Right now, I’m in the grips of Submission Lag. Never heard of Submission Lag? It’s a real thing. I’ve done research on it (well, I’ve asked my writing friends if they go through the same thing – and they do! I’ve also read about it – other authors call it different things – on other writer’s websites.)
Submission Lag is what happens after you’ve spent quite a bit of precious writing time preparing and sending out submissions. It doesn’t matter if it’s submissions to contests or submissions to agents and publishing houses. The outcome is the same. You feel kind of drained, like all the creativity has been sucked out of you and it’s hard to get back on track. For me, Submission Lag is always temporary. It can last for anywhere between a day or a couple of weeks depending on the amount of submitting I’ve been going through. I still write every day, but the joy is kind of temporarily sucked out of it.
During this time, I usually do some editing and concentrate on what I’ve already written rather than writing fresh, because there’s nothing worse than writing without the love. I know not to panic about it, because I know the love will come back, because, quite frankly, I can’t live without writing. I need to write more than I need pasta (and if you knew me, you’d know that’s like anyone else saying they need writing more than they need chocolate/wine/cake!) Currently, my submission lag is occurring because I’ve spent a lot of time in the last few months entering competitions. Added to that, after the fabulous Romance Writers of Australia conference, I had submissions to make to a number of lovely editors and an agent (it was a really great conference for pitching opportunities.) I have been writing during that time, but not as much as I normally would have, because most of my energy has gone into perfecting my submission chapters and the synopsis and query letters.
I have a couple of theories why Submission Lag occurs.
1) You’ve sent your baby out to people whose job it is to say ‘no’ more often than they say ‘yes’ (or in the case of a competition, it is a judge’s job to look at your work critically, applaud it for its successes but also comment – positively and helpfully – on the things that are not working for them, and it’s always difficult to hear there are problems with your baby.) You’ve got a heap of respect for these people, so even if they are lovely and encouraging, and while you are hoping for that ‘yes’, (or that high score that will get you a place in the finals), you know the odds are not in your favour (although, you will keep trying, because aside from working on improving your writing all the time, you hear all the time that a published author is just someone who didn’t give up). It’s also hard to think that your baby might get that ‘no’ (you know this from past experience because you’re not one of the lucky, and talented, very, very few who get a ‘yes’ on their first try). So, while your baby is out there being read and judged, it’s really difficult to fully concentrate on anything else because you’re waiting for that ‘call’ (hopefully!) or preparing for that email saying, ‘thanks for submitting but unfortunately…’ No matter how much you try to forget about your baby, it’s just not possible.
2) You’ve been working so long on the ‘baby’ you’ve just submitted that it’s hard to get your head out of those characters’ stories and concentrate on something new.
3) You’ve exhausted yourself doing manic hours and are tired, red eyed and possibly run down and sick. It’s hard to be enthusiastic about anything when you’re feeling a bit shit.
4) You’ve neglected everything else in your life (the house is a mess, washing needs to be done, the kids are screaming for more of your attention just because they feel your attention has been elsewhere and they really don’t like sharing- even though you’ve made sure everything is done for them and they haven’t missed out on anything they normally have – and hubby wants to watch some movies/TV with you and talk about his day which he hasn’t done while your concentration has been elsewhere. Not to mention the dog needs to be washed and walked etc etc etc) and your mind gets sucked into the black abyss of guilt for letting it all go.
At the moment, I am suffering a little from all four.
At these times, I find my writing friends are key. Nobody understands Submission Lag like my writing friends. I can email them or chat at my next writing meeting about the lack of enthusiasm/work going on. They listen when needed, give pep talks when needed, empathise with similar stories and help refill the creative well by just giving of their time, their patience and their experience (not to mention writerly friendship.) They’re happy to workshop ideas, talk over my characters, be enthusiastic about what I’ve just sent out and generally just buoy me up.
I had the loveliest email from my critique partner, Anyo Geddes (check out her website – she’s a really talented up and coming writer I have the privilege of working with), buoying me up when I expressed Submission Lag concerns to her the other day. She made some great suggestions, empathised, told me I was a great writer and emailed me a link to an author who talked about this kind of lag (Nathan Bransford – he has some really great tips on all sorts of things – check him out.) It really helped reading that published authors experience the same thing I do. But do you know what was even better? The fact that Anyo had taken the time to help me, even though I know she’s busy trying to fit her writing dream into her own hectic life. And even better than that is that I know,if I’d emailed any of my other writer friends, they would have done the same.
Writers might write in seclusion, but that doesn’t mean we have to be secluded. I treasure my writing friends and I hope they treasure me for the same reasons. So, if you are a writer and you are alone in all of your writerly pursuits, I highly recommend you join a writing group, get a critique partner, join an organisation like Romance Writers of Australia/NZ/America and make use of their resources that can introduce you to like minded people. Because as Barbara Streisand sang, ‘People who need people are the luckiest people,’ and writers are people who need people. And if we hook up with those people and become friends, we are the luckiest people.
I certainly am.