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Wax On, Wax Off, Wax Philosophical

I had such a HAPPY EASTER! I hope my fellow resurrection people had a good one too. My favorite silly moment: my friend Chris played his bagpipes in FULL SCOTTISH REGALIA at the sunrise service, and when we arrived for the next service he was still there.

Maisy did a double-take when she saw the kilt, and she went up to him with VERY puzzled eyebrows and said, “Excuse me, are you wearing a MAN SKIRT???”

Heee! Sam was more impressed by the dirk tucked in his sock.

It was a nice distraction; This week my mental illness number is so VERY high you could break it into one and two digit chunks and have enough numbers to play the Crazy Town Lotto a couple hundred times.

Backseat Saints comes out in paperback a week from Wednesday. (SEE HOW THE NEW COVER IS ALL OVER THE SITE NOW? In the sidebar here, and on the backseat saints page I just linked to, and all the links go to the paperback now. THANKS, MR HUSBAND!)

I am trying SUPER hard not freak right the heck out. I am trying to remember that book launches are EXCITING and YAY, but at the same time, I will admit to a little bit of snappishness and a fringe of extra lunacy around my crispy-fried crazy center.

I just want Rose to DO well, I love her so, I love her so. And OH the paperback is SO beautiful, it has the thing I don’t know what you call it, where there is a cover inside the cover…you have to see it. You will see it, I hope, next Wednesday. LOOK at it.

Meanwhile, I will be here, staying OFF the Success Barometer Train.

Unless you get hit by a bus, ALL career paths are long and spackled with doom and triumph. AT this point I have NO control over what happens to Backseat Saints. Whatever will be for Rose, and her dear dumb dog Fat Gretel, it will be, and my insane surges of hope and terror don’t do a thing except give me stress hives.

Most of the time, I do not hang on to the nicer moments in my career as a way to think of myself as successful. I also try (though this is harder for me) not to dwell on the bad days and consider myself a roaring failure. It’s harder around release—harder for good or ill.

I have decided there IS no place to land and call success . The idea of success being a PLACE to get to or a SLOT is an eating machine and if I start on that path the first thing the machine eats is my humanity.

There is no resting place. There is no FINISHED. There is no place to GET to and win (someone pass this link to Charlie Sheen, high-OH!) —each place is a step to another thing, and some steps lead up and some down but all go inexorably forward to the next thing.

If I get on that train, that pushing upwards SLOTTY thinking train, then any step up is NEVER enough, it always could have gone one slot higher on this or that list, or stayed one more week. No matter what, no matter what, if you think of success as a place to GET to, you fail.

As release gets closer—NEXT WEDNESDAY! I have to REMIND myself that I have become a much happier person since I opted out of that crapfest. And STAY opted out.

I remember… Last year I was happened to be in the same place at the same time as an editor who works with a guy I think of as a hugely successful writer. He has had #1 slot on the NYT list more than once. He had a new book, and the list was coming out that day. The editor was waiting to see if THIS book would get #1, and the very air was fraught and tainted with fear of failure, and here, you understand FAILURE was defined as “number 2 on the list.”


I am SO not getting on that train.

Sure, I stay ambitious. I love my books and want the best for them. Sure I do EVERYTHING I can from my end to get my books into the hands of readers. And sure! I try to celebrate the days when things go well, but I am careful to remember that it means nothing except that I had a good day.

I need to say to myself, over and over in the next few weeks: The bad day ends, The good day ends, and either way, I pile on the sofa with kids and animals and husband to play X Box and pretend I don’t have a messy house. The next morning I get up and put words on a page, building the best damn book I can write right NOW, and as for Rose and Gretel and all their saints? That book is out there and finished. I hope it does well. I hope people buy it and like it, so someone will publish this next one I am writing. And that is all.

If I think any accomplishment in the professional realm MEANS anything about me, my value as a human, I am inviting the monster to come, the I WANT monster, who is slotty and jealous. No, thank you.

I do not have time to be that person—that person is EVERY asshole you meet in publishing. They think there is a PLACE or times number or sales number they can get to and THAT will be success and THEN they will be happy, and what it really means is, the monster ate them and now they are tiresome.

You know That Guy, right? I don’t think he only exists in the writing world. He is the guy who can’t enjoy nice things happening to anyone else, who presses his lips into a gruesome smile-esque pain-shape, and words like CONGRATS and GOOD FOR YOU come out of his mouth sounding like death threats. You know that guy?

