sewThe business of writing is an interesting road. It brings surprising twists and turns as you journey along it. I remember early on (we’re talking years ago) I thought that after finding an agent and getting that first contract, all the stress would go. I learnt quickly that the truth is that each stage brings different stressors. I thought that with all I’d learnt so far and all I’d seen others go through that I was reasonably prepared. What I didn’t expect was the pressure.

Since signing with my agent, and even more so since getting my first book contract, I’ve been feeling this incredible pressure. Pressure to live up to people’s expectations. Pressure to keep producing work (and to better myself each time). Pressure to use the time I have to be really productive (because everyone keeps telling me I’ll have no time soon). Pressure to follow the path that people want/expect me to follow (picture books Vs novels). Pressure to be successful (whatever that is). Pressure now knowing that I’m no longer writing just for myself. Pressure that is sometimes completely unnamable but follows me around the house.

I’ve been thinking about it a lot – it’s impossible NOT to think about it because it’s keeping me up at night! – but the ultimate truth is that the pressure is coming from me. My agent is wonderful to work with, and completely happy to work at my pace. My editor is delightful and is currently away, so we’re not even working on edits yet. But me – I suppose I’ve always had high expectations of myself. I think many writers do – how else do we continue to write through rejections? We’re constantly told that this industry is so tough to break into, so now with my first book looming my brain is saying ‘this is your chance’ and ‘don’t stuff it up’ and ‘if you don’t keep working hard it will slip away from you’.

I can laugh at myself, though. I’m only a few months in and I already sound like a drama queen. Where I’m at is exactly where I’ve always wanted to be. I feel incredibly lucky and will never complain (kick me if I do). But I’m still learning. I feel pink and new. There are no rules for writing as a career, so I’m just trying to find what works for me.

The feeling of pressure most concerned me because I was having trouble writing. But today I’m back on the keyboard, fingers clacking over letters and words appearing on the screen. My Writing Critic’s voice is strong, but I’m fighting him better today. One word at a time. One foot in front of the other. Shrugging the pressure from my shoulders and trying to get back to just enjoying where this road takes me.

I wonder if others have had unexpected reactions to the different steps in seeking publication?


14 Responses to “Pressure”

  1. 1 Karen Tyrrell October 23, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    WOW, Katherine. I thought ALL the pressure was on BEFORE the agent and Contract. Seems like it ongoing.
    Most of the pressure I guess comes from within. We must remember to be KIND to ourselves. All the Best. Karen :))

  2. 2 chrisbongers October 23, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Kath, I didn’t write a word for a couple of months after my first book contract; I couldn’t concentrate on anything new at all. but like everything, this too does pass. Allow yourself the adjustment time and you’ll find yourself reinvigorated for the next challenge.

  3. 3 Katherine Battersby October 23, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Karen, it does seem to be ongoing. Just different stress at different times. I always lose perspective when I’m down, so remembering to treat ourselves gently is good advice.

    Thanks for normalising it all for me, Chris. It’s one of those things where as soon as you hear others have experienced a similar reaction, it’s much easier to just accept it as a stage and move through it. Although it’s hard for me to imagine you not writing – you’re enviably productive!

  4. 4 Lynn Priestley October 24, 2009 at 12:21 am

    Ah, yes – but aren’t diamonds made under pressure? And isn’t there one already in the shape of a beautiful Squishy Bunny? Enjoy your diamonds. I believe there’s an entire mine-full within-in you.

  5. 5 Katherine Battersby October 24, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Lynn, you always know just what to say – thanks, love. I’m back in the mine-field today, getting sweaty and dirty in the pursuit but loving it! Although I think what I’m digging up at present is closer to cubic zirconias than diamonds…

  6. 6 Sherryl October 24, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    You’re right – the pressure is still there but it changes. It can become destructive when you start thinking “X had three books out this year – what’s wrong with me?” or comparing your progress or success with others.
    It really is a one-horse race in many ways – you are your own best and worst competitor! The main thing is not to become cynical or a whiner (heard a few of those over the years). Make the most of every milestone – plenty of champagne, I say!

  7. 7 Katherine Battersby October 24, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    I agree that comparing yourself to others is dangerous. Thinking of it as a one horse race is a great idea – focussing on just bettering yourself. And I’m certainly getting better at celebrating each milestone, big and small (you girls certainly help with that!)

  8. 8 Belinda Jeffrey October 24, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    I completely understand where you’re coming from. I still feel the pressure. In fact more so now than I did before. I still feel I haven’t made it in terms of finding that safe footing but I’m coming to terms with the fact that there may not be such a place. Just lovely celebrations along the way, and great people writing their own journeys alongside my own.

  9. 9 Sheryl Gwyther October 25, 2009 at 2:10 am

    All such words of wisdom, Kath, from everyone. Just stay the same as you are – a lovely, warm human being whom I’m very happy to know.

  10. 10 Katherine Battersby October 25, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Belinda, I suppose that’s why it’s so important to celebrate each positive step, as it’s hard to ever feel safe – writing is not a profession that offers any certainty.

    Sheryl, you’re a sweetheart – but keep saying lovely things like that and I might have trouble staying grounded :)

  11. 11 katswhiskers October 30, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Heh Kath,

    I thought for a moment I had written your blog myself. But like you said in an earlier comment, it is encouraging (surprising too!) to know that you’re not alone in wrangling these overwhelming emotions. In times of doubt (and drought) I used to panic that the words were gone – now I know to lighten up on myself. And I’m easier with that now.

    But still – I can’t believe how well you wrote my experiences/feelings!

  12. 12 Katherine Battersby October 31, 2009 at 10:44 am

    Thanks Kat. Glad to hear it resonated with you. As much as I don’t wish for others to go through this, it does make me feel better to think I’m not alone!

  13. 13 Marie Serio DellaValle November 3, 2009 at 2:08 am

    I am in the same boat as you are, and never realized how much time is involved with getting a children’s book published. The illustrator I chose refused to do my book,(usually it is an editor!) and now I am put on hold; I wrote this story 25 years ago, and hoped it would be out by spring 2010, but understand it may take YEARS…
    I am looking for people to read my manuscript, and to critque it; there is one more edit I would like to make…. this is only edit #45 at least. I am sure if a publisher ever accepts it, there will be a lot more edits to do.
    Patience is a virtue, not to mention “other” things. Smile anyway….and keep editing.

  14. 14 Katherine Battersby November 3, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Oh Marie, it’s tough isn’t it? You certainly sound dedicated, which is what is needed to make it. That and writing, writing and more writing :) Sometimes when I’m not sure where to take a manuscript and it’s been through my critique group, I’ll use a trusted assessment agency. Sally Odgers, a very experienced Australian children’s author, runs a wonderful one called Affordable Manuscript Assessments which, true to its name, is very reasonably priced.

    Good luck with it, and don’t lose hope!

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About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

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