Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’


    

     Life is incredibly short.  The saddest part about this is that we spend so much of what little time we have wondering how to spend it, and once we do figure out how we want to spend it, we are met with resistance, negativity and that two-letter word we all hate most of all: No. After so much of this, we just want to throw our hands in the air and go back to our places in line, accepting the grind as our lots in life and carrying on, moment to moment, day after day, playing it safe and making sure not to rock the boat of monotony.   This might work for a while, but eventually, those notions of something greater, something more meaningful, will catch up to us, tackle us, and pin us to the ground, demanding we heed our own instincts that we’re capable of more.  When we’ve reach that point in life where we’ve put fear in its place and thickened our skins enough to take the punches, there are a few things we can do to counter-balance the effects of the coming obstacles and impediments in order to keep our spirits and our passions in check.  At the forefront of that list, in my opinion, is to have a support network. 

     Whether you’re a writer, a college graduate, a stay-at-home mom, or a poodle groomer, you don’t have time to divulge in anyone else’s version of reality, unless it supports your own success unequivocally.  The fact is, no one but you knows those core truths about you that, if listened to and acted upon, will carry you to your root allocation in life.  We’ve all been out of our elements.  We’ve all taken jobs that simply paid the bills, we’ve all catered to the fear of failure and we’ve all fallen into the designs of someone else’s masterpiece.  It isn’t a good place to be.  We struggle, we fight, we get by… and we don’t even know what for; and all the while we try to ignore the fact that we simply don’t have time for that; that sadly, life comes… and then it goes.

     I’ve reached a point in my own life where, if someone dared to tell me I couldn’t do a thing, I would smile, nod and walk as far away from them as my feet would take me.  My own mother wouldn’t be afforded the luxury of discouraging me, so one can imagine how I might feel about even the gentlest of promptings from a stranger, a friend of a friend, or a stagnant and embittered second cousin through marriage.  If I let these people affect me, I will be discouraged and impotent,  and, as far as I’m concerned, if I let these people make my decisions, I have no right to occupy my own body. 

     So I surround myself with people who have dreams of their own and who believe in mine.  I don’t view this as a simple choice so much as a strategy move essential for survival.  Whatever paths we choose to execute in life, we will be met with enough interference, restraint and discouragement.  It’s just not lucrative to allow it into your immediate personal space.  Your social life should be reserved for those who foster your goals, stimulate your drive and help cultivate your personal empowerment.  In his book, The Master Key to Riches, Napoleon Hill refers to this as the “Mastermind Alliance.”  While I am not typically a fan of self-help or motivational literature, I think he was definitely on the right track with that one, and I recommend the book to anyone.

     If you’re walking, talking and breathing, you have passion.  Even if you have to look for it a little, it’s there.  And passion without purpose and precision is just white noise.  Part of who and what you surround yourself with is part of that precision, so I’ve come to believe in the value of choosing wisely my immediate environment.  I’m standing in a foreign place in my life right now.  Not just in my writing but in everything else as well.  I am at a precipice, looking over the edge at everything I know, just daring the wind to blow a little and knock me off my feet.  But everything I feared is twice removed.  There are a million reasons I can’t succeed and yet all I can think about is the one reason I can: because I want it that damned bad.  Now, more than ever, I’m glad I have nothing around me except the highest caliber of believers, and I’m grateful that, as depressing as it is, I realize how little time there is.

     There isn’t time to listen to anyone else tell you what you should do.  All you need to know is that fish belong in water, painters belong on canvas and writers belong on paper.  It’s just a matter of finding out who you are… your station in life will follow.  Time is precious.  So, if you’re going to stop and smell the roses, first be sure you’re not standing in someone else’s garden.

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     We all choose different paths in our approach to the business of being published according to what it is we want, and these days, there are more options than traditional publishing, in which the writer seeks a publishing house to represent his or her work, usually at the cost of several years of rejection, and/or having one’s self-esteem beaten down and battered to a bloody pulp by a series of professionals who may or may not know what they’re talking about.  Now, we live in an age of indie art where writers can publish their own books.  There is conventional self-publishing in which the author fronts the money to have his or her book put into print, and is solely responsible for the sales, marketing and distribution of the book.  Also, we now have print-on-demand books in which a publisher prints whatever amount of books the audience requires and the author puts no money upfront as the cost is taken from the sales of his or her book.  There are branches of each of these methods of self-publishing (some more appealing than others) extensive enough that a writer these days has far more options than he or she once did, and personally, I think that’s pretty wonderful.   However, despite the fact that I am currently standing in that terrible position where it feels like the whole publishing world is standing in line to get a chance to tell me I’m not good enough, traditional publishing is the path I have chosen.   

