Sunday, May 29, 2011

When Is Enough Enough?

When is enough enough? I’ve thought about this a lot the last couple years. My first submission was sent out in 1992 and I didn’t send anything else out for ten years. Partly because I had no self-confidence and partly because life got in the way. In 2002, I decided I wasn’t getting any younger and if I really wanted this, I had to find out what I was doing wrong. Nothing has been as important to me to accomplish since I wanted a second child. (She was born eight years and 12 hours of labor after the first one.) And this delivery was a hell of lot longer.

I worked on improving my grammar, bringing out my voice, learning how to pitch, write query letters, talk to an editor and agent at conferences, and being the best I could be as a writer. For the next nine years, I drank, ate and slept writing. Am I perfect? Oh, goodness no! But I have ten books to prove my perseverance. (And being at my RWA chapter meetings helped me to keep trying.)

One evening at a conference, I had the pleasure to relax with Sherrilyn Kenyon in her hotel room and we were talking about what it takes to be a published author. Sherrilyn’s road to publication and staying published was a hard one. If you ever get a chance to hear her talk about that road, do so. It’s scary but also an uplifting story. Anyway, she mentioned how sad it was that a friend of hers had given up on writing. She’d read her work and hadn’t understood why an editor hadn’t snatched it up. She encouraged me to keep trying.

Since I couldn’t quit my day job, I gave up watching television, having floors I could eat off of, and reading one book after another. All my spare time was dedicated to what I wanted most. To be published. But my rejections continued to come in.

So the question is still how to know when enough is enough?

I believe it is when you can say, I quit it all. When you no longer have a story nagging at the back of your mind, or you read a book and say I can write better than that or I wish I can write a good story like that. When you don’t imagine dogs and dragons in the clouds or hear words of mystery and intrigue whispered in your ears by the wind. When you can close your eyes at night and don’t feel the presence of someone looking over you (good or bad). When you can ignore the wide-eyed pleads of your children or nieces and nephews to repeat the stories of your childhood. Then that's enough.

I came close, but thanks to the Good Lord, I wanted more.

Published (we know the next contract can be the last) or pre-published, promise me that enough isn't enough - that you want and deserve more!

17 comments:

Callie James said...

I definitely think you know when enough is enough with most things, including writing.

I've been on a bit of a long break, as I had some health issues to resolve this year. But now that's over, thank goodness, and I'm definitely planning to get back on that writing/publishing horse in June (yes, this week!).

I love SK's journey story. And you have a good one, too!

Lexi said...

Carla, you are amazing! I've been writing for more than 16 years now and it took me more than four years of querying to get published, so I know what it feels like! I think you are right. You can't quit until the writing quits you. I understand the drive that compels you onward. My husband likes to say that I am consumed by my writing and I think you are too! So happy for you, my friend.

Alicia Coleman said...

Thank you Carla, for reminding me that no matter how daunting the task, we should never give up until we achieve our goal.

Your story has inspired me to persevere.

Carla Swafford said...

I'm happy to hear you're not giving up, Callie.

Carla Swafford said...

And yours is certainly well deserved, Lexi! Hugs.

Carla Swafford said...

Alicia, I'm glad to hear that. And I'll forward to the day we celebrate your first sale.

Louisa Cornell said...

I've reached enough is enough with many things and even some people, but never with my writing. I tell people I am either too stubborn or too stupid to quit. I guess if I went more than a few days without my characters or a story interrupting my day or invading my thoughts in the dead of night I might quit, but frankly I have an entire file box of story ideas, sketches and outlines. I think those will keep me so busy I won't have time to give up.

And Lexi and Carla, you have worked hard to get where you are. ENJOY!

Chris Bailey said...

Carla, I love your journey. About ten years ago, I asked the question in a mixed group of writers and non-writers, and got an unexpected and heartbreaking answer. The woman who responded said, "You'll know," on one breath, and started to sob with the next. She'd given up the pursuit, but knowing she'd never achieve the dream still hurt. On that bit of advice, I'd rather be an unpublished writer all my life than a heartbroken quitter.

Carla Swafford said...

Louisa, you're next. We know it's soon and we can't wait to celebrate with you.

Carla Swafford said...

Oh, my, Chris, you are so right. I hate to think of quitting and always wondering if I had made a mistake of not trying one more time. That one more time could've been the right editor, the right agent, the right story...

M.V.Freeman said...

This is hard because how many times have we all looked at that option-to quit.

I'm not sure when enough is enough. But so far, I haven't found it.

Wishing you all the best! ;)

Heather said...

Carla, your story (and Sherrilyn's) inspire me. Both are true testaments to working hard for for what you want.

Louisa Cornell said...

From your lips to God's ears, Carla!

I just keep looking at the framed quote on my wall.

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

Thomas Edison

(The man knew about illumination in more ways than one!)

Carla Swafford said...

And my goodness, Heather, talk about hard working. With your talent and hard work, we'll be celebrating with you. Hugs.

Carla Swafford said...

I so glad to hear that, Mary. And thanks.

gaelikaa said...

As long as you have a story in your head, keep writing Carla. Your day will come!

Paula said...

Carla, I get goosebumps thinking about how close you were to selling when we had that discussion a couple of months ago at the Southern Magic meeting. You were so down, and I remember thinking in that moment that you were probably right on the edge of selling, if you could just hang on a little longer.

And you did. And you sold. And I knew it would happen.