mountain. Sit on a beach and dip your toes in the waves. Go out and stare up at the stars. Binge a TV show. And read--other people's books, preferably in a genre you don't write so there can be no comparison to your own works and relative ease in being published.
There's no easy answer. I didn't resist when it was the worst (while querying and on sub), and I don't do as well as I'd like even now. All I can do is keep trying to put down my phone long enough to see the forest and not just the trees--and the sunrise, and my sons' smiles, and the crackle of the fire, and the blue of the sky in the spring. My family and my life.
Coming soon: THE DARKEST FLOWER!