     Before I began this journey, I first gave a lot of thought to what it was I wanted from this.  I knew that if I was going to pursue this path, that I was going to be in it for the long haul, and that I would need to be willing to go through whatever level of hell I had to in order to get to where I wanted to be.  I suppose this explains the several-years reluctance in which I shied away from this whole “writing thing” as if it had fangs and a thirst for blood, but nevertheless, this is the path I have chosen.      

     After fully understanding all of the various avenues of publishing, I firmly settled on traditional publishing because I knew that, although I would meet far more resistance, going the traditional route would ultimately lead me down the paths I wished to wander.  I realized that even if I failed, I’d be far happier having given it all I had than not having done everything in my power to make it happen. 

     That being said, there are several disadvantages to traditional publishing, not the least of which is the possibility that you might never see your book in print.  Agents and publishers are flooded by manuscripts on a constant basis and it’s very likely that your pride and joy will be buried, overlooked, forgotten or never even looked at.  To break into writing the traditional way, you need to have a firm faith that one day, someone will see your work and have a strong enough vision for its possibilities in the market.  You need to believe that your writing is strong enough to stand out among the abyss of other talented author’s books.  Above all, you need to be patient and you need to keep writing.  If you’re going to take this route, it’s not enough that you’ve written a book.  Now you need to write the next one.  And the next one.  Eventually, you will have a pretty vast library of material for an agent or editor to choose from, and if you can get their attention once, they’re going to want to see more of your work.

     I’m lucky.  I have that faith.  I suffer terribly from other various personal insecurities, but there is one place I have total faith and that is in my writing.  At a soul-deep and cellular level that is impossible to explain, I know I’m in the right place, doing the right thing.  I may not be published next week or next year, but it will happen.  Despite the fact that thus far, I’ve garnered six rejections from agents, and been (so far) ignored entirely by another dozen, the towel isn’t feeling anywhere near heavy enough that I think it needs to be thrown in yet.

     What someone traveling down the traditional path needs to understand is that rejections aren’t personal.  This is not an attack on the author or their work.  This is an agent giving you respect enough to admit they don’t have the vision necessary to take your work to the heights it could reach.  I have yet to meet a rude agent who tells me that I suck and I really need to just give up.  In fact, the agents I’ve corresponded with have been encouraging, pleasant and professional.  A few of them have taken a sincere interest in my book and offered some good advice.  In that way, this is nowhere nearly as brutal as I had expected… but then again, I’m pretty new still.

     I’m sure I’m headed for some far harsher dealings, but I’m tough enough to be told no.  The fact is, I don’t have to have this right now.  Whether or not I ever get published is, as far as my writing’s concerned, inconsequential.  I will continue writing, and then writing some more, whether or not it happens.  I’m okay waiting for the right agent, the right publisher.  I believe with everything I am that somewhere out there, exists someone who will have that vision for my work which will carry it to the places that I can not.  I’m not an editor.  I’m not a marketer or a publicist.  I’m not an agent or a publisher.  I’m a writer.  It’s my job to write the best novels I can, and to trust the other professionals to do their jobs the best they can.  I don’t mind being told that I need to get better at my job, so long as it’s by someone who knows what my job entails.  As far as I’m concerned, it would be arrogant of me to write a book and think it was good enough to impact the market without getting some serious professional input.  So I’m not going to go down that route.  I’m going to do my job and I’m going to do it well. I’m going to continue getting better at it until, one day, I can be where I set out to be.  But it takes time.

     And as that time goes by and my rejections pile up, I am encouraged more and more by other writers to self-publish.  But I won’t.  I know far too many people in this business who are successful to not have faith in it.  And besides, I respect the business.  Despite the neglect it’s awarded me thus far, and despite the abuse that it will surely hurl at me in the future,  I love this business too much to walk away.  I couldn’t do it anyway. I am learning good business and good ethics.  I am learning how to effectively write some truly knock-out, wicked good stuff.  And above all…  I am meeting my heroes… the ones I looked up to when I was a kid.  It’s an honor to be among them.  Who am I to turn my back on that?

