Monday, March 19, 2012

Please Excuse Me While I Have an Existential Crisis

So, I know I haven’t been around to visit much and I’m having trouble just showing up for our weekly rendez-vous.

But the truth is, I think I’m having an existential crisis. Losing a baby and an agent opportunity in the last few months has made me question the very foundations of who I am and what I want. (yeah, I looked up the definition of an existential crisis. Just to be sure.)

It’s more than just lurking in the whatisthepurposeoflife mind-suck or spending time questioning my parenting skills on willmykidsbecrackheads.com

I know I don’t usually get all personal on you guys but– you’ve been here long enough to meet my crazy from time to time.

So, on one hand, I feel like I should give that little soul who left us too soon another shot. Losing him was hard, even if he wasn’t planned, and I promised myself when I left the hospital after the operation that I would do what I could to give him a chance at being with us again.

But then… those thoughts about what having another baby really means have come back to haunt me. I have three children. So I know what’s involved. Getting pregnant again means renting my body out for two years (incubation+milking rights)–feeding and housing a mini person in some capacity. It means losing hours and hours of sleep, time, and freedom. Only doing what I want to do on very rare occasions when all of my children are sleeping at once. It means 3am fights with the hubs because ‘he never gets up with them’. Then there’s leaky boobs, flabby abs, dark circles and a few more fine lines and gray hairs before the kid is even remotely autonomous.

Yup. Those thoughts make me feel like Ms. Selfish of the most selfish selfi-ish pants. But there they are.

Then there’s the whole agent thing. I know I say I’ll never give up. That I believe in my place here. But sometimes…I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I’m starting to think maybe agents aren’t the way to go anymore. I guess it’s the same thing. Like having another baby, I know what lies ahead for someone who keeps striving towards the traditional route. When I started querying, I was this big bubble of bobble-headed positivity. Those first queries. First rejections. First requests. First FULL requests! So exciting! But after a few years, the process has worn me down. I still love writing and I still believe in my manuscripts but the query process just isn’t fun anymore. The magic is gone and my writing mojo is at an all-time low. Not to mention, with the recent economical crisis and new technology, agents are taking on less and less clients, publishers are starting to narrow their lists and trends are decided somewhere out in the nobody-frickin-knows-anymore.

Self-publishing is starting to whisper sweet nothings in my ear.

So that’s it. I’m lost, you guys. In both my personal life and professional one.

I might need a psychic, a therapist, and a mid-life-crisis loan to do it, but somehow I hope I’ll find my way. For those of you who have stuck around for the ride, I thank youJ

Ever had an existential crisis? How was that?
Yeah. I couldn’t come up with any better question.
**For anyone who came here today looking for query advice and found a hot mess instead- please check out my normal, level-headed guest post at Heather Day Gilbert’s Writing Beyond the Vows.**


48 comments:

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes I've had those crisis when times are rough. You do get through them. Be nice to yourself and do some things you enjoy while you sort it out.

I used to be more starry-eyed about writing too at one time.

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

I'm so sorry about the baby. And I'm sorry you're feeling low. But seriously? There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-publishing. It is THE trend and there's no shame in it. If you go at it with the same gusto you've shown for querying, you'll have a bestseller on your hands. Good luck!

Matthew MacNish said...

I was going through an "about-ready-to-give-up-on-writing" slump last month. What did I do? Moped around, didn't write a thing, watched a lot of TV and movies, and felt sorry for myself.

Eventually, I called my mentor, and he told me to move on. Write something new. So I did, and things aren't perfect yet, but they're getting better.

Jessica Bell said...

Oh honey, I'm so sorry you're going through this. We all go through them. You're not alone. I'm feeling agentville isn't the only way to go anymore either. And actually, the more publishing evolves, the less an author will need one. That is not to say they aren't valuable. It all just depends on a person's circumstances. Why don't you try some small presses before going the self-pub route?

Mark K said...

Katie,

The sad and unfortunate truth about life is that we are not always the masters of it, and often it controls us more than we like to admit.

I feel for you right now as I can identify with your situation - I won't go into details, but suffice to say tomorrow (Tuesday 19th) is my fifth visit to a therapist. I've learnt some surprising things about myself since seeing her, some good, others so-so and one or two I'd rather ignore.

