There are certain triggers for Cassie that let her know that someone is soon going to be leaving the house. My husband puts on his belt or his shoes. I swap out sweat pants for jeans or use the blow dryer on my hair. Any one of those things sets her off whining and pacing and jumping up and down with no thought of respectability or former training. Someone is going someplace and she doesn’t want to be left behind.
Most of the time, if the two of us are going somewhere, she goes with us. But by the time we’ve done the blow dryer/jeans/belt/shoes routine she has worked herself up into such a frenzy that it is no longer about being with us but about being in the white heat of the moment. It’s not good for her. She never calms down even after we’re in the car. She just keeps up that constant high pitched bark that I translate into “Please don’t leave me behind. Please let me come along. Please. Please. Please. I’ll be your best friend.” By the end of the trip, whether to the parents for dinner and a playdate with her cousin Circe or a longer drive to the beach, she’s exhausted in the way that a new baby is when you’ve had to let her cry herself to sleep.
I’ve seen this happen with writers sometimes. They act before they really think about what they are doing. They don’t read or follow guidelines for agents or editors. They decide to write a book in a genre that is hot at the moment even though they don’t feel passionate about that genre. They don’t read in their chosen area. They badmouth agents, publishers, reviewers in open forums online, forgetting the fact that the Internet is the world’s largest elephant and it never, ever forgets. They are so excited to be a part of this wonderful crazy business that they are jumping up and down and getting in everyone’s faces without thinking about what that might look like from the other side.
No, I don’t have a particular incident or person in mind as I write this. I was just cleaning out some files and came across a note that I had taped to my computer monitor back when I was running a 2400 baud modem (in other words, a long time ago.) The note said simply that you needed to act like a professional long before you are published.
I’ve started working with Cassie to diffuse her triggers. I might change into jeans and then go sit back at the computer for half an hour. Move the blow dryer into another room and use it but go nowhere. When she realizes no one is picking up their keys she settles back down again. After she’s calm, we can leave and it is usually a much more pleasant experience for us all.
The children’s publishing world is a small one. People move around all the time. Writers become editors and editors become agents and you never know who you will meet that will help you grow. Editors and agents are interacting with authors on Twitter and Facebook, blurring the lines between work and after hours fun. Think before you dash off that smart-aleck response to someone but at the same time, don’t be afraid to interact. I know, it sounds like a slippery slope but you can mange it if you just slow down and think before you act.
Put that enthusiasm into your writing and let your work speak for yourself.