I think you do know that guy—and he EXHAUSTS you I bet, but, you know what? We need to be nice to him. Because the place he lives is very, very, very small.

A huge part of actually being a success is choosing to never, never, never be him.

24 comments to Wax On, Wax Off, Wax Philosophical

  • I’m so glad this post wasn’t about a visit to a beauty salon.

    You are right on with all of this…. and thank you for the reminder that there isn’t a place to get to and be done with it all. While I try to not let that idea sink me into a deep dark hole of hopelessness, it is also refreshing to realize that I have control over that, too.

  • Anne with an e

    Oh, I want Rose to do well too – but I loved her too much to wait for paperback and bought the hardcover ages ago!

  • I don’t think success is something that can be measured as it is a personal definition. If you are an athlete and your dream is to go to the Olympics, do you measure success as actually getting there? Competing in the competition for the slot to get there? Getting into the final race? Placing? Gold? Because it seems to me, striving for something that ephemeral and elite is success in and of itself.

    You wanted to write. You wrote a book. To me (especially as a professional scribbler who has yet to finish ANYTHING), that is success. You went above and beyond and GOT PUBLISHED. How awesome! You continue to write a list of the best books I’ve ever laid my eyes on; books that I read over and over and over. (Nonny Frett is simply my most favorite person). In my book, you are a success, whether you continue to write or finish books or make the NYT bestseller list. You are a success at putting words together in the most astonishing ways that seem to pluck thoughts right outta my head!

    I love that you aren’t all about selling the most, but that you want to write the best you have to give. LOVE THAT. Thanks for the reminder.

  • If, for some reason, some (idiot) ever decides to NOT publish your next book (idiot) you need to go into Pep Talk Writing. For reals.

    I especially liked the following:

    “The bad day ends, The good day ends, and either way, I pile on the sofa with kids and animals and husband to play X Box and pretend I don’t have a messy house.”

    My husband and I have oft said (when the money is low or the 25th hour of the day fails to show, or the house is a Really, Truly Mess.), “The kids are healthy, and we love each other.” That’s enough to shape us up fast.

    And also, you rock.

  • And also this part. . .

    “There is no resting place. There is no FINISHED. There is no place to GET to and win—each place is a step to another thing, and some steps lead up and some down but all go inexorably forward to the next thing.”

    (I erased any mention of Charlie Sheen because his mental illness number has gone into incomputable code and has no place on this blog.)

  • Em

    Where I find it difficult is the feeling that I am disappointing the people who want me in the monster’s belly with them. I won’t go (and I define it all differently due to being in a different work situation but the message is the same and it all rings true). It is true, I worry that the assholes will think less of me.

    Holy psychotherapy, Batman! I think I have stumbled onto one of my major malfunctions! Monday is looking productive after all!

  • Melissa Montez

    Wow. Thanks to you for this. Do I sound like a stalker if I tell you that I think you’re awesome? I’ve read all of your books, staying up far past my bedtime. I love being able to relax into the reading, knowing I’m in good hands. And your blog entries brighten my day. Thanks again.

  • Lulu

    “There is no resting place. There is no FINISHED. There is no place to GET to and win…”

    Oh, Ms. Joshilyn, you are not alone in that exhausting fight! I think our culture is so goal-oriented and competitive, it continually pushes us to measure ourselves against “the competition” as if that were all that matters — and you are right, the competition never ends!

    It’s hard to stay in the moment to enjoy success when it happens and not let it, or the lack of it, register as a grade of my soul.

    I’m existentially exhausted from contemplating this. I need a nap.

  • Amy-Go

    Tulip, this is an extremely mentally healthy post. If necessary, read it out loud to yourself every day. Chant it. I think if you believe this post then you are the very definition of true success.

    If you have any time this week, let me know and I will come to you, take you out to lunch, and converse at length about any subject you choose that has nothing to do with book release dates. On my honor. Hope to see you soon!

  • Beth

    Yes, exactly this. My husband is transitioning sloooowly into being a Writer vs being a “writer” (10 years and one movie made, but he still does not consider himself a Writer) and it was very very hard to watch everyone in LA jockeying for position while said movie was being made and accoladed, even the Super Duper Famous people who you think would be just fine with themselves!

    It is never, ever enough, and I think this has contributed to the Sheen’s mental illness, bless his heart.