But it does get better. I promise you that much.

As for your little one, only you know how best to cope with that moment. We can all advise. We can all comment. But it is between you and your loved one to deal with it the best way you can, the rest of us can only offer support and comfort - the hard part is yours. It will never leave you and will always be part of you. Take comfort in that, that for a time you shared an intimate bond of life with your little one. Do not be bitter about it, cherish it, acknowledge it and when ready, move forward.

As for the agent thing, let that one go with both hands. You know your worth as a writer, you do not need an outsider telling you otherwise. Yes, at some point they become a necessary evil, but until then, relax. Don't fret over them, as they sure as hell do not fret over you/us.

In respect to your writing mojo. It happens. Again, don't dwell on it, as that in itself is a self-perpetuating cycle of negative reinforcement that is easy to slip into, but a shitty one to get out of.

You basically have three choices (maybe more, but I can only think of three at the moment) - 1) You can drive yourself harder with writing and prove the bastards wrong.
2) You can adopt a, 'if it's meant to be, it will be no matter what', kind of stance, and just plod on.
3) Give it up for a while and take a total break from it and focus on something entirely different until you're ready to write again.

I was going to put a #4, but it consisted of bad language and rude gestures, so I thought better of it ;)

Well, that's me done. Personally, I think you should take some 'me' time for yourself. Put things in perspective and let go. Share with those closest to you that you love most, and trust in them to help you and guide you. I know I am a relative newbie here, but you know my blog, it has my email addy there, so if you need to bitch and moan at a total stranger, feel free, my in-box is always open.

Until next time. Be strong, find yourself again, take stock and remember that you are loved.

Kind regards,

Mark

Laura Pauling said...

So Sorry. These slumps aren't fun. I've been there more than once. I suggest not making the decision right now. Wait until after the slump so you're not making an emotional decision. And I really like Jessica's idea of checking out small presses. Some of them are pretty awesome with amazing support.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

Hmmm...it seems slump city put out a call for new residents to you too. I've lost a baby - twice - and know that it can really, seriously, mess with the head. Suggestion? Find something, anything, that you find satisfaction in doing without much frustration, consider reading A Grief Observed - C.S. Lewis, and take a solid month AT LEAST doing the ridiculous things that just make you happy and let you heal. Then, come back and revisit this crisis - it may have a little better light after the time away.

Talei said...

Oh Katie, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss, I can't imagine what an incredibly painful and sad time this has been for you. I'm feeling you on the crisis, have been going through my own lately but I'm trying to focus on getting to a place where things are lighter. One day at a time. I hope you will keep writing and am sure there's a plan for babies some day, lord, and even agents, if you want. Sending you the BIGGEST HUGS, take care of yourself, don't put any pressure on trying to do anything but yourself right now. Take care T xox

Miranda Hardy said...

Katie, you've received some great advice in these comments. A lot of people know exactly what you're going through. Although, I've never queried, I understand the need to move on. Good luck with your decisions.

Gina said...

You and I are on the same page today with our posts. *Hugs*

You have the right attitude though, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with deciding to keep your family a unit of 5, or with self-publishing a book if it's what will make you happy. You're due for some good luck, and there's nothing wrong with helping it along!

April Plummer said...

Oh sweetie, I had no idea you lost your baby. Somehow, I missed that. I am so sorry. I can't say I know how that feels because I've never even been pregnant. But I do know love, and no matter what, losing it hurts. I don't think you're being selfish with those thoughts at ALL. You're being smart to think it all through before deciding to get pregnant again. It's a huge decision whether it's your first child or your tenth.

As far as writing goes...you're where I was about a year ago. Which is how I ended up self-publishing.

You'll find your way sweetie. In the meantime, you're in my thoughts and prayers.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

You know it's very creepy how much you're in my head on ALL of these points.

*hugs* for everything you're going through, Katie.

Ash-Matic said...

Yup. Sometimes it seems like life is just one big existential crisis.

I have no advice, because there are no answers - at least, none that I've found.

I hope the pieces fall into place for you soon. Self-publishing isn't what it was. It's like a new frontier, waiting for people to stake claims in it.

