It’s been a little over a year since I wrote my first Sit at the Table essay, although it feels like exactly a year since it was published the Thursday before FogCon, and guess what today is.
Last week I received word that I sold my story “Man on the Moon Day” to Daily Science Fiction, which was the same market to buy my first story a year ago. First off, hooray! I am really excited for this story to reach the reading public. The timing of the sale also made me realize that in about a year’s time, I’ve gone from having no sales of any kind to making six sales, four of which have paid professional rates. So this is me, taking a moment to pause and tell myself, “Not bad, Amy. Not bad at all.”
All of this has reminded me of sitting at the table, a surprisingly tenacious idea for me to still be contemplating a year later. It’s a powerful idea as well. It’s easy to lose sight of it given the undeniable role that random chance plays in events; so much is out of our control, it can be hard to focus on the parts that we can do something about. But that’s what sitting at the table is all about: being present to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.
Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to sit at the table this last year:
1. Submitting, submitting, submitting. If I don’t submit, there is absolutely ZERO chance of a sale. This is not to say I haven’t taken mental health breaks in my submitting process, because I totally have. But once I’ve enjoyed my breather, I’ve gotten back on that horse and submitted some more.
2. Behaving like a professional. And part of being a professional is believing in our work and our right to sit at the table in the first place. This doesn’t mean blowing up our achievements to encompass more than they do or refusing to accept needed criticism and editorial input. What it does mean is cultivating an inherent feeling that we belong, that we are writers, and acting that way.
3. Picking and choosing the industry-related events I attend, and being there 100%. Happily for me, I adore meeting people in my industry. But I’d be lying if I told you I don’t have moments alone in my hotel room when I feel like there’s no way I can navigate the social scene. I’ve learned to expect those moments, and I leave the room anyway. I feel so grateful to be at these events, I can’t justify giving less than 100%. This pays off in dividends, by the way. I’ve also learned I can’t do All The Things. I can only attend as many events as I have 100% energy to give out.
4. Creating space to write. If I don’t take my writing time seriously, no one else will either. So I’m being much firmer about defending this time. I’ve taken the myth by the horns that because I don’t have a typical job, that means I have loads of free time. Sadly, this is simply not true, and writing time has to come near the top of my list of priorities.
5. Continuous striving for improvement. And with it, embracing its inherent risk. I’m writing by far the most challenging novel I’ve ever written. This January I participated in a flash fiction contest, even though I knew nothing about flash fiction and honestly, my first two attempts were embarrassing. My third attempt sold to the first market to which I sent it. The last short story I wrote, I had specific writing issues of mine in mind that I tried my best to address and practice on. I picked up a few more writing books that I hope to work through in upcoming months. I am always trying to get better, and the more I learn, the more I realize I still have to learn. While this can at times be discouraging, it’s also an amazing realization: there will always be more to learn. And therefore, I can remain fresh and excited and hopefully avoid the enemy: Boredom.
Of course, there are ways in which I’ve failed to sit at the table as well. As in my writing skills, there is (and probably always will be) room for improvement.
How have you sat at the table in the past year? How would you like to sit at the table in the future?