How to Stay Sane While You Publish

yin yang writing

Photo credit: Grevel on VisualHunt / CC BY-NC-SA

Today’s guest post is by Bella Mahaya Carter (@BellaMahaya), author of Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy.


As an author, writing coach, and lifelong student and teacher of spiritual psychology, I think a lot about how to liberate writers from self-defeating thoughts and behaviors, some of which crescendo when the publishing process gets underway. As writers, when we argue for our own limitations, we’re bound to be right! Authors both crave and lament publishing. Even if we’re lucky enough to land a sweet deal, we often resist or bristle against marketing and promoting our work. Many writers identify as introverts. Most would prefer to stay home and write. This was my position for years. But I’ve learned that the best way to approach publishing is as an explorer, with a sense of lighthearted adventure, curiosity, and joy.

Lately I’ve been contemplating the Chinese Yin Yang symbol and its relevance for authors. The symbol suggests that opposite forces complement one another and that a little of each resides within the other. While writing takes Yin energy, which is feminine, introspective, spiritual, and inward-focused, being a published author requires a healthy dose of Yang. Yang energy is masculine, forceful, and outward-focused. The days of reclusive authors hiding away in creative solitude while others peddle their books are gone. Publishing requires us to engage with the outside world via social and traditional media, speaking engagements, workshops, networking, book fairs, and much more.

While some authors find these ancillary activities thrilling and fun, many find them excruciating and would rather do just about anything else. The telling of stories—that inner work—is Yin-based, and this is what many writers spend their lives developing. This energy requires incredible discipline and protection to sustain—especially when life gets busy. You have to be able to turn off your phone, ignore your to-do list, turn inward, get quiet, and listen. Writers excel at this. But how do we keep a balance when we move into the phase of publishing that requires us to be in that very different Yang energy?

Partly because of my dance and film school background, I’ve been able to embrace the Yang side of being an author. But what has also helped is an understanding that when I show up to speak about my book, it’s never about me, but rather about my message. It’s about sharing stories. It’s about human connection and trying to make the world a wiser, saner place.

Authors need not appear a particular way; we just need the courage to show up as we are, authentically, and with the intention to be of service. From there we get to share what we love and have conversations with readers. We may even learn something or become inspired!

You don’t have to be an extrovert to enjoy this. Look for joy. Ferret it out. Pay attention to details. Tune in to connections that lighten your heart. Remember that you are enough and your book event or publicity campaign doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. Focus on the good things that happen—the perks and surprises, the simple delights—and let go of your expectations. If you do, there will be fewer disappointments. Know that you are fine the way you are, no matter what happens with your book. Yin practices help maintain grounding in what’s real. Resist the temptation to take an emotional roller coaster ride when people respond to your work. Don’t let negative responses crush you and don’t allow praise go to your head. Neither matter much in the grand scheme of things.

Embrace your inner Yang as a challenge and an opportunity. It’s in there somewhere. Don’t worry if it feels uncomfortable. In the words of Conversations with God author Neale Donald Walsch, “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” Lean into discomfort. Give yourself permission to shine. Shy? No problem. You can still shine. Do it your own way, whatever that looks like. Make it up. Live your publishing experience with the same creativity you summon to write. See what’s on the other side of your uneasiness. Remember that none of us has to do it all. To some degree, we get to pick and choose our publishing and publicity tasks. Sometimes I forget this and freak out because I think I have to do it all. Not long ago, after I’d worked myself into a tizzy over some publishing issue, my husband and I took a walk to help me calm down. We came across a dog chasing its own tail. The sight mesmerized us for a minute and then we looked at each other and laughed out loud.

“That’s exactly what I’m doing, isn’t it?”

Raw by Bella Mahaya Carter

He nodded.

I remembered that in order for me not to run around in circles like a confused—and possibly mad—dog, I had to slow down and recommit to my Yin practices, such as meditation, yoga, and journal writing. Lately, I’ve added breath work to my routine. I inhale and exhale through my mouth in a continuous breathing pattern, taking in lots of oxygen. Whether it’s long walks, gardening, or meditating—finding these small ways to ground yourself can go a long way towards enjoying the publishing process rather than simply enduring it.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work if it comes from a place of purpose and joy, but once hard work becomes a proving ground of self-worth a battlefield is born. Don’t work so hard that you neglect to take the time you need to turn within—especially when you’re putting yourself out there with your book.