Maybe there's something to the idea. If you have a number of manuscripts polished, maybe you could dabble with just one, and see how that goes?

Meredith said...

I know how infuriating and frustrating the query process can be. Self-publishing or small presses are wonderful routes, so that's definitely something to consider.

But for now, I love Tasha's suggestion of focusing on making yourself happy as much as possible. Take some time to do the fun things--go for walks with your camera. Chat or email with old friends. Find a new song you want to play on repeat over and over. Just the fun, silly things. You deserve them. Take care.

Connie Keller said...

I so sorry for everything you're suffering. I will be praying for you. I've heard the CS Lewis book that Tasha recommended is very good. (One of my best friends died last year, and her husband said the book really helped him.)

Elaine Stock said...

I'm so sorry you're going through these hurting times. You will come out of it! You will see the sun again! It seems impossible, but you will feel better. Cling to this belief. And if you believe in God, embrace Him like you've never embraced Him before.

Not having any children, I'm not sure where to even begin on such a loss except to say that I'm sorry about this heartbreak. Only you will know what is best. As Mark K. mentioned, like any other crisis moments in life, remember, if you need breathing room, allow yourself to take it without any guilt. Choosing a major decision in life is a big thing. It's okay to think about it while you heal, and healing is what you're doing.

As for agents, I share your pain. I'm full of flummox too. I've had 2 agents. Parted with my first willingly; dumped by my 2nd unwillingly... but am happy about it now. You're right: this economy has changed the way everyone is reacting, including the deities in publishing. Of course I'd love a BIG agent & knowing myself, wouldn't refuse if one came courting me. But, my current thinking is that I may not get one unless I sell myself (which I'm trying to do) and most likely, if I sell, it probably won't be enough to enable me to quit my day job for a very long time--if anything. And then, do I want an agent to get a 15% of my pat-on-the-back income? I don't know. I'm just taking it step by step.

I know I cannot give up when it comes to writing.

Can you give up your stories? Your dreams? Your goals?

Do you have changing dreams and goals?

May you be blessed with peace and guidance.

Many hugs,

Elaine

Kimberlee Turley said...

My heart goes out to you.

I'm really bad at family advice since I've never been pregnant, but in regards to writing I totally support you if you feel the self-publishing route is the way to go.

TC Avey said...

I'm new on your blog, but my heart goes out to you. I lost three babies, one at 20 weeks gestation. It's hard. It took years for me to get over it. Mainly because I just shut myself off. You're not doing that- you're opening yourself up, asking questions, seeking guidance and I applaud you for that.
The road ahead will be difficult whether you chose to have another baby or not. My advice is to not get pregnant out of guilt over losing the other baby- that's not fair to the new life or to you. Take time to mourn and then if you feel like having a baby your heart will be ready and those 3am feedings, the leaking boobs and all the tears won't be as big a sacrifice.
Being a parent is the most selfless act imaginable- don't feel selfish for being hesitant to do it again. You already know how big a commitment it is. Babies are great- God blessed me with one- but it does make life crazy beautiful. I wouldn't trade it for the world, but I'm not sure I ever want to go through it again.

As for the agent thing: I'm no help. I'm fairly new to the whole query thing. All I can tell you is that having a firm foundation on Christ will help you through the road you are traveling (both in your career and in life).
Abraham dreamed of having a baby- God promised him one through a vision- it took around 20 years before that dream came true. Our dreams, even ones God gives us, take time and testing.

Dean Crawford said...

It's a hobby until it's a job, Kate. Treat it as such. Have a break from it, spend some of your fleeting spare time doing something else. Keep submitting what you've already written to keep that little window of opportunity open, but leave it at that. If you really want to write, sooner or later you won't be able to stay away from it any longer. As regards a possible new baby - only you can really answer that one, but if you decided against, it's not selfish. You've got three already - my little girl's just about to turn one year old and I am most defintely NOT having any more!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Awww, Katie, sounds like you need some time to re-evaluate. And decompress! Anytime a major thing like the loss of child enters our lives, everything else just has to move off the stage for awhile. I've been praying for you!

It's definitely important to know for SURE how much you want your writing out there, and then to figure out which routes you're comfortable taking to get it there. I'm hearing more and more about self-pubbing.

