Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Lost: One Creative Mojo

Dear Readers,

For the past year-and-a-half, I've been working with a book agent on the East Coast -- hammering out a book proposal. The project started as a longer version of my ebook and morphed into a real book, Thank God It's Monday! A week-by-week guide to banishing the Monday morning blues.

Unfortunately -- and despite the fact that several editorial boards liked the book and my writing -- the consensus was that I don't have the platform to sell 20,000 books. Basically, I haven't been on Oprah. I haven't delivered a TED talk.

The agent told me he was regretfully "throwing in the towel" on May 2. I sent the appropriate, and heartfelt, thank you note to him for all his work; we had a lovely farewell chat on the phone; he strongly encouraged me to finish writing the book and self-publish; I thanked him, hung up and gave up.

That's right. The creative instigator's creative mojo meter plummeted to zero. I told the family and a few of my closest friends -- and they were all wonderfully supportive and encouraged me to keep going; this was just a bump in the road.

I heard them, and I tried to believe them. Whenever I gave someone the disappointing update, I purposefully added encouraging comments about self-publishing.

"It's fine! It's all fine!"

But it wasn't. I couldn't even bring myself to tell everyone who knew about my work with the agent that it was over. I still haven't (so if you're on the "didn't know" list, consider this post your update).

One of the people I couldn't stand to tell was Jody Summers. Jody and I worked together years ago and have remained close. She's an incredibly talented writer, understands my writer's mind, and had been a huge cheerleader throughout the months of work on the book proposal. I knew she would be disappointed for me. I didn't want her to be disappointed in me.

Basically, I felt like I had failed at something really important and I just didn't want her to know.

Finally, two weeks after the talk with the agent, I put my big-girl panties on and sent Jod an email update. She immediately responded with kindness and encouragement:

Hi, Jannie:
They are wrong. It’s a great book idea and it deserves to be born. Want to schedule lunch?
This is only a step in the journey, Jan. Don’t give up. Get some time away from it, but don’t let it go.

My creative mojo meter inched up a bit. Jody still believed in me and the book. Everyone else I had told still believed in me and the book -- including the agent and several editors at prominent publishing houses. Maybe I should press on.

I went online, reviewed Amazon CreateSpace, and got to work formatting the existing copy. Heck, knowing that I had a lunch date with Jod (deadlines are wonderful), I even started writing new copy.

The mojo meter moved minutely in the right direction. I'd write, but then I'd chop it apart. The words weren't flowing. And my words typically flow.

Then, yesterday, Jody and I had lunch. I brought pages from the CreateSpace site as proof that I was doing something. But, God bless her heart, she wasn't concerned about the copy. She was concerned about me, my reaction, and whether I was taking care of my own creative soul.

And, since she knows me and knew the answer to that question, Jod also:
  • Gave me the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert to read for guidance. 
  • Reminded me of the value of morning pages -- I am always at my most creative when I do them every morning, and I haven't done them for some time. 
  • Suggested that I be kinder to myself, and go on solo artist dates. Alone time, in new environments, is inspirational. I know it. I forget to do it. 
The waitress brought our check nestled inside a book -- a hardback that guests can inscribe if they want. I wanted. 

I haven't started reading Big Magic yet, but I'll tell you what the magic is for me: It's you. It's Jod. It's everyone who reads my writing, and encourages me to keep going. You are the magic -- and you are the reason my creative mojo is coming back.

So here we are, my friends. I'm going to do the morning pages and take myself on artist dates. I'm going to read Elizabeth Gilbert's book -- and write my own, at my pace, when it's fun. I may finish it this summer, this year, or next year. But I will finish it. 

Why? Because I believe with all my heart that this book can help people. It's 52 quick chapters of stories and inspiration and ideas and exercises that can make life happier and help people regain the creative spark we all had as children. It's a wonderful reminder of our own wonderful potential. And I'm a damn good writer, so it will be a fun read. 

Lunch with Jody reminded me: One person can make a huge difference. Today, she was that person for me. With the book, I hope to be that person for many others. 

Hugs and happy day,


Leslie said...

Yes, you WILL do it! And the creative process along the way--those morning pages, the artists' dates--will being much joy to your life. Let's play some creative play dates, too!

Jan said...

Yes. I did my morning pages this morning. :-)

Karol said...

1- Consider me updated.
2- Happy you had lunch with Jod.
3- Do be kind to yourself...some of us depend on your undeniable genius for a living 😁

Jen said...

Jan! Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I am so glad you are continuing on to give birth to your book. I can't wait to read it. I also needed a reminder about morning pages and Big Magic has been on my night stand for months. Thank you for being brave. It helps me be brave too.

Charlotte said...

Definitely DON'T give up! The creative juices will flow and you WILL succeed! (Capitalized word opposites just seem to fit in the scheme of things!)

Amber said...

I'm glad you aren't letting anyone else determine what you can or cannot do. Many, many of us will be thrilled to read your book and believe in you fiercely! Love you!! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

Anonymous said...

Beautiful!! So glad you had that lunch date. Keep going!

Kim said...

You only haven't been on Oprah because Oprah don't do Oprah any more! I believe, Jan! Just because this baby hasn't been born YET, doesn't mean it won't be born! Ah, the power of YET!!!

JMS said...

Jan, you are the most creative and imaginative person I have met. I for one, would love for you to reserve me a copy when you finish. Good luck and may your words flow.

Kate said...

Everyone needs a Jody Summers ... and a Jan Sokoloff Harness. I admire you both as professionals, and appreciate you both so much as friends.

Michelle said...

Birthing pains, my dear friend! Every mother experiences them before the reward of delivery! Keep on truckin' (see what I did there!).

Regina said...

Go, Jan Sokoloff Harness, Go!

MB said...

Don't give an inch!!!!
You are you -- yes, a delightful, generous and good person, but also a wicked writer.
So, write on. Screw the observers and opinions.
I'll wait as long as it takes to attend the first NY reading of your Simon-&-Schuster,-Random-House-Hachette-published book. And I'll stand in the longest line for you to sign it....

Christy said...

Toby Neal. Have you heard of her?
She is a writer and an acquaintance on Maui. She received many rejections from publishers, decided to self publish, and has been very successful.
I believe she has even written a book on self publishing.
I like reading her books. Check her out.
It might get the meter pumping.

Beth said...

Jan, every time I write, I ask myself, WWJD? What would Jan do? You were my inspiration and tough editor when we worked together. I learned from you. Keep writing, my friend. Continue to be an inspiration for me and for so many others.

Terry said...

Keep writing. I can't imagine how fun the book will be. As info, my brother-in-law has self-published three books (ebooks and printed) and is working on his fourth. I'm sure he'd share the knowledge he has gained through the process.

Unknown said...

I hated reading this, and I loved reading this. Jodi's right. They're wrong. I can't wait for the book to be born in its own time. BTW: Two agents bailed on me. And Jodi was my first editor. And it took a year after that to self publish. And I had never heard of create space. It takes what it takes.

Vicki said...

I can't wait to read your book. I'm sorry there are bumps along the way. I know you'll do a wonderful, creative job.

I'm going to try to get back to writing morning pages, too. :)