There's a term writers use. I learned it as a journalist. It's being married to your words.
When you're married to them, you think what you created is perfection and you're unwilling to change or let go. I guess it's kind of like new love. At the beginning, your new crush doesn't fart or chew with their mouth open or because new love is shiny and shiny things have a way of keeping us distracted. As a newspaper journalist, you can't be that way. You need to be open to change and willing to let go. You need to be able to recognize that your work can be made better just as fiercely as you are confident in your work.
Maybe it's a paragraph or maybe it's the entire story that needs to be revised. Your editor is the one trying to make what you created into the best it can be. But nothing will change, and your career is over, if you aren't objective enough to let go of what you created in order to make it into what it is meant to be.
The same can be applied to writing in general, and to books, more specifically. I revised Babyfat: Adventures in Motherhood, Muffin Tops, & Trying to Stay Sane 12 times, I think, fully and without mercy. What was published is thousands and thousands of words lighter than what was in the original manuscript. And it's better because I was open to criticism and okay with letting go of the unnecessary.
You can also apply the same thinking to the publishing process. Write it. Edit it. Revise it. Put it out there. And then let the fucking thing just go. Do not pass go and collect $200. Do not bank all your hopes and dreams and confidence and self on this one little thing. Do not put your life on hold thinking that this is it-you're ticket to fame. Do not convince yourself that you cannot move forward until you've reached the stars. My friend Rita Arens, a novelist, once said that lives are not dramatically changed for writers upon the publication of a book... Unless your a dick.
Dont be a dick.
Do not do any of that. Divorce yourself from the book, the story, the words, and your hard work. Acknowledge the greatness you poured into it, be proud of it, share it, celebrate any successes that come your way. But that's it. No more. No less. Otherwise you drive yourself insane comparing yourself to everyone else and feel like you've failed when you have not. You wrote a fucking book. You created that.
Good for you.
Now? Eat a cookie. Pat yourself on the back. Take a deep breath. And let that shit go.
Once it's out there, you have zero control on its reception. You can (and should) market your work to the best of your ability, but ultimately, it's up to the reader. Maybe the world embraces it. Maybe the world doesn't notice and keeps on spinning. Either way? Your job is to move on to the next great thing; the next story living inside your head, the next amazing book to be written in only the way you can tell it. I'm not saying to forget you ever write it, mind you, just to stop devoting hours on end refreshing your book's Amazon listing while obsessing over your fluctuating sales rank. Pretty sure that second books (and third and fourth and twentieth) never get written this way.
Remind yourself that this is better. It's good for you and your heart and do good for your soul. Celebrate what you did, but let go of it to make room for your next creation.
And then keep doing that.
Sure, it's nice to "make it", and be the new name on every reader's lips. I can only assume, since I haven't reached this level myself, but I've cheered friends in as they've shared news of making it on the New York Times bestseller list and more. That's okay. Im trilled for them. Maybe one day ... But I'm loving in my Right Now and that means I'm still writing.I'm still putting one foot in front of the other and conquering the blank page one word at a time. How do I let go and reach this DGAF zen-like attitude?
I remind myself that at the end of the day, whether my book hits the bestselling lists and gets optioned for movies or if I just keep trucking along in my happy little corner of the Internet, I'm still the one doing the dishes, picking up the dog shit in the yard, and vacuuming the dust bunnies up from under the couch. A literary success or a mediocre splash makes no difference in real life. It's your attitude - and your ability to bounce back and keep putting one foot in front of the other - that changes everything.
Divorce yourself from the idea of success. Focus on the intention of creating. Remember how much you love doing that and how the process makes you feel. Keep creating, but free yourself from expectation. Once you do that, and stop putting every single fuck in the same basket as your latest creation, you've made it. That's when you will sleep better and breathe and feel lighter and free.
Write it. Edit it. Revise it. Put it out there. And then let the fucking thing just go. This is how good you are. This is how good you need to keep reminding yourself you can be and will continue to be.
You wanna know how to do that? What the secret is? Do it. Just once. That's the secret. It gets easier with each project. It really and truly does.
Write it. Edit it. Revise it. Put it out there. And then let the fucking thing just go. This is your new mantra. This is how you learn to free yourself to keep doing that thing you love.
Make like Elsa, dammit, and just let the fucking thing go.
Maybe, then, you should take out the garbage. And fold the laundry. Oh, and figure out what you're cooking for dinner. Because that's pretty important, too.