 


     So, after four long months of feeling much like I was being frisked by a police officer, I finally heard back from the New York agent yesterday.  Of course, after that amount of time, I was certain she wasn’t going to choose to take me, so it wasn’t as hard of a blow as it could have been when she told me she was sorry that she wasn’t going to offer to represent me.  Her greatest concern was that The White Room was caught somewhere between commercial and literary fiction.  I assume this means that she felt marketing the book would be difficult.  Otherwise, she said very kind things about the manuscript, and admitting she could be wrong about it, encouraged me to continue seeking other agents.

     I expected to be shattered, but strangely, I’m okay.  I am lucky, I suppose, to have the luxury of understanding how this business works a little.  I didn’t expect to write one book, meet one agent and become a an all-time famous novelist.  In fact, if I follow along the same statistical lines as the majority, I can expect an average of six or seven more years of rejections before one of them chooses to represent me.  The sad fact is, unpublished authors are a high risk.  It’s similar to a college graduate who has a hard time getting a job because they lack experience.  But how can you get experience if no one hires you?  The writing business is much the same way.  This goes to show that in any field, competition is stiff and one must always begin at the beginning, which unfortunately, is at the bottom.

     Needless to say, about a month ago, it was clear to me that this wasn’t going to happen with the New York agent, so I began querying other representatives.  This week alone, I’ve gotten three rejections and have more coming to be sure.  Thankfully, I have yet to receive any of the scathing reviews I’ve heard so many horror stories about.  The agents who have replied to me have been kind, supportive, and encouraging.  In one case, I was simply told, “I’m not the right agent for this.”  In another, I was asked to send the first five pages so the agent could get a feel for my voice.  After a day or two, she wrote back saying thanks but no thanks.  And,of course, the New York agent.

     So, what is the next step?  From conferences, my mentor, and listening to other writers, I’ve learned that it’s too early on to start thinking about revamping the story.  If I receive twelve or fifteen rejections, all pointing out the same troubles, then it’s time to revisit and revise.  But until then, a writer must keep in mind that one, or even a few agents’ opinions are not law.  They’re generally looking for a book that speaks powerfully to them and leaves them with little doubt about it’s possibilities in the market.  Some agents will read your manuscript and get a strong vision for it… and other will not.  So for now… I will keep writing, because that is my only weapon against the rejection.

     From what I have learned, one of the biggest (and most common) mistakes a writer can make is to write one book and place all of their hope into it, not realizing that it may never be published.  After having one book rejected a few times, they throw their hands in the air, call this an impossible business, and bow out of it.  I’m not going to do that.  If it takes me ten years to get published, then the way I see it is, I will have ten to fifteen novels written by then, which will create a great back log of material when my agent asks, “what else have you got?”  This is an incredibly tough, rigid business and, as I’ve been repeatedly and earnestly warned, it is not for the weak.   Times like these, writers must simply remind themselves that all the great writers have taken some pretty tough punches to  the gut in this business.  Laurell K. Hamilton was told she didn’t fit into a genre tightly enough to ever be published.  “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, by Robert M. Pirsig was rejected one hundred and sixteen times before it caught the right person’s eye… and poor Stephen King was rejected several times a month for almost fifteen years before he published “Carrie.”  So you can’t quit because someone says you’re not good enough.  This is simply that part of the process which separates the hobbyists from the lifers and, on the bright side, weeds out your competition. 

     I am lucky.  I have a vast network of supporters; people who have read my work and love my work.  These people keep me in perspective and remind me of the realities of this world that I, for some masochistic reason, insist so vehemently on one day penetrating.  So, I will let myself feel this.  I will feel bad for myself for an hour or two and then I will sit down and keep working on the next story while The White Room makes it rounds among the agents I have sent it to and the agents I will continue to send it to. The truth is, I believe in The White Room- as it is right now.  If I need to make some changes later on in order to find it a home, I will, but for now… I still believe in it and will continue believing in it until the time comes that I no longer can.  But… in the meantime, I have about a hundred more books to write…  so that’s what I’ll be doing.