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Monday, March 4, 2013

Finding the Strength to Journey On

While we wait for your pitches to come in, I want to share a post I wrote for SavvyAuthors.com on Feb 19th, 2013. So why am I re-posting it here? Because I spent a lot of time and thought on this post and there haven't been any comments! It's probably because I didn't ask a question, but I'd love to hear someone's thoughts on it. (And I added a question for you at the bottom.)

Finding the Strength to Journey On

This journey to published author is a strange and winding road of contradictions. At times, it’s solitary and demanding. Other times, it’s a flurry of social activity. Perhaps the best times are those somewhere in between. One thing is for certain; if you choose to travel this road, you WILL experience bouts of soul crushing rejection and doubt. How do you pick yourself up and continue along your way?

Remember WHY you write.
“The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