Yang without Yin is fruitless—and impossible—and so is Yin without Yang. The key is to keep these energies in balance, especially during launch cycles and book tours. When you find yourself complaining about or dreading publication, ask, Where’s the joy? How can I see (and savor) what’s good here? Visualize success. Feel it. Then let go and enjoy the ride.

Posted in Creativity + Inspiration, Guest Post.

Bella Mahaya Carter is the author of Raw: My Journey from Anxiety to Joy (She Writes Press, May 2018) and Secrets of My Sex. Her poems, essays, and short fiction have appeared in The Sun, mindbodygreen, Lilith, Literary Mama, and dozens of other print and online journals and anthologies. She is a writing teacher and coach who helps students and clients shed inhibitions, find their voice, and live their true calling. Her mission is to heal herself and others through conscious, creative inquiry and expression.

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Roni Beth Tower

Bravo for balance! Well done, Bella!

Bella Mahaya Carter

Thank you, Roni Beth. It’s a practice. xo

Lynne M. Spreen

What a gorgeous article. You have calmed me down and motivated me at the same time. I will be sharing this with my Writers Guild and hang it up on the wall at my work station.

Flora Morris Brown

Thank you for this calming advice, applicable to writing and living life as a whole.

Aimee DuFresne

Thank you for this. After exhausting myself marketing the first one, this was a timely reminder as my second books is just about finished. Balance, ease and joy are my mottos this time around for the publishing process. Thank you for the reminder this is possible.

Lizbeth Meredith

Thank you Bella. I loved the imagery of seeing the dog chasing his tale. 🙂 So true!
Thanks for sharing.

Joan L Jackson

How encouraging, insightful, wise and spiritual! Yes, I’m Yin energy, more or less, while my husband is Yang. Thank God. “But I’ve learned that the best way to approach publishing is as an explorer, with a sense of lighthearted adventure, curiosity, and joy.” Well said. It truly is about letting go of my negative attitudes and dread that prevail around marketing: “…find it excruciating and would rather do just about anything else.” Haha! Guilty. But the more I put myself out there on FB, Instagram, Twitter, speaking at events, etc, the less I procrastinate, just get on with it, and… Read more »

Linda Gartz

Good advice to hear when I’m in the throes of trying to get out the word on my recently published book, Redlined, also with She Writes Press. It’s impossible to do it all, and even with very well-paid publicists, the mark is too-often missed. Yes, time to settle a bit. But then there’s the notion: “Make hay while the sun shines.” And another quote: “There is at tide in the affairs of men, when taken at full force . . .” — close to that. It’s google-able. That’s where we have to decide.

Jennifer Spencer
Jennifer Spencer

I see this as a must read for all authors… Trying to maintain a balance. Loved the statement you made that when you get up to speak about your book, it’s not about you but about the message in your book.

Vik
Vik

Bella, you are a marvel. This is exactly what Zi needed to read right now. Thank you

Barbara Artson

For over thirty years in my practice as a psychoanalyst, so much of my time was spent allaying my patients’ anxiety, encouraging growth and confidence, dispelling negativity. And now, as my novel, Odessa, Odessa approaches pub time in September, I look to others for comfort, support, and wisdom. Your words helped. Thank you so very much. You are wise.

Dave Malone

I absolutely loved your post. I’ll chime in gleefully with others here, Thank you!

Candace
Candace

Thank you. This was so helpful!

Shelly Rondeau Heller
Shelly Rondeau Heller

“Resist the temptation to take an emotional roller coaster ride when people respond to your work. Don’t let negative responses crush you and don’t allow praise go to your head. Neither matter much in the grand scheme of things.”
Thank you Bella. I’ve only just finished a ms. and I’m not near publishing yet, but I already have the “scary voices” in my head. This helps me keep it all in perspective. The reminder that neither negative responses or praise matter much in the end is surprisingly calming! Great piece.

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[…] can be nerve-rattling for introvert writers. Bella Mahaya Carter explains how to harness your Yang to succeed, Dave Chesson examines the psychology of author marketing, and L.L. Barkat shares the introverts’ […]

Cecelia Earl

Thank you! I needed the reminder that it’s okay to be myself, especially when marketing. I’m constantly looking at what everyone else is doing and wondering how to keep up. It’s stressful and exhausting.

Kathryn Barnett
Kathryn Barnett

Thanks Bella for that article and with so much good advice for writers. My first novel is being published this year and I feel all the anxiety and nerves that goes with it. But referring to this article at different times in the publishing process and long afterwards will really help me to feel more confident at sharing the message of my novel with readers and to get it to a wider audience. Thanks again for sharing your experience with us.