I was cleaning out my inbox today, which for me is the equivalent to sorting out “skinny” clothes that no longer fit. It’s maddening. I don’t know why I keep so much insignificant e-mails, when it’s as easy as swiping to delete them, but I do. In turn, creating more work for myself in the long run. The same goes for keeping clothes that I know damn well I will never fit into again, even if I slathered myself in Crisco first. But I digress. In sorting through all of the junk that I should’ve deleted a long time ago, I decided to make folders to keep my inbox tidy and easier to save the important things. I came across a few rejection letters from Literary Agents for the novel I wrote. Now, I know that most Writers get at least one rejection at some point in their life and that it is totally normal and it does not mean that their work isn’t worth a damn – But I still couldn’t help feeling in that second like a complete failure, nonetheless.
Here I wrote this novel, 184,000+ words and yet I can’t seem to get it into the right hands. I can’t even imagine coming up with that many words right now, that come together to make a story. The fact that I did that, still amazes me. Today though, I saw a book that made best seller, of similar circumstances at least with death of children, etc. I read the Author talk about how and why she wrote her book and the reasons were the same as mine. It was necessary. Something that had to be shared with the world. Yet, here I am trying to find the right avenue to publish mine while still weeding out rejection letters and offers that aren’t what they need to be in order for me to feel comfortable with them. Meanwhile the book that I felt it necessary to write sits unpublished. How can this be? How can something that felt like The Universe forcefully shoving me to write it, is sitting untouched?
There was a purpose for it being written. There was a distinct reason for every single word that hit the page. I felt the intention and urge to not stop until it was done. Now I was left wondering if it was all in my head. If the drive to write this was more for myself than it was to ever touch another person’s eyes. But something inside of me tells me that, this is not the case. There was a greater purpose beyond my own understanding. I know that I am not the only Writer who has experienced this feeling.
Maybe I was just getting antsy. Maybe I needed to stop thinking about the fact that it is still unpublished and start thinking on the fact that I wrote a novel. Not everyone has the ability to do it, and in that there was a reason that I was given the ability to do so. As Writers, the end goal is to be a published author – right? I mean we pour ourselves out into pages upon pages with the hopes that once we’re done someone says, “Wow this too good to sit untouched.” That’s the hope and dream of us writers. Right?
I came across a show of a “Then to Now” look on different celebrities of sorts. The show covered everyone from politicians, to musicians, actors to authors, and even people who made the headlines for much more sinister reasons. They came across J.K. Rowling – of course most everyone knows – the author of the Harry Potter series and now a multimillionaire. They showed a clip of a reporter asking her, at the explosion of the success from Harry Potter, “Did you ever imagine the success of your books at all being this big?” Her answer was one that sent chills up my spine. It was such a perfect summary of how I would imagine that all of us Writers feel. She said and I’m paraphrasing, “When I wrote this, my greatest dream was to be a published author. I could not have ever dreamt THIS.” And she said it with such conviction and gratitude and even astonishment at her own success, that it deeply resonated in my soul. The show went on to give a little backstory of who J.K. Rowling was at the time of her writing Harry Potter. She was a single mother on welfare, writing in hopes to become published one day. Her manuscript for Harry Potter was rejected by 8 different publishers before it found “the one,” who would help catapult it into its success.
I turned off the television and thought for a moment of how similar her dream was to mine and how hard her surrounding circumstances were to what mine are. I couldn’t actually stop thinking about her words for the entire day. She only dreamt of being a published author. How many of us writers share that same dream? How many of us have felt that spark of excitement, the second we see a letter or e-mail from a publisher? Then only to read that the manuscript that we poured our blood, sweat and tears into, just wasn’t “exactly what they are looking for?” How many of us have then sat feeling dejected and unsure of ourselves after that? I am in the same boat as so many other writers who I imagine are truly phenomenal in their work and yet are practically begging to be noticed and given a chance. And yet, I can’t stop writing. I can’t take more than a day away from it because the urge to write is so strong. It’s like a drug and I am the addict. We as unpublished writers cannot simply stop dreaming. We cannot limit our dreams to only being published either. Instead we have to imagine MORE for ourselves in our visions. Think on it, strive towards it and continue writing. We can’t give up. Because one man’s thoughtlessly written rejection letter, will be the next man’s acceptance to what he sees as a promising success. Someone out there WILL see the value in your work and feel a kinship with your book and when they do, they will be clawing to help you see it to fruition. It only takes one. We have to forget the rejection of many and focus our energy on the acceptance of one.
Now I know, that’s easy to say and I still each moment of every day have my lingering doubts, that I sufficiently torture myself with. It’s hard not to take rejection personally, but then again – those rejection letters are not personally to me as writer, but to the first ten pages of an entire novel that I wrote. As a Writer our work is our baby, our child that we lovingly smile over. To me, asking me to send you the first ten pages is like asking me to send you only a picture of my child’s ear and then judging if she is acceptable for runway modeling, based on that. It is borderline insanity to ask a writer to only send the first few pages and then make what you believe is a sound decision on their book as a whole based on those first few pages. I don’t think I could ever in good conscience do that to another writer and thankfully that is not my job. My job is to write the stories that haven’t been told, by me. Not everyone is going to see the point, or feel a connection to my work. But someone will.
Dreaming bigger for ourselves is more than saying I want to be a success so that I can have tons of things and money for more things. Because then, your basing your entire happiness on what success can bring YOU, and setting yourself up for the negative thought process of, what if the next book doesn’t do as well as the one that originally brought me success. Instead success should be measured on how it reaches OTHERS in the way we intended it to, as we wrote. It’s about how I want what I wrote to connect to the hearts and minds of fellow readers and writers alike. How I want them to be affected or changed by what felt important and in fact, urgent, for me to write. Someone out there is waiting to hear a story like yours and feel a bond to something that resonates in their own soul. Something that can provide an escape, enlightenment or solidarity and understanding. The talent to write was given to each of us for a specific purpose. If we can look past simply being published, to the greater dream of giving a memorable experience to those who read our work, then our intentions for success are no longer self-serving and hinged on numbers and monetary gain and consequently no longer under the thumb of doubt. If we reach one, that can feel the intentions of a story just as we wrote it, then we did what we were purposed to do. If we can reach millions, than the same is still true.
Big dreams, take time to accomplish. They take patience and diligence to bring into being. Though the media may like to use the term “Overnight success,” quite loosely, we as writers know that writing a book is not something that just happens overnight. It isn’t something that just explodes as soon as we click “Save.” It takes time to write, it takes time to edit, it takes time to feel like it is actually done and ready to be shown – And because of that, it should also take the same amount of time for it to get into the right hands that will take THEIR TIME in carefully bringing it into its ultimate beauty. Be encouraged that the need in you to write, is for a distinct reason. It wasn’t just by chance that you were given this gift. Be mindful that your audience deserves to read something that leaves a lasting impression and then remember that all things truly worth a damn, take time to come to be. Save those rejection letters and let them fuel you to keep pursuing what you know that you are meant to do. Be confident in your abilities and humble to the process of the journey to success. Write without fear of failure, edit mercilessly, and then just wait.
(UPDATE: I had an issue with my document and thus the word count was WAY OFF! It is fixed now, rest assured the manuscript is nowhere near 184k words! Whew!!)