WARNING: This is not a very positive post. That said, it might be just what you need. If you are someone who believes in a dream, and that dream sometimes feels unattainable then this could be for you. If you’re looking for puppies, ice cream and rainbows you might want to pass.
Writing has reduced me to tears this week.
Last Monday I (finally) finished (one version of) my book proposal, and worked up the nerve to send a query letter and sample chapter to an agent who I hope will ask to see the full proposal. There was an incredible buildup before hitting the send button, but it’s not like spinning the wheel of fortune—nothing happens.
Nothing except that you wait. You hurry up and then you wait. The wait can be days, weeks or months. A writer friend reminded me of the irony—writers are generally more neurotic and impatient than the general population, yet when it comes to selling a book we’re required to be very, very patient. It about breaks us.
My friends tell me they’re proud of me. I hear, “I’m so impressed with your dedication to writing,” and that feels good, but it’s followed with the spoken and unspoken subtext: there are no guarantees, not even with a lot of hard work and commitment; publishing a book is a long shot.
Some say, “At least you’re doing it. I was too afraid to try so I just stopped.” We talk about projects that were shelved not because they weren’t good, but because the artist just couldn’t take it.
Last week I wrote about vulnerability, shame and the fear of rejection and it’s no less scary this week, but if you don’t risk rejection you don’t allow for acceptance. It’s so simple yet so complicated, not unlike the stock market.
The bigger an investment’s risk the bigger the potential reward. Not everyone has the stomach for a high-risk portfolio, and even with that constitution it’s important to diversify. Which is exactly why I need to query a few more agents. It’s a fact: the more queries I send out there the more I risk being rejected—rejection is guaranteed in this business—but nothing is going to happen if I don’t make something happen.
I’m not even a risk taker by nature. Even though (knock wood) I haven’t used either in ages, I’ve never gone a day without auto or health insurance. I’d rather slog uphill on a bike or snowshoes than go fast downhill. On anything. It’s just not my thing. I don’t take risks with parking meters, speed limits, or expired coupons.
I’ll work hard this weekend and next week I’ll send a few more carefully crafted letters. But in the meantime, seriously, this writing has reduced me to tears. But we’ll have some of that. Some days I think I’m writing a bestseller, and other days my pages would be best used as fuel for a fire.
Anne Lamott worries that if she died in a car accident and someone found her “shitty first draft” they would probably confuse the accident with suicide because the draft was so bad. The Help by Kathryn Stockett was rejected by agents sixty times, but the sixty-first agent said yes. She almost quit after forty-five rejections, but what if she had? Stockett says:
“The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.”
Up next week: Loretta Lynn! The night before the The Coal Miner’s Daughter performed on the Grand Ole Opry stage for the first time she slept in her car with her husband, and in the morning they shared a donut for breakfast. She was poor and she was scared but she did it. Fifty-two years later she’s still performing and on Monday I’m going to join some of my favorite ladies for education, inspiration, and maybe even a few tears of a different kind.
I can see it now; this is going to be okay. Consider me pulled up by my bootstraps.