    Also, I read Backseat Saints again on my kindle and I loved it more the 2nd time, and will pass along that it is in paperback on the facebooks.

  • Michelle-who-is-Shelley

    Exactly. This post was so well-stated that it is hard to believe that your mental illness number is so high. Or maybe your mental illness number does not affect your intelligence because you nailed it with this post. In fact, you pretty much said what my minister said for our Easter Sunday service only yours is about publishing and his was about being, well — people. But the gist was the same.

  • Oh, Em, you made me laugh out loud. I, too, have worried that that the toxic people around me will think less of me because I am not toxic. I have been labeled many HORRIFIC things including, “Pollyanna” “Suzy Sunshine” “Miss Goody Two Shoes” and my FAVORITE of ALL TIME was this gem, “Your Life is Like a Painting.”

    Although I assure you that none of that is quite true, I actually felt guilty (and somewhat apologetic and embarrassed) for being optimistic, happy, and blessed.

  • edj

    I’ve read all your books and I love Rose too. I’m pretty sure that she’ll do awesome in paperback. And even if she doesn’t, she’ll be fine and you will too. Because seriously, no one who was too full of the Crazy could have written this post.

  • Mr. Husband

    More and more I’m of the opinion that people are defined by relationships. Money is good to have and success and recognition are nice to, but in the end? It’s all about relationships.

  • […] ever-charming and entertaining Joshilyn Jackson posted a blog post today that started me thinking.  I’m the kind of person for whom […]

  • You are such an amazing writer that I can’t think of you as anything but a raging success. Your books speak to what makes us human, and they are covered in all things messy and good and crazy, and they are my very best favorites!

    My 10-year-old is that guy right now. And it makes me sad and crazy, because I was that girl at his age (and much older than I care to admit.) I was so scared that if someone else won an award it had meant that I failed. Or if one of my friends got a new friend, it meant that they liked her more. Thank the Good Lord, I do not think this way anymore, and I am trying desperately to get my son to see that someone else’s success does not mean he has failed. But for 10-year-old boys, EVERYTHING is a cometition. *sigh*

  • You don’t sound arrogant or stressed to me, but rather, grounded. As a super competetive person myself, I know how critical it is to keep an eye on the “now” and real life rather than numbers, approval, and other people. (Unless those people happen to be dear ones.)

    I could wish you well in the number zone, but instead I’ll wish that you continue to feel and believe everything you wrote above. That’s probably the best protection for your career, anyway.

    BTW? Kids and husbands were designed with ego-deflating properties. I think your family’s got your back. 😉

  • You. Are. Fabulous.

  • Wonderfully put! Thank you for this post– I have a feeling I’ll be coming back to it in the future, when my head gets all success-y and unrealistic. Best of luck to you and Rose– you’re both wonderful!

  • Well said, whoodie. I’m bookmarking this for my own PB release.

  • Eleanor

    Joss, I loved this post so much I had to save it overnight and read it again in the morning. Brilliant, warm, self-aware. Bravo.

  • Ray

    Bad Zoot! Naughty Jossy Zoot!

    I rather skimmed a bit of the top of that, saw “release gets closer—NEXT WEDNESDAY!” and almost MI’d- OMG how’d I forget to pre-order Pretty, QUICK! AMAZON EMERGENCY!

    Then I saw, um, the paperback part.

    On the bright side, I did get to see some of your book covers in other languages, which probably will have their images stripped when I try to hotlink to them, but go to your Amazon page and you’ll see them:

    Das Mädchen im Pool (wow! Joss gots umlauts! Und ve vill LIKE zem!)


    Hay Dioses En Alabama (someone’s got to speak to them about that second word being capitalized)


    And my favorite, the French edition of gods:

    Because not even the French can turn you into snooty:)

  • SO TRUE!! So true!!

    Just checking if you ever did get my address? I swear Yahoo sometimes just swallows my emails with a gusty burp.

  • Karyn

    Backseat Saints is my next book to read (as soon as I download it from Audible 🙂 )

    I have to say (stalkerish or not) that I love your books and your writing style and even your voice. I just listened to Between, Georgia and was unable to do just about anything productive until I finished it. I don’t know any non-spoilerish way to describe how much I was crying even though I *knew* you wouldn’t do that. Ugly cry. Seriously 🙂

    Love your books, love your blog. Keep doing what you’re doing, because it’s working, (at least for me…)