Sunday, July 14, 2013

Expect Absolutely Nothing

On our recent Independence Day holiday here in the U.S., I decided to practice freedom from expectations. It's part of my tradition of celebrating independence from something more meaningful than the now-defunct British Empire, events that happened over two and a quarter centuries ago. I devoted myself to shedding expectations for twenty-four hours, from the early morning community breakfast/fundraiser for our local Fire & Rescue teams, to the town's outdoor music and fireworks show as the evening drew to a close. It turned out to be a lovely day, full of unexpected delights, and thoroughly easy, despite my not trying to control it (or perhaps because I didn't?).

I've fallen off the no-expectations wagon since, as I expected (pun intended); but the experience provided much food for thought. Especially as I continue this roller-coaster ride following the release of my first novel, An Alien's Guide to World Domination, a little over three months ago. I'm pondering constructing a little workshop called: "What to Expect When Your First Novel is Published: Absolutely Nothing."

There are the obvious things we know not to expect - although we might secretly wish for them: the New York Times bestseller list, the National Public Radio interviewers breathlessly asking us about our stunning prose, the book club selections, packed readings, a fat royalty check, the clamor of fans, agents, and publishers for our next book. And, there are the things we dread: our mothers' shock at discovering we wrote detailed, delicious sex scenes, or that we actually know the f-word; a lawsuit from that person we based our villain on; the overwhelming sound of crickets in response to our cover reveal or first blog interview.

Any or all of these things might happen. The energy we invest in expecting them risks blinding us to the true joys of this experience: one independent reviewer singing the praises of our work. One friend who texts the line that made him laugh out loud (and yes, it did have the f-bomb in it). One moment we get to read the dedication to a gathering, so many can witness our gratitude to that special person.

Most importantly, the knowledge that words we put on a page grew weight and meaning. They've been read, those words. Our stories, well-told, found their way to readers.

Expect absolutely nothing, and anything we receive is a gift beyond our expectations.

Then move on to the next story that expects - or demands - we find the words to tell it.

Elizabeth Fountain
Author blog: Point No Point
Find me on Facebook here.
Find out about An Alien's Guide to World Domination here.


Big Mike said...

Been there, done that. Is funny what people around ya expect. My adult kids were shocked when my first novel TAINTED HERO was released and I actually wrote about some funky sex stuff. The fact the old man knew that stuff was unbelievable.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Blind Consent, “The answers are buried in the secrets of the past.”
Forgotten Children, “Only Sara knows the truth.”
Tainted Hero, “Sometimes good people do bad things.”
Veil of Deception, “Sometimes truth cuts deeper than a lie.”
Shadow of Guilt, “To each crossing of paths, there is a purpose.”
The Treasure, “A lonely heart can impair one’s judgment.”
Final Solution, “How far is too far?”
Righteous Fury, “There’s a fine line between honor and treason.”

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Oh contraire. We must aim high, but in a planned way. Expecting nothing makes us lazy.

Where I do agree is that by focusing on the applause, we bypass the responsibility of doing the work.

Liz Fountain said...

Julie, I take your point. We have to give it our best shot, and aim high, as you say. What seems to work for me is to let go of expectations after that. I seem to do my best work when I focus on the work itself instead of the anticipated "results."

And Big Mike, I love that you shocked your adult kids!