Zen and publication – C.E. Tobisman

By  |  0 Comments

By C.E. Tobisman

Expectation is the root of suffering. This Buddhist maxim holds true for all aspects of life, including writing. To get somewhere interesting, you can’t be attached to how you get there. Or, sometimes, even where you end up.♥

I’ll explain what I mean.

I attended a writer’s conference last month. I had big plans. My flight from was going to land at 5:00 p.m. I’d have dinner with a dear friend with whom I’d fallen out of touch, then I’d attend the welcome cocktail party at the hotel.

None of that happened.

My flight got diverted. The plane sat on the tarmac for hours. I missed dinner with my friend, as well as the cocktail party. I limped into the hotel at midnight, bedraggled and exhausted.

But I got somewhere anyway. The plane ride was itself an adventure. Strangers came together to feed each other, hold each other’s babies, and generally buoy spirits. Missing my friend for dinner meant I got to have a long, lovely lunch with her. And the conference itself was a joy. With my ice-breaker story of having been diverted, conversation with strangers was easy.

My publishing journey was similar. I wrote a young-adult-time-travel-Elizabethan-period-piece. I immersed myself in research. I labored over historical details. When I got a meeting with a prominent agent, I figured this was it. He was going to tell me he’d represent my masterpiece.

That isn’t what happened.

After complimenting my prose, the agent broke the news to me: There wasn’t a “box” for my genre-bending story and, anyway, he was a thriller agent. He didn’t know any YA editors. He’d set up our meeting so he could ask me to write a legal thriller.

Sure, why not? I had some stories from my life as a lawyer that I could use as a springboard for propelling a plot. Plus, I’m fascinated by the stresses that lawyers face. Bound by strict ethical rules, lawyers can’t use illegally-obtained evidence. They can’t divulge client secrets. I created a protagonist who used to be a hacker and threw in a family history of alcoholism and mental illness to keep things interesting.

Writing the book brought me into unexpected worlds, too. I met hackers and visited gritty neighborhoods. I learned about street artists and cybersecurity.

Deciding on an agent didn’t go as originally planned either. While I’d written a thriller so that Prominent Agent could represent it, I ended up choosing a newer, hungrier agent who I believed would work harder for me. (She did.)

Many of the writers that I met at the conference had non-linear paths to publication, too. After being rejected by agents, one writer created a self-publishing empire, only to be approached by a traditional house that asked him to write a book for it. Another writer finally found success writing with friends. Again and again, I heard stories about that first book that just wouldn’t take off. In every case, the writer learned the same thing: Non-attachment is essential.

This is true for any journey.

When you board a plane, you don’t know if your trip will go smoothly. Maybe that five-hour journey will take you ten. Maybe you’ll get to NYC by way of Atlantic City. But maybe you’ll meet cool people along the way. Maybe you’ll share a meal with a friend who feeds your soul, reminding you of what matters most.

Maybe you’ll get somewhere more interesting than you imagined when you first set out.

C.E. Tobisman is the author of a series of legal thrillers featuring hacker-turned-lawyer Caroline Auden. The sophomore novel in the series, Proof, is available now.


Leave a Reply