My mom bought a car recently.
She was just supposed to be looking, but we all know how that goes. She had never bought a car before, either-- my dad always used to buy them for the family, and she's been driving the same car for thirteen years now. 209,000 miles on it, but it was starting to fall apart.
She found a car she really liked at one place, but then we went to another dealer anyway, (because she was just supposed to be looking), and the first car they showed her wiggled its way from "Hey, that's pretty nice" to "Okay, I'll take it."
When I left to meet my fiance for dinner, she was getting ready to sign the papers.
After we were done with dinner a few hours later, I gave her a call to see how everything went, and at first I was worried something had gone wrong with the deal because she didn't sound happy when she picked up the phone.
"Did you get the car?"
"Yeah, I got it."
"You don't sound very happy."
"I know . . . I'm having a hard time getting excited about it because of the money, and because I hated leaving my old car there."
And this, I completely understand. See, every single time I've bought a car (all three times so far), I have instantly and immediately felt some sort of panic right after. Perhaps it's the money you're spending-- is it worth it? Did you get a good deal?
Or perhaps it's the commitment-- depending on the terms (I always buy), it could be five or six years before it's really yours. Or if you're buying it with someone-- what if something goes wrong?
Or perhaps it's the what-ifs-- what if I found something else I liked more, for cheaper, somewhere else? (To be fair, most of the what-ifs can be tempered by doing your research).
It was the same way when we bought our house a year ago, but that was tempered by the fact that I work in real estate, and I knew it was the best time to buy.
And I, too, have felt bad about getting rid of an old car to make way for a new one.
The remorse always goes away in a week or two, tops. And my mom has never been through it before for a car, so I can understand that it's a powerful feeling for her. I know in the long run though, a new car is the right choice.
So, what does this have to do with writing? Excellent question-- I'm glad you asked. As writers, we don't have the opportunity to feel much remorse. In fact, we have the ultimate situation for certainty-- we get to ponder every word, every minute instance in our work, until we're satisfied. If something doesn't work, it's a matter of selecting and deleting.
Now, I've never been published in the traditional sense. So I'm not certain if there's remorse that comes along with having something of yours in print, with your name on it. But, I do know that the internet is a powerful and mystical place, one that can sometimes be dangerous for writers.
And here, especially if you're trying to get published, here is the MOST IMPORTANT PLACE to have your game face on. It's fine to be on Twitter, and Facebook, and Blogger all day, saying whatever comes to mind, as long as you remember that anything anyone posts on the internet, ever, is there-- forever. Even if you delete your remarks and account, the friendly folks at Google archive the entire internet on a regular basis and have been doing so for quite some time. There's a good chance that if an agent or an editor or even someday a reader googles your name, they can find everything you've ever written online.
Remember that trying to be published-- and being published-- is a business endeavor. It feels personal, because it's artistic. But it really is a business. Don't show up to the interview in your PJ's with Saturday-night bedhead and especially don't forget to brush your teeth. No one likes skanky morning breath in the interview.
And I can certainly understand the temptation to spew vitriol online. Sometimes, we just want to vent. We're human; we feel emotion. Rejection is always frustrating and personal, no matter how professional you are. And I honestly don't think I need to talk anyone reading this down from the ledge, but it merits saying anyway. I won't post a link because I really don't want to start somethin', but there was an incident recently on a blog where an author called out several well-known agents for rejecting her. And by called out, I mean called some very nice people some absolutely horrendous names because they had chosen not to represent her. After the backlash, she deleted the post because she "didn't want the drama." The comments everywhere on her blog were full of supportive, anonymous commenters. I have my suspicions.
Unfortunately, I don't think that writer uses her real name on her blog, so she probably won't see any real life consequences. But I don't know for certain, and I certainly don't have any respect for her blog.
My point today? Everything you say and do here is recorded, somewhere. Treat the internet like it's a private conversation that everyone can hear, and be professional. The consequences-- and remorse-- from here may never go away.