I have brought together four blogs previously published into one guide and updated them with what I have learnt since.
It was Lent. My emotions were all over the place and my anxiety levels high. I had been plucked from the slush pile by a leading literary agent the previous year and after months of rewrites and edits, I was either on the brink of stardom or would soon be flung back into the sea. That was how I saw it then. All or nothing. My imagination would run away with me as I envisioned every scenario. It’s what we do as writers.
That day, I made one of the wisest decisions of my life. I committed to meditate every day for the Lent period. It is 2021 and I have continued to practice daily meditation. At first, it stilled my mind and helped me to manage fluctuating emotions, now, two years on I have greater insight, self-awareness, and positivity. My life has transformed. I am sharing my experience and learning with you so that you:
- Are happy and fulfilled with where you are right now in your writing journey.
- Are excited by the myriad of possible outcomes that will lead to your success.
- Recognise and are open to opportunities when they present themselves.
- Make full use of your time and energy to learn, grow and fulfil your potential.
- Lead the writing life that you dream of.
Eight hours after sending a query letter to my dream agent I received this response:
I’ve just read the opening of THE BORROWED BOY as your letter immediately stood out. I am absolutely hooked by your voice and the original premise, and I’d love to read the rest.
Please do send at your earliest convenience – I’ll be waiting on the edge of my seat.
Who wouldn’t be over the moon to get an email like this? I have read excited tweets from writers announcing their joy at getting a full manuscript request. It is something to celebrate indeed but important to keep present and not allow your imagination to run ahead.
I sent my manuscript after reading the whole thing through yet again. A couple of days later I received a response. I have included a few extracts from that email here:
Thank you so much for sending me the full manuscript of THE BORROWED BOY. It is absolutely compelling, one of the best novel openings I have read in a long while with a stand-out premise that really sets this book apart.
Editorially, I do have some thoughts …..
I would love to sign you to my list and work with you editorially, if you would be interested in editing along these lines?
We work extensively editorially with a lot of our authors, to really make sure their books stand out and shine and are snapped up by editors – which this book absolutely deserves. So, I’d love to hear if you might be in tune with these ideas, and whether it’s something we can work on together.
I’ll very much look forward to hearing from you.
Exciting stuff. Of course, I accepted and worked with the agent and editor to get it ready for submission. Each time I sent back a revision that had addressed all of the editorial comments I was hopeful that this was it. I had finally succeeded and was about to be launched as a hot new talent.
So, with an agent and in-house editor’s valued guidance, I wrote and rewrote and rewrote again, each time getting more pages of comments. Then, just before Lent, I received an email that made me think if I didn’t ‘get it right’ this time, then I would have thrown away my one and only opportunity to get published. Terror. I was going to fail.
Physical signs of stress which I hadn’t experienced for a couple of decades returned: eczema, IBS, migraines. I would wake up at three in the morning unable to go back to sleep. Relationships suffered, as I was irritable and over-sensitive.
Learning to let go
Then March 2019
I started with ten minutes of mindful meditation each day. Just keeping my mind from wandering or dropping off to sleep was a challenge. But I found with practice, that for just a few minutes, the constant noise of the voice in my head was silenced. You know how it is, all the what-ifs?
Mindful meditation made me feel grounded and focused, whereas before, my thoughts were skittish, either wildly excited that I was on the brink of success or full of doubt, telling myself that I was a fraud and my agent was probably regretting taking me on. The calm experienced in meditation expanded and I felt back in control.
I realised that no amount of worrying about what might happen would make any difference. It’s crazy how our mind hangs on to something as if things stop happening when we stop willing them to. Accepting that I had no control and letting go was a challenge but those ten-minute meditations helped.
Looking back, I can see that my intuition was telling me that things were not right.
I had invested too much in a particular outcome. I had no control over that outcome but it was just one possibility. My agent had not signed me or met with me. We had not even spoken on the phone. I greatly valued the editorial input but this was not enough. If I had been open to other opportunities and maintained a calm and inquiring mindset, I might have sown other seeds, entered a short story competition, started another novel, networked on social media. Instead, I wasted my energy in a constant state of anxiety and despair.