Your post on my blog was VERY rational and helpful! But so was this one. We're all messes sometimes, and those are the times we just have to wheel to a complete stop and ponder things.

Thanks again for guest posting, and thanks for being open with your struggles, too!

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, Katie-I didn't know about losing your baby. I'm SO SORRY. That has to be so hard. I think, though, you don't want to hurry that decision for another. I think right now you are so sad for the loss of the one, and another won't fill that void--it would be a DIFFERENT baby. I think you need some separation before you think about whether you want a 4th.

As for the agent trouble--there are routes in the middle--mid sized or small publishers that don't NEED an agent. So maybe look at ALL the options. I feel like for some works, self-publishing is best, but I still feel pretty solidly that for YA, it might not be time yet for that.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

If it's like a mid-life crisis, been there done that. (Sucks to admit that.)
Can't imagine your feelings on losing a child, but I don't think it's selfish to say you like your life the way it is right now.
And there are other options for publishing, such as self-publishing and small presses. Don't lose hope!

Susan R. Mills said...

I've been there before. It's tough. But my advice is to keep trudging on. Your in a funk right now. I think it will pass. Best of luck on both fronts!

Nicole Zoltack said...

Just keep chugging along. Everything will work out in the end. Sometimes we don't know what's best for us and it's best to let things sort themselves out without interfering.

LTM said...

UGH! I'm sorry you're feeling this way. But it's totally, completely understandable! I was here w/the writing thing in January.

First, I'd say give yourself a break. That's what I always do. Let yourself just feel bad. But maybe set an end date for when you're going to stop feeling bad and start doing *something*--even if it's just making a plan.

And what if... OK, I'm just going to say this, so don't hate me. But what if that baby wasn't supposed to be? I mean, what if it was to be with someone else? Hang on--think about it. You have so many very fair and valid and REALISTIC objections to having a baby. And it was unplanned... Maybe you should just release it? Let it be?

I don't know. You know best. ((big hugs)) Hang in there. See? You're not alone~ <3

Johanna Garth said...

You've been through a lot of gut-wrenching loss in the last year! I think it's totally normal to have this kind of a crisis. Ride it out and now that things will eventually get better!

Cynthia Lee said...

Girl, I feel for you. I think you should give yourself plenty of time and plenty of rest.

Publishing isn't going anywhere, after all. And if querying is becoming a pain in the ass - you can stop. Self-publishing doesn't mean that you will never be able to query again, should you decide to do so.

Amber said...

I liked Cynthia's comment: "Publishing isn't going anywhere, after all." Oh, so true! Sometimes we are in such a rush to get published that we forget that this giant thing has been here long before us and will be long after (despite certain doomsday predictions). By the way, have you considered going some middle route, like a digital publisher? I think Entangled does YA, also ... what was it called, Lyrical, maybe? Not sure, but there are some good quality shops that are doing that nowadays. You can submit there sans agent. And just don't forget - it will get better. Sometimes it's hard to see but it really will.

farawayeyes said...

Sorry on all counts.

Existential Crisis -sometimes I think this is my vacation retreat, I go there so often.

Lots of good advice and comfort in the comments, I personally plan on taking some of it for myself.

Hang in there. Here's a hug ( ).

Been there on the baby thing twice. It's hard no matter how you slice it. The first one I lost was my first time pregnant, - I thought I never want to go through that again. Who needs it? Selfish? Maybe? Self-preservation - you bet! Three more pregnancies and two children later, I'm not sorry, but it wasn't easy either. Here's another hug ( )!

Now the stories are my babies. That ain't easy either. You can reject me, but oh not my children.

Caledonia Lass said...

You've got lots of support no matter what decision you make baby or book wise. I'm so sorry to hear about the baby. ::Big virtual hug:: In that respect, only time will tell if you truly want to give it another go. Let your body, mind and heart heal first.
As for the books, lots of people are going the self pubbed route and doing rather well with it. You've got a reader base with this blog alone. I don't know who wouldn't buy your book should you choose that route.
These days, the books are more about getting your story out there than becoming rich off of it. Rich is just an excellent perk. ;)
Hang in there, kiddo. (Yes, I called you kiddo). We're always going to be here for you.

