How Publishing is Like a 7th Grade Dance

Oct 5, 2011Write!

I’ve been in the publishing business for seven years now. I’ve experienced the joy and heartache of the journey. My kids, all talented writers, have camped on the heartache so much so that none of them want to be writers. (Perhaps I should’ve shielded them).

The more I think about it, publishing is pretty much like a 7th grade dance. 7 reasons why:

  1. Writers wait on the wall, hugging it really, hoping-hoping-hoping for an agent to recognize them enough to extend a hand and dance. Problem is, sometimes the dance is awkward. Just because an agent spots us doesn’t mean he or she is a good fit. Just like in seventh grade dances, some folks end up dating the first person who asks them to dance instead of waiting for the right partner.
  2. No one spells out the dress code for dances at that age. Which means kids try on one thing, fling it to the ground, try another, fret about it, then go for outfit number three. Only to arrive at the dance and realize they dressed all wrong. Similarly, writers try on many different genres and styles, not asking themselves what really fits them, but instead they dress for the event.
  3. If our dance partner (agent) introduces us to a publisher and the publisher agrees to look at our manuscript, we fly on the wings of anticipation, much like how I felt when I “heard” of a boy who would ask me to dance with him. He didn’t. And I plunged into seventh grade angst. Get used to this. The publishing journey is much like Anne of Green Gables: wings of anticipation descending into the depths of despair. It’s a wily roller coaster.
  4. Once we’re on the dance floor, we tend to feel pretty self conscious, a little naked. In like manner, when we finally fling our words out to the public, we feel that same kind of exposure. Will they like the way we dance? Call us foolish? Laugh at us?
  5. The punch doesn’t satisfy. We often think if we could just be published, we’d finally be happy. We feel publishing would validate our existence. It doesn’t. It never could.
  6. The music is too loud. In the cacophony of our ambitions, our desire to be heard, we tend to listen to every single voice out there, even if those voices tell us to do things that violate our conscience. We can believe our own press that this gig is all about us and our climbing of the publishing ladder, then lose our soul in the process.
  7. Heartache lurks, but so does joy. Folks might not ask us to dance and we’re left feeling excluded, conspicuous. Or a good friend might offer his hand. We take it and realize love was in front of us all along. In this business you’ll experience heartache as your career dances high and low. But you will meet amazing, amazing people. My very best friends are in this industry, and they are the best part of publishing.


How about you and the industry you work in? How is it like a 7th grade dance?