Learning to be patient
Then April 2019
I sent the next draft of my novel to my agent and tried hard not to stress about her response. I knew, in my heart of hearts, that if this draft of my novel didn’t meet with my agent’s expectation, then we might well be saying goodbye. Although I had been working with this agent for over a year, I still hadn’t signed a contract, met her, or even spoken on the phone, although her in-house editor did have a very helpful phone conversation with me early on in the process. This agent is one of the best, many of the authors she represents are international bestsellers. Her agency was growing and changing. It’s no wonder that she could spare me little time and was slow in replying to emails.
Writer friends cautioned me but I was willing to accept these terms as I was gaining a lot from the editorial comments on each draft of my manuscript. In my head, I likened it to dating. The same feelings of excitement and apprehension as I waited impatiently for her reply.
I realise that I was looking outside of myself for affirmation that I was good enough. I had invested this agent, who I hadn’t even met, with responsibility for my happiness and fulfilment. Only I had that power and I was woefully neglecting myself. Today, I am happy with who I am and where I am in my writing journey right now. Through meditation, I feel real gratitude for all that I have achieved and the myriad of opportunities that are waiting for me. Every day I sow new seeds of possibility through the connections I make, the actions I take, and the conversations I have. There is an abundance of possibilities waiting to happen.
If that one thing would happen – my life would be different.
Then May 2019
I needed meditation more than ever. By now, I had progressed to longer meditations.
Tara Brach www.tarabrach.com generously shares hour-long seminars on meditation practice. I would listen to these whilst ironing or making the evening meal, headphones on. In one of these seminars, she said something that struck a chord with me. I’m sorry but I can’t remember which one it was. Anyway, it was something like this:
We believe that if this one thing would happen, maybe meet the right man/woman, get a promotion, or in my case get published, that everything in our world will be better. We give this monumental importance. Just as we do in fearing something really bad. But, when this ‘thing’ actually happens it’s just a blip up or down in our state of being. Think about it – that job you finally got, getting pregnant, meeting the man or woman of your dreams. Or, the bad stuff, being made redundant, having your manuscript rejected. There’s a short period of euphoria or depression and then life resumes. It doesn’t change everything.
So, when my agent responded in May to say that she loved the changes that I had made to my manuscript and with just a couple of tweaks, she would be excited to send it out to publishing editors, I was of course thrilled. My journal reads, ‘It has finally happened. I have reached a milestone – jumped a hurdle. My novel is to be sent out to publishers and an amazing agent wants to represent me.’ I checked that she really was my agent, just in case I had been deceiving myself, and she confirmed that she was. I told my writer friends on Facebook, did the edits, and sent it back. My agent said that she would send me her marketing strategy and so I waited.
I don’t know whether it was Tara Brach’s influence or my meditation practice but I was very calm. I think as writer’s we take tiny steps. I imagine us all hiking up a mountain, the path curving around and upward, like a spiral. Each step is small, it’s only when you look down that you see just how far you have come.
Maybe, it’s watching or reading about dramas, great personal success stories, that we crave the elation of those dizzying heights. The reality is, change is more often gradual. But that doesn’t make for a sensational story.
By being present I have found joy in everyday things. As a result of lockdowns, we have all learnt to appreciate the things that we once took for granted. When we are impatient for something to happen, we miss what is happening right now – the lessons we need to learn, the actions we need to take today to bring us closer to our goal.
Meditation to help generate new ideas
Then June 2019
Through meditation, I was able to be more productive whilst waiting for responses from my agent. Before I started my meditation challenge, I was just too critical of my work afraid that I didn’t have anything else to offer. Now, with the benefit of meditation, my mind was more open to new ideas.
I found an excellent meditation for creativity and on one occasion, I did it before going to bed. At around four in the morning, I woke up with so many ideas, I jumped out of bed and wrote them down. My second novel came to me so fast I couldn’t stop writing. I forgot to worry about not receiving a publishing plan from my agent. Until July when I prompted her.
