We’ve all been there. That moment in your writing career where you ask yourself, “What am I doing? Why am I doing this? I’m not published, there’s nothing but rejection letters on the horizon, my spouse is wondering when some green will come of all this effort. I think I should move on to something else.”
DON’T!!! Don’t give up. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep the faith. If it happened for me, it will happen for you.
I’ve had that moment twice in the past three years. One was at the very beginning of my writing career. I had written half of a manuscript. Things weren’t going well. I had 20,000 words, nothing to do with them, no real direction. Then two things happened.
One, my contact in Metro Homicide offered to look at what I’d written and give me some feedback. He did, and he called me and told me it was really good stuff. Very realistic. WHOA, NELLY! A homicide detective thinks my work is realistic? He likes my characters? Well, maybe I need to give this a second thought.
The second was something much more ephemeral, ridiculous, really. I was reading one of my magazines (I’m addicted to magazines, by the way. I have three that I’m religious about – People, for the book reviews, Elle, for the fashion and the book reviews, and Architectural Digest. Random compilation, I know, but hey, my tastes range.)
So I’m reading Elle, and at the end of the magazine there’s the astrology and numerology section. Now, I’m not a big believer in all that. But I read them anyway, just because sometimes it’s fun.
My numerology number is 7. I flipped open the page, went to my entry and saw this:
"It’s time to come out of hibernation and reconnect with the world. You are prepared and armed for battle, and finally have an opportunity to put months of study and hard work to the test. Don’t allow fear of failure to inhibit you. This month is like one long “now or never” moment. Stand up and be counted. Allow your very real power and determination to vanquish any nagging insecurities. You must stop containing your potential. Now is the time to express it."
Wow. If that wasn’t the most timely kick in the butt. Here I was, doubting myself, doubting my ability to continue writing my first book, and I read that. It was exactly what I needed to hear (read) at the exact right moment. I decided that I needed to take this anonymous, non-personal advice, apply it, and quit whining. I finished the book. It was more of a novella, and it was terrible. But it had sparks of promise, which I’ve talked about in past posts.
Should I credit a numerology column for helping my career? Not in so many ways. What I believe happened was someone told me I was going to make it. Now, I have no idea who that someone is. I’m not a practitioner, I’m sure that this person who writes these entries has a fascinating background that led to doing numerology for a woman’s fashion magazine. But whoever it was, I need to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me to keep the faith.
So, in a much less personal manner, that’s what I’m telling you. Keep the faith. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you think you’re a nobody, so will everyone else. If you treat yourself and your writing career with the respect you deserve, others will too. This is a difficult profession. You aren’t alone when you wonder why you’re putting yourself through the aches and pains of writing novels, or short stories, or articles, and getting them published. But if you keep the faith, keep plugging, keep writing and submitting and believe in yourself, and your abilities, the opportunities will come.
When was that second moment, you ask? Right before I landed my deal. Patience, as they say, is a virtue.
Wine of the Week – D’Arenberg “The Footbolt” McLaren Vale Shiraz, South Australia
JT,I just also suspect this rarely goes away. I’m a fulltime freelance writer now, so I don’t see that ever going away, but the “should I waste time on fiction” thing can be tricky and hard to keep yourself going on it. Hey, I’ve got a 4-book contract, the first book comes out October 1 (The Devil’s Pitchfork), and I STILL ask myself if I should continue fiction. Because from a dollars and cents, time/management issue it doesn’t pay for itself–yet. And maybe never will.
I bitched about this once recently to my brother, a composer and musician and college professor, and he sort of snapped (quietly), “So you’ll have a nice hobby.”
Nice thought, though it doesn’t indicate he understands just how unreliable fiction writing can be–if you don’t sell, you dont’ publish and publishers ain’t patient.
I can’t speak for others–I’m master only of my own neuroses–but I suspect self-doubt of this type is pretty common. And I don’t know if it really gets better with the mega bestsellers. Wouldn’t they have enough money so they might say, “Oh to hell with it. Who needs the criticism? Who needs the hard work? I’m going to retire to Aruba.”
I don’t know.
I agree, though, essentially. With one caveat: go ahead, quit. If you can. If you can’t, well, you’re probably a writer.
Wines eh? Where we vacationed is an up and coming wine producing area in southern Ontario. While there, I discovered HUFF vineyards which won the gold medal in Canada for their Chardonnay in 2005. I sampled their new releaseses, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Merlot. Bought all three. But I like good Merlot, does that make me a boring wine drinker? Your story about hanging in there is applicable to all writers and to life as well as it is about believing in yourself. Thanks for sharing.
I’m not saying I’ve been known to eat Chinese food every day until I received a positive fortunte cookie, but I’m not saying I haven’t, either.
This, folks, is why I keep this woman around. I can always count on JT to be there with the figurative kick in the seat that I need to keep me motivated. I never imagine giving this up – it took me 12 years to get my first book done and four to get it published – but now I’m at a crossroads, packing for the second half of my journey (like Mark said, I can’t quit, I’m a writer), and I’m truly grateful to have someone like JT by my side. There’s an anecdote that says, a good friend will come bail you out of jail at three in the morning, but a true friend will be sitting right beside you, saying, “Wow, that was fun!”
JT is my true friend. And I look forward to many more years of her timely and heartfelt encouragement. The best teachers are the ones who have been there.
As someone who has read JT’s work I can truly say that if she can get published anyone can. 🙂
Seriously though, I think your post is true and I think it’s all about finding those small encouragements to keep the fire burning.
When I go camping with my friends it always takes us forever to build a fire because we always forget how to do it. We have to keep throwing little pieces of paper or leaves or branches or anything onto the fire to keep it alive long enough for the big blaze to start. Thats a lot like a writing career.
I did give up once. It felt like a limb had been amputated. I wish I’d known Mark Terry then. I lived 5 or 6 houses down from him. Our wives know each other from school stuff. Our kids go to school together, yet here are two men with the same aspiration and we never spoke. What an inspiration that could have been for me! It’s a funny thing to live in America, where opportunity is free to all, but only 1% of the population will ever really pursue true success. By that I mean doing what you want to do, not what society says is the “sensible” thing to do. Now I tackle my writing as if it is my career. Giving up isn’t an option. If it takes a dozen more failures, I’ll get there. Then I can live the glamour life like Mark.
Yeah, the glamour life. Sitting in my basement office with my socks on to keep my feet warm, staring at a computer. Oh, the glamour!
It took me 7 years to sell my first book (on a 2-book contract).
Hugs,Deni Dietz, author of 14 novels, who still wonders why. And to answer myself, “If you drop a dream, it breaks.”
A whole lifetime until then.
Guys, all of your stories make me so happy. We do this because we love it, damn the costs (and timeframes). It’s those little moments that keep us going, and I’m thankful all of you kept it up, not accepting failure. I’m happy I did too 🙂
I’m late to the party -How long for me? You don’t want to know. I hate seeing grownup’s cry.
As for damn the costs – you say that now, J.T.-but wait until next year and then tell us that again! By the time you add up all the costs for signings and con’s…uh, well, we’ll talk again next year, okay?A grin here.
Wonderful post, JT! I’ve written non-fiction for the last 10 years, but wrote my first piece of short fiction this week. Just 900 words, and what a roller coaster ride…the writing, that is! Your encouragement is like a warm welcome home!
And here’s a wine for you: Gravity Hills Tumbling Tractor Zinfandel 2003.