Old Kitty said...

OH Katie!!! I am sending you gazillions of positive energy and light!!! Life is all about balance!! There is ying to the yang! There are positives to the negatives! You may have leaky boobs for the next year or so, but your baby is going to be healthy and strong because of your milk! You may have been pushed and pulled apart by all the agent rejections but the world of self-publishing beckons and there are many writers out there doing ever so well having gone this route!
:-)

You are at a most exciting time of your life!! Oh yes you are!

Take care
x

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I have three grown children and twelve grandchildren, and I, too, lost a baby many years ago. Because it was an unplanned pregnancy that caused me to temporarily spiral into a "how in the world can I ever handle another baby" funk, I felt tremendous guilt over the miscarriage. And yet deep down, I secretly felt tremendous relief, too. Which, of course, made me feel even more guilty. So I think I have an inkling of what you may be feeling. And I believe with all my heart, you are NOT being selfish if you don't want another baby. Please don't beat yourself up over this.

Colene Murphy said...

Remember, you asked for opinions! I don't sugar coat opinions when they're asked for...just warning. ;)

As far as the kids thing goes, I don't think people realize that being "selfish" in that way isn't a BAD THING. I don't have kids. I don't want kid (at this point in my life) because I know I'm not ready to give up the freedom and sleep and money for a child yet. And YES that IS selfish, but it's better than having a baby and resenting him for what I wasn't ready to lose, you know? And that, to me, makes it a little less selfish. And not a bad thing. The world is not hurting for children at this point. And you have 3! It's not like you have never sacrificed for them (ALL!!) and will continue to do so. If you're just considering it out of guilt for the little lost one, then that's not a reason. It's kind, and shows what a big loving soft heart you have, but it isn't a reason. You sound so busy and stressed and tired already, I'm not sure adding to it would make anything better for you.

The book thing? I donno. I hear it's getting harder and harder the agent way, but to each their own. I don't think I have what it takes to self publish. I'm the kind that will get an agent and get published the "traditional route" or I wont at all. BUT with the way technology is going and traditional publishing is going, that could just mean I'm being stubbornly limiting to myself, and am making a mistake. YOU have a HUGE following here and soooo much support already, it wouldn't take you much of anything to market yourself with a self published book, ya know?

Allison Merritt said...

Hmm. Well, I've never lost a baby (in fact, never come close to having one--we're apparently infertile, which means we can have rabbit sex without consequences) so my advice there is pretty much nil.

And I'm a little bit ashamed to say I've only ever queried six agents, four of which didn't even bother to respond, one was an instantaneous no, and one only took two weeks to say no. The other time I pitched in front of a real-live agent and even though her reject letter said she "put it aside", I'm pretty sure she shoved it into a drawer and only found it once she started cleaning her desk. Or had her intern do it. Whichever.

Self-pubbing sang its little siren song to me too. Silly little ol' me, I thought writing a book was hard. And then I thought editing was hard. And then I learned about the hell that they innocently call formatting. But once you're over that hump, eh, it's easy. Oh, wait. Except for the even deeper hell called marketing.

But don't let me steer you away from it because you have a great following and really, I wouldn't change anything if I could. I'd do it all myself again if I had to. Best of luck with whatever you do! I hope you find the right path to follow.

Alleged Author said...

I am so sorry for your loss. It is only natural to feel low after such sadness. You are in my prayers.

Angela Brown said...

I suppose short and sweet is the way to go here:

Hot mess is quite fine since "What the hell am I doing?" is a legitimate question after dealing with a lot of rejection, ups, downs, personal life drama and just everyday blurgh.

No one but you can choose your path. Self-pubishing could be the best route for you. The sweet nothings it's whispering may be truth for you to embrace and not shun. But if the traditional route is the way you want to go, then I wish for continued encouragement and continued strength against the rejects and let downs so that when your moment comes, you're good.

Carolyn V said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the tough things you are going through. I think we've all felt that difficulty (especially in the writing field). And I know for experience how hard it is to loose a baby. I'm so sorry.

In any case, whatever road you take, just keep going. It's always darkest before the light comes. <3

Marta Szemik said...