That second novel was Just Bea. Meditation has become part of my creative process. Early morning meditation, writing morning pages (Julia Cameron The Artists’ Way), and running all help to stimulate ideas.
Meditations for disappointment
Then, July 2019
If hearing the news that my novel was ready to go out on submission was a high, then it was followed by a low. Apparently, there had not been a great response to ‘the pitch.’ It was going to be a challenge to find a home, as it wasn’t ‘on trend’ right now and editors were being cautious in the current market. This was before the pandemic and I suspect times are even tougher now for debut authors. Meditation came to my rescue again.
Whatever you need meditation to help you with, type it into the YouTube search engine. It’s an amazing resource. I typed in guided meditation for disappointment and found a guided meditation for healing disappointments.
I have used it again and again. It’s very effective.
I have learnt not to attach myself to one particular outcome. It is hard not to but the truth is that we do not know what our path to getting published will look like. Whatever it is it will be right for us and will happen at the right time. I believe this 100% and have absolute faith that what is for me will find me – so long as I am open to receive it.
Then – August 2019
My agent’s marketing strategy was to first send my novel to one of the big five publishers on an exclusive. This means that they have first refusal, rather than having to bid against other publishing houses.
I overdosed on meditation. Instead of driving myself crazy imagining different scenarios, I meditated with vengeance. I meditated to invite abundance into my life. There are lots of meditations on using gratitude to create abundance, the theory being that when you are thankful for the good things in your life you attract more. I had a lot to be grateful for – my ‘cup over-floweth.’ In fact, I felt as though I already had too much and I was wrong to want more. But I did. I desperately wanted a publishing contract.
Some of the meditations on abundance are about using meditation to create prosperity and wealth. I avoided these at they didn’t sit well with me. I was struggling with my faith as I felt I was being punished for seeking fame and fortune. That I had already had more than my fair share.
I truly believe that we never have too much. We have enormous potential and it is our responsibility to use it to make a difference. I am grateful for the wonderful life I have lived but as long as I am still on this earth I have more to achieve. My heartfelt desire to write and to be read was planted in my heart for a reason. The universe is abundant. My success is not at the expense of another. There is more than enough for everyone to achieve all that they dream of. In fact, we are all interconnected – made of the same stuff. Together we are changing the world – making it a better place.
Trusting the journey
Then- September 2019
It didn’t work. By September, the editor who had my manuscript rejected it and from her comments, I don’t think she could have read it. But there was a plan. My agent resolved to get my novel into the hands of the right editors and proposed a list of thirteen. We waited until after the Frankfurt Book Fair in October. And waited.
I really believed that good things were going to happen for me. I had absolute faith and confidence. When I wobbled, I repeated my mantra, The right thing will happen at the right time in the right way. You are exactly where you are meant to be right now. I had reason to be optimistic, I had a brilliant agent and my manuscript had been sent out to a number of publishers. There was nothing I could do except concentrate on writing my next novel, which was progressing well.
I am a bit of a control freak. This served me well in the past, as I founded two successful businesses but I needed to learn to let go and trust the process. My daily meditations now included ones to help me do just that.
As weeks passed without any news, I managed my anxiety by imagining that I was in a rowing boat. I pulled the oars inside and lay back to allow the boat to take me along the river. When the boat got caught on reeds, I waited patiently knowing that the flow of the river would dislodge us and carry us to the ocean. It was a soothing thought.
‘If we haven’t got an offer by Christmas, we’ll meet to discuss the next steps’, my agent reassured me. So, there were next steps. This wasn’t the end of the journey. Equipped with positive affirmations, I clung to the sides of that little boat and willed the river to carry us onward.
I am truly grateful to that agent for believing in me. She was true to her word and despite having a very full and busy list she brought my MS to the attention of publishers. I wasn’t wrong to have faith in her and to stay the course. However, I did need to do this mindfully and this is what I learnt through meditation. Looking back, I wonder whether this happened for a reason as my experience in 2019 strengthened me. I became more resilient and self-sufficient. I have learnt to be happy and content whilst losing sight of my goals.
