Number two in our series of posts inspired by the Seven Deadly Sins is provided by Jon Teckman talking about the tricky subject of wrath. What is it about the publishing process that can turn a mild-mannered scribbler into a raging lunatic? And how can this negative emotion be defeated?
Jon’s debut novel Ordinary Joe, a fast-paced comedy set in that seldom explored space where the worlds of Hollywood and accountancy collide, was published by The Borough Press in July 2015.
The Seven Deadly Sins: Wrath
“Does that mean you won’t get angry any more, Daddy?”
That’s what my son Matthew said when I told him that my debut novel Ordinary Joe was, at last, to be published. And I hugged him and my wife and our other boy as if we were in a Frank Capra movie and we laughed and cried and I said, “That’s right, son. Daddy won’t be angry any more!”
Lying to one’s child, it turns out, isn’t one of the Seven Deadly Sins but if it was I would be guilty of that one too. Because, dear reader, I lied to Matthew just as I lied to myself – receiving that piece of good news, the culmination of so much hard work and heartache, didn’t mark the end of the wrath-inducing angst. In many ways, it was just the beginning.
To be fair, throughout the seven long years of writing, editing, submitting and revising Ordinary Joe, I don’t remember getting angry all that often. Most of the rejections I received came with encouraging notes which reduced the pain and motivated me to soldier on. Far too old to be an Angry Young Man, I tended to react to these setbacks with sadness and regret – and a long walk to a pub for a few restorative beers – rather than anger.
But once I had that precious contract in my hand, everything started to make me angry:
- learning from a friend (who had found out from Amazon) that my publisher had moved my publication date;
- receiving an email from my editor informing me that Ordinary Joe would not, after all, be published in hardback in the UK;
- turning up for a book signing in a strange city to find that none of the promotional support I‘d been promised was in place – and then, at the end of three dismal, demeaning hours, receiving a lecture on why the poor sales figures were all my fault!
It wasn’t that I expected fame and fortune or even that my book would be a great success. I just imagined that being a published novelist would be somehow different than it had turned out to be. And it is in this gap between the expectation and the actuality that anger thrives, feeding off every available scrap of doubt and disappointment to develop into a monster that, like Othello’s jealousy, doth mock the meat it feeds on.
But there is a happy ending. I no longer get so angry when things don’t go according to plan and it is all thanks to this man:
If anyone reading this suffers from ‘anger issues’ and hasn’t yet seen the film Inside Out I urge you to do so. I sat down to watch it expecting nothing more than the usual slick and clever Pixar vehicle and emerged 90 minutes later with a whole new approach to life. Watching the interplay between the emotions battling for control of young Riley’s mind, I learned that it’s fine to let life’s unforeseen vicissitudes stir your emotions – there’s no point being alive if they don’t – but you must always stay in control of how you respond. Often that is the only thing that you can control.
So, yes, I do still sometimes get a little peeved when things fail to meet my expectations. But now I have my friend Anger here to remind me to retain a sense of perspective – and never to allow him to shout down the sheer joy of being a writer.