I'm sorry to hear you're down and I hear where you're coming from. I decided to self-publish pretty quickly and didn't even wait for the replies for my queries. (I realized my type of book was not what most agents were looking for at this time. Market was too saturated) I'm glad I didn't wait.
That's not to say that self-publishing is easy. It's an uphill battle, but if done right with some luck, very rewarding. I plan to keep on writing and self-publishing and hope to one day be able to support my family with it. or now, it pays a few bills. But it's getting better every month.
I hope you'll come to a resolve soon.
Sending many good thoughts your way.

Annalisa Crawford said...

My crises have been personal rather than related to writing (and far too personal to share), but I survived them when I wasn't sure I would or could or even wanted to.

I don't write autobiographically in the least, but I take the emotions and turn them into something I can help explain them - like little parables to myself - and then I submit them.

Donna Hosie said...

I can't even begin to imagine what you are going through with the loss of the baby, so I'll add my sincere sympathy to everyone elses and hope that things start to get a little better, day by day.

On the agent front, I went through exactly the same as you last year. After 9 months of working with one, I decided I couldn't keep putting myself through it with that particular ms. I am publishing it in June and I am so excited. My writing mojo has had such a surge because of it.

Take ownership. This is your life, your writing.

Lady Gwen said...

Katie, it's so sad that you lost the baby, but I guess God needed him/her more. Having another one, especially when there are so many emotions surrounding the decision, isn't something you have to decide right now. Don't put so much pressure on yourself. Give it to God and let him decide. Maybe you should stop torturing yourself with publishing/querying, too. I'm thinking of self publishing because the whole pitching an agent/publishing is so stressful. Who needs it?! Life is way too short. You can get your feet wet with self publishing your first book. If it does well, you'll have excellent credentials and interest some traditional publishers in the process. Whatever you do, give yourself a break, hon. You deserve it<3

Botanist said...

Hi Katie, I remember that earlier post all too vividly. I emailed you because I wasn't ready to share my story in the public comments. Don't know if you ever received that email, and my address changed shortly after so I wouldn't know if you'd tried to reply. Anyway...IMO each little soul is unique, so I wouldn't beat yourself up about giving him another chance or not. If you tried again, you would be starting afresh. The only "advice" I can offer is to take your time and make your choice for the right reasons, and not because you feel you should. Does that make sense? I'm bad at expressing things so close to home. :(

As for publishing, I know it can get wearing. I've been plugging away at the same project for years now, and I too can hear the siren call of self-publishing. You are not alone.

Sarah Pearson said...

Katie, you've had a ton of good advice so all I'm going to do is give you a hug and a shoulder if you ever need it xx

Dianne K. Salerni said...

November 2010.
A telephone call.
Two manuscripts and a WIP shot down at once by an editor who told me *nothing* I was writing was marketable. She said that with one book already published and sales figures not up to par, I was pretty much finished in the business unless I changed everything about my writing style/genre.

That was the point where I almost threw in the towel, closed down my blog, and resigned myself to curling up and dying.

But I didn't.

Katie -- Baby, novel, or better yet BOTH -- follow your dream.

Love ya!

prerna pickett said...

you have every right to go through an existential crisis. I'm a few weeks away from having my fourth and it's a little scary, but i know what i got myself into. And there's nothing wrong with admitting how hard it is, because it is, and it doesn't make you selfish to be hesitant and a little scared. With writing, your time will come. I haven't really delved into the querying process as much as you, but I know there's an agent out there for you. Don't give up. Take a break instead and find your way back to yourself.

Nancy Thompson said...

First off, there's nothing anyone can say to make you feel better about losing your baby. I wish your heart could be instantly healed and that I had a magic wand to do just that.

And as for the agent thing, well, I know how bad that sucks too, but please don't give up. And let me tell you something from my personal perspective: You don't need an agent to sell your book. I just sold mine without an agent. So before you go the self-pub route, try out some small presses who take direct submissions, no gatekeeper required.

Laura Barnes said...

Do it - have a crisis. You'll feel better after, clear. And the crisis might last quite awhile. That's okay too.

Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing. You are a very strong woman.

Elisabeth Hirsch said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. My first book is about my son who died at 2 1/2 months. Writing helped me a lot.

I'll be praying for you.

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