Friday, June 13, 2008

What doesn't kill you...

Several years ago, I was almost "there.” You know where I'm talking about. With Manuscript Number Five, I knew I had a winner. I had submitted plenty, learned with each manuscript I wrote, and the rejection letters I had received had all been encouraging--personal letters that let me down easy while buoying my spirits.

On Number Five, I researched the line, the market, and the editor. I queried and received an enthusiastic response for a partial. The friends at the pub where I wrote rejoiced with me and made me promise to give them "autographed first editions."

I polished. I edited. I polished again. I edited. And sent it off.

I knew this was the one. I knew it.

And then, a few months later, I received the rejection. A form rejection, no less.

Devastation engulfed me. Humiliation swamped me. Hurt, well, hurt me. I shook my fist at the sky and yelled “As God as my witness, I’ll never write another word again.”

And I didn’t.

For about six months. Then one day, I overheard two women gossiping in the grocery line and thought "Stupid women. What if that were my best friend they were talking about?" Before I could stop it, a scene started playing out in my head. I shook my head to clear it, and said to myself “I’m NOT doing that again.” But when I got home, I wandered to my computer and opened up a new Word document. I stared at the blank page for awhile. Finally I made a deal with myself. “Just because I write down that scene, doesn’t mean I’m writing again. I'll just delete it.”

But I didn’t delete it. There was something about writing those words that sent a fresh breeze stirring the tired, depressed writing genes in my body.

I took a deep breath and started. Writing. Again.

I am a stronger writer now. I am a realistic writer now. I know the road to publication is rocky, full of potholes, and filled with blind allies.

I have a new respect for all authors. Some come by success easily. Some struggle for years. Some never achieve the success they deserve.

But not a single one ever stops writing.


Christy Reece said...

Fantastic post, JoAnn!

I think we've all been there, or will be at some point in our careers. Feeling so discouraged, we ask ourselves what's the point and we stop. But if it's really in your blood, really what you want, you can't help but go back to it.

I had the same experience. In 2006 I sent off a full requested manuscript to an agent who'd said kind things about my previous work. I just knew this was the one. I waited for three months, when I finally got it back, it was a form rejection. I was devastated and didn't write for months. Then, when I realized I couldn't not write, I decided to write just for me. I forgot supposed rules, what the market might be looking for and never even considered publication while I was writing. But when I had finished, I knew I had done something different. Something I'd never done before. And that was the one that sold.

You're right, it may not happen for everyone who wants to be published. But I can guarantee it will never happen if you give up.

Sorry for the long post, but this is a subject dear to my heart.

MaryF said...

Oh, how I feel for you and understand. I can't tell you the times I've told myself "Why am I doing this?" and "I'm not going to write anymore". Which of course sends me into a tailspin of depression.

Like you JoAnn; I find myself opening up my computer and writing.

Its a hard road and I learn from each writer, published and unpublished the paths they walk from despair to euphoria.

The ticket is to keep walking.

Thank you JoAnn (and Christy) because both you are examples of creative spirit that just continues to grow.

Diane Richmond said...

I have never been so humbled in life as when I began writing. I am a voracious reader and I have often read a book and said, "I could do better than that."

Now that I have been writing for awhile I realize that it isn't as easy at it reads. My hat is off to anyone who gets a book published. No one but another writer truly appreciates what an accomplishment it is.

Naima said...

JoAnn, this was so inspiring! I can't count the times I've asked myself why am I willingly putting myself through this? And am I strong enough? But, then I read a book, or see a movie, or hear a conversation (like you!) and it fires off an idea and I just have to get it down! Sometimes I believe it's not a choice. Even if I'm writing an email at work, or typing notes, I'm writing and putting my voice in it. Because it's what we do. Thank you for this post; it's just what I needed!