Expectation Management

Writing is an expectations management venture. If you don’t manage your expectations, you can get really depressed, really fast. It’s that simple. Self-publishing or indy publishing aside, the number of books submitted to traditional publishers, both large and small, borders on the ridiculous. The number that are accepted and make it into print is a very, very small fraction of that. So, the odds are stacked against you from the get go.
Right now, I’m in Saudi Arabia, teaching with the Royal Saudi Air Force as I wait for Perseverance Press to release my new Jacobean era mystery Shakespeare No More next fall. Expectations management has been uppermost on my mind. For just as I have had to practice such management in my writing career, right now I have to practice it for my students.
I can’t talk a lot about what I do, but many of my students come from the desert tribes. They are illiterate in Arabic, so English is even a bigger challenge. Their goal is to be able to go to the US for advanced training. That’s their expectation. Mine is more modest, getting them from one level to the next. And that has a direct correlation to writing.
Focus your expectations on moving from one level to the next. Those sorts of things are achievable, are reasonable. If your expectation is a million seller and mansions to live in, well, those expectations are a sure road to disappointment. For most people.  But writing is a craft, and a craft takes practice, and you must move from one level to the next.  Lightning strikes happen, but they are hardly the rule.

But here’s the thing with expectation management. It’s a self defense mechanism, designed to protect our emotional health. Dreams, on the other hand, are a different matter. If you don’t dream big, you don’t achieve big. I’m reminded of my hero Lawrence of Arabia’s comment in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his great memoir of the Arab Revolt:
‘All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.’

So, my advice is simple. Be a day dreamer. Try to make that dream possible. But understand that there are things outside of our control, that sometimes tether our dreams to the ground. So dream big, but manage your expectations.

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One Response

  1. The weird thing in my career is that things that seemed within my grasp often eluded me but the amazing things that came my way were all surprises and things I never expected–like several Germany book tours sponsored by the US State Dept. I no longer dream big for career. But dreaming big for the work itself, that should always be the case.

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