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Refresh from Hell

So a few weeks ago, I asked if anyone on Twitter had some ideas for blog posts they’d like to see from me, and one of my fellow Pitch Wars mentees, @julieartz, hilariously suggested a “Twelve-Step Program to Breaking the Inbox Addiction.”

Which if any of you are in the query trenches, you probably TOTALLY understand the addiction in question. The refresh button is threatening to give me carpal tunnel at this point – obsessively checking for query/partial/full/R&R responses is one of the more calm-damaging hobbies a writer can rope themselves into.

So, with the refresh button currently taunting me from the corner – I suppose it’s about time to answer Julie’s call to action after all LOL.

I don’t have a full twelve steps/tips, but I’m still going to do my best!

Step One: Step Away From the Internet

This one is both the easiest to come up with and the hardest to actually manage. Just switching off my Wi-Fi would make this one simple, but in this digital age, disconnecting can be scary as hell. Still, it’s often a damn good idea for our mental/emotional health. I know it can be hard, especially if your job depends on email or some kind of internet searching, but at least during your leisure time, try to turn it off for a bit. Even if it’s just for an hour, this might totally help you stress less. Added bonus for those of us starting new drafts, having the computer but no internet can lead to a surprising increase in the daily word count!

Step Two: Remind Yourself of the Realistic Timeline

This one has been the tip I’m using most often. With so many people querying and sharing their experiences and using sites like Query Tracker, it’s easier than ever to see the estimates for agent/editor response times. But it’s important to remember that those times aren’t always accurate – they’re self-reported, and people might forget to update info right away. Or, sometimes agents get vastly far ahead or behind their normal schedules.

I’m trying not to pay attention to anyone else’s response times and instead focus on what the agent’s website states should be their timeline. If I’m getting impatient, I’ll go back to check my spreadsheet and remind myself that, on average, most of the people I’ve queried can take a month to two months or even more to respond. Just because someone decides to tackle their entire query inbox in a weekend does not mean that is the norm. I can’t let myself stress out just because I see that happen on occasion. Publishing is a marathon – not a sprint. I’ve just got to keep reminding myself of that.

Step Three: Commiserate Over Dinner (Without Your Smartphone)

This step is another one that I know scares all of us – step away from the computer/tablet/smartphone entirely and let yourself enjoy some time with actual human beings, like say, your friends and family.

(Remember those? They didn’t vanish just because you disappeared into the trenches – they’re still there, and they would like to see you. Probably?)

Go out to dinner or to a movie or even just spend an evening at home talking about each other’s days or playing board games or something. Stop interacting with the digital world at all and spend some quality time in the real world. Not only will it distract enough that you might forget some of the stress of “oh god what if I’m missing an offer or a request or god what if there’s a rejection there?” but you’ll also be physically incapable of hitting that terrible refresh button if you don’t have your device directly in front of you.

I can say first hand, that this tip really does work. I managed it almost by accident the past few weekends with our writers retreat our on a ranch without internet weekend before last and then a Renaissance Faire camping trip out in the boonies this past weekend. It was amazing how much calmer I was with my loved ones around me and stuff to go DO that didn’t involve my email at all. Seriously guys – go talk to folks in real life. It really did help!

Step Four: Start Another Book!

Yes, I know – we see this recommendation time and again, but that’s because it’s really a good one, guys! When you’re stuck in the query trenches, most of the process is out of your hands. You’ve done the work of creating an amazing novel and query letter (and possibly the dread synopsis – eek!) and sent it out to those agents/editors you feel would be the best fit for the book. And then, well, you get to wait. There is NOTHING you can do to move the process along faster (and other than time-appropriate nudges, there’s nothing you SHOULD do). Just sitting on your hands won’t do anything for you but make you go even crazier with hitting that ole’ refresh button.

So instead of obsessing over the status of the current book, get to work writing the next one. Immerse yourself in a new world for a while, meet new characters, create and solve new problems for those characters. Worst case scenario, it keeps your mind focused on something besides rejections; best case: you might have a new, nearly finished WIP to discuss during The Call when it comes. And as “they” say, nothing sells the backlist like a front list. To succeed in this business, we have to keep creating new stories. So why not do so while we’re stuck in the query trench limbo?

To conclude my random listy babble – waiting is hard; the refresh button is evil; and we gotta do whatever we can to stay sane LOL. Some of these general tips might work for you; some might not – but I hope they were at least a little helpful.

Do any of you have any tips to add for easing the pain of inbox addiction? Tweet them to me @C_L_McCollum J

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