Then January 2020
As I waited and meditated, I realised that I hadn’t fully understood the law of abundance. I was using meditation to wish, like a talisman. If I meditate enough, my wishes will be granted. It was no different from the early days, before meditation when I constantly fretted about the future.
Meditation taught me that abundance is about inviting what we need into our life. When we are very still and not distracted by our noisy thoughts, we are more observant of things that come our way: the comment made by a friend, a social media message that attracts our attention, something we thought might come in useful but had forgotten. These are like breadcrumbs that lead us to the right path. When you are curious and open to ideas and opportunities, things start to happen. Meditation helps you to see more clearly, to understand what you truly want, and opens your heart and mind to receive what comes your way.
I started out wanting validation as a writer. By picking out my submission from the hundreds that are sent to her every week, my agent had done just that. The wonderful rejections from top publishing editors that glowed with praise were also validation.
What I truly wanted now was to reach out to readers, in the hope that my stories would have some positive impact. I wanted to connect with readers in a meaningful way. Fame and fortune were never my goals.
Maybe, I was just preparing myself for disappointment but it didn’t feel like that. I didn’t want to rely entirely upon this one agent, who despite her best intentions to serve me, was incredibly stretched as a result of her success and brilliance. How could I be open to new possibilities, if I wasn’t looking around me and making connections?
Eventually, I was forwarded four rejections. Two of them gave such glowing reviews that for a while I pinned these above my desk. However, the bottom line was, they didn’t know how to market my novel. I didn’t hear anything from the other nine, maybe my agent did but she never said.
I had completed a second novel, which would be appreciated by fans of the first, but I suspected, would have the same problems with marketing.
My agent and I agreed to part company for the time being, so that I could pursue other opportunities to get my two novels published.
Reaping the rewards of meditation
At the start of my meditation journey, I would have been devasted to think I no longer had an agent and was back to square one. It was my biggest fear. Now, it was liberating. I had been set free! No more waiting for responses, waiting to be chosen. I chose ME. And it felt really good.
It was then that things started to happen. New people came into my life to support me, I came across resources and ideas that excited me. I realised then what inviting abundance into my life really meant.
In August 2020 I self-published The Borrowed Boy. It has received three awards to date and great reviews. In February 2021 I self-published Just Bea. I commissioned the same editor who worked with my agent.
As an Indie author entrepreneur, I started a weekly blog and a YouTube channel and Podcast Castaway Books.
I have written a third novel Misdirection and will be submitting it to agents and publishers this summer.
I have loved every moment of my writing life. I’ve met some amazing people through social media and feel as though my world has opened up – and that’s in lockdown!
Daily meditation and journaling are integral to my writing life. I’ll just keep on working, sowing seeds, and trust the creator of all things to give life to those that are meant to be. I am finding joy in all that I do and have stopped feeling anxious about what may or may not happen.
I hope that some of what I have shared speaks to you.
5 thoughts on “How to get Published Mindfully”
I loved this post Deborah, so much of it spoke to me. I think you identified the crux of your problem here ‘I had invested this agent, who I hadn’t even met, with responsibility for my happiness and fulfilment.’
Whenever we do this, we are not taking care of and loving ourselves as we should. I have done this myself many times.
But your words were so inspiring, you have made me want to get back to novel writing. I have other projects I must complete first, but I know when the time is right, I will take up this adventure and enjoy it, mindfully!
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That was the hardest lesson for me Ingrid. Heartbreaking at the time. I hope my story helps other writers. We can brave the waters without putting ourselves in peril.
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I think it most definitely will!
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Such a beautiful read Deborah as always! I too, am on the hunt for my first agent now in hopes to get my first self-help book published and found your blog truly helpful! I am a fan of meditation, I will be sure to be more mindful of how to broach my wish list and enjoy the process! Thank you!
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Good luck Ana. Let me know how you get on. X
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