Another crosspost with the group blog, Seven Sassy Sisters! Yes, I am lazy, and we’re always being told to recycle, right?
Writing can be a tough business.
When we’re unpublished, it’s dealing with one rejection after another of stories we’ve poured our hearts and a massive chunk of our lives into. Dealing with seeing other writers get their call while we’re still waiting, waiting, waiting, and sure, we’re happy for them, but we can’t help thinking “What about me?” and then feeling guilty about it. Dealing with those sneaky, nasty little voices that tell us we’re not good enough and “Why keep trying, hoping, dreaming?” Maybe even dealing with other people who tell us we’re wasting our time and to stop. And we listen, much as we don’t want to, because though we desperately want to believe in ourselves and believe in our writing and believe in our dreams, it’s a seductive idea. Some days, it feels like it really would be easier to give up.
We don’t of course, we can’t, the addiction to creating is in our blood like a drug and we need our fix of the next story, the next characters, the next chance to dig deep into emotion and relationships, the next opportunity to believe in the power of love to change us and change our lives, all over again. That’s the joy of being a writer, whether we are ever published or not.
Despite that, it can feel at times like the writing game is one long lesson in dealing with discouragement, in dealing with dreams that will never come true.
It doesn’t get any easier for published writers of course, or so I hear. Please God, let me learn this one from personal experience, and soon! Published writers have all of the above, plus deadlines, revisions, bad reviews, and the pressure to produce, to keep coming up with stories that are new and different but not TOO different, because they’re building a brand…
But when we’re sitting on the unpublished side of the fence, it sure looks greener over there, because the published writer does have one thing the unpublished writer doesn’t - the knowledge they did it at least once. They produced a story that an editor wanted enough to buy.
At time, the bad times, all we have is the corrosive sense of failure as rejections stack up that eats into our souls and eats into our dreams.
But we’re not giving up on our dreams of publication, of being full time writers, of making our livings from writing, are we?
Because we want it. Because somehow, we are tougher than the doubts and the discouragement. Because somewhere inside us there’s a tiny place where we do believe in ourselves and our writing and we know that it we just hang in there, keep writing, keep going, we WILL make it.
So how can we keep doing what we need to do, keep writing, keep working towards our goals, hold on to our dreams?
One of the things I do every day is write five positive things I’m grateful for each morning, and set some goals for the day. In the evening, I tick off the goals I’ve achieved, and write five positive things from the day. The morning one is easy, and I almost always do that. The evening one… well that’s tougher. Some days I struggle to find positives, especially if I haven’t achieved my goals for the day.
Then one day last week a positive popped out one evening I hadn’t expected- “I trust my own process.”
Serendipitously, my husband sent me a link to a blog post he read and liked at the same time, touching on the same idea. The writer is talking about his spiritual journey, not writing, but it’s so relevant-
Winston Churchill once made an interesting statement. “Success” he said, “is the ability to go from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.” Success may not lie in being perfect, but in determinedly endeavoring to move closer towards perfection. Thomas Edison was reputed to have never become discouraged in his attempts to invent the light bulb. Rather, he deemed every one of his failed attempts as a success – “Now I have discovered one more way that doesn’t work”.
It’s rare that we wake up one day and suddenly reach the perfection we always desired. More realistically, it will take a lifetime of struggle and incremental improvement. That journey, however, is joyful all the way when we learn to celebrate progress not perfection. Even in positions of leadership, we have to keep in mind peoples best efforts to improve and view their performance in that context. Where there is progress, perfection is only a matter of time.
In our spiritual endeavors there is also no shortage of failure. After analyzing our hearts and spiritual character many of us can safely conclude that we are definitely ‘works in progress.’ We hear accounts of spiritual practitioners who were completely selfless and pure in heart. Every one of their actions seems so perfect yet so natural at the same time. How do we relate to such perfect examples? Maybe a good measure is to compare with ourselves rather than comparing with others. Where was I one year ago and where am I now? Drawing inspiration and encouragement from the good example of others is essential, but we also have to understand that we are on our own spiritual journeys, experiencing our own individual difficulties and dealing with our own special obstacles. I am trying to focus on how to progress on that journey, more than lamenting about how short I fall from perfection.
I like that idea- focusing on our own journey, not comparing ourselves to anyone else, but looking at how far we’ve come. Even better, welcoming failure as a step on the way to success. I’m not quite sure I’m that spiritually evolved yet, to have that attitide of zen-like calm.
Maybe Jane Porter’s gutsy approach is a better fit? Jane is a fabulous success, yet it didn’t come easy.
If we want to make it, we have to dig in, hang on, and hang tight.
Some writers sell easily. Some writers write easily. And there are those of us who have to claw our way to the top and I don’t mean by clawing over each other, but by clawing up, like a rock climber, hand over fist, inching our way up the impossible vertical slope, grappling with the cliff as though our life depended on it. And in a way, our lives do depend on it, our writing lives.
We as writers have to be willing to take risks. We have to be willing to strike out on our own. We have to write what we hear in our heads (yes, those little voices are real and valuable). We have to write what we believe in our hearts. And we have to write all this and make it true, make it beautiful, and make it fit the publishing parameters.
That’s right. We are artists AND businesswomen and in our line of work we can’t separate the two, because frankly, we’re not writing for vanity press. We’re writing to sell. Most of us want to make money writing. We want careers as writers and we want to find our right niche.
I don’t know one serious writer who doesn’t get bummed out or burned out. But the serious writer doesn’t walk away from the craft or the challenge. The serious writer reaches deep inside, finds the courage, renews the vision, and taps into the heart. We write romance because we believe in the spirit of man and the miracle of love. We write romance because we understand what it is to struggle and we relish victory after a hard-fought battle. We write romance because we crave happy endings.
If our heroes and heroines can win, so can we. If our heroes and heroines deserve happiness, so do we. If our heroes and heroines persevere, so shall we.
Success can be defined in many ways, but we’re all successful if we refuse to quit, refuse to fail, refuse to accept second best. Attitude in this business is everything. Those who look forward, those who challenge themselves, those who don’t make excuses, those who believe, will succeed.
It took me nearly twelve years and ten rejected books with thirty something rejection letters before I finally got my first sale. A month later, I had a second sale, and two months after that, a third. They were all new books, the second two written between February and May when I tapped my reservoir of courage and pounded out those new books by writing, writing, writing.
Where did I get all that confidence from? Twelve years writing, ten rejected books, and thirty something rejection letters. I’ve learned to turn the rejections into challenges, view returned manuscript as a tool to growth, consider my decade plus of writing as a “graduate romance writing school” and pat myself on the back for keeping at it. The more it seemed I wouldn’t sell, the more confident I became that I would. Why? Because I’ve become tough, and I’ve learned to hang tough.
Remember attitude in this business is everything. Hard work pays off. Positive thinking is essential, as is sheer grit. Don’t ever give up. Don’t quit. Don’t stop believing in yourself. Real writers hang tough.
Now I really like that. The zen bit, but with added ladyballs. Because we aren’t saints yet. We’re living breathing hurting feeling women.
And we’re tough. And we’re going to make it.
Hopefully without drinking the entire Hunter Valley wine output first!