It is what it is is something I learned from tracking. I’ve talked about it online before, though I don’t think I’ve talked about it here. In tracking, you train as much as you can, work with your dog until you both know what’s expected, plan for all the contingencies you can think of. But then, the day of the test, maybe you get a downpour or it’s really hot or bone-chilling cold, maybe a hundred deer run across your track, maybe the judge makes a bad call or you make a bad decision or your dog just has a crappy day.
Yeah. It is what it is. You learn from it and move on.
When you write for publication there are some things that are under your control: how well you write, the story you choose to tell, how much effort you put into each draft. But there are just as many things that are completely or mostly out of your control: what else is being published, your book’s cover, who your copyeditor is, the amount of publicity or the initial positioning or where your book goes on the shelves. Big things and tiny things, fair reviews and unfair ones, whether anyone ever knows your book is out there or not.
It is what it is. Other people get other things: a better cover, bigger advance, more visibility, just the right coattails, a particular, perfect moment in time. You have no control over that either, though sometimes you desperately wish that you did.
The other night I found this passage at the end of Save the Cat by Blake Snyder (a great book if, like me, you’re always looking for plotting and structure tips):
You must find a life within the confines of “It is what it is.” This is where your skills as a bullhead will save both you and your sanity. And while I’ve made fun of this trait throughout the book I do it as a means of challenging you to be more so: Whatever you do, don’t stop being a bullhead. The powers-that-be can take away a lot of things. They can buy your script and fire you, or rewrite it into oblivion, but they can’t take away your ability to get up and come back swinging–better and smarter than you were before.
Most of all, you must try to find the fun in everything you write. Because having fun lets you know you’re on the right track. So when you write those two dazzling words, FADE IN:, you’re as excited the hundredth time as you were the first.
It’s easy to get caught up in how your book is doing and which book is doing better or how much you wish this thing or that other thing had happened differently. Or even: WHY CAN’T EVERYONE SEE MY VERY SPECIAL GENIUS RIGHT NOW! But yeah, it is what it is. The best thing you do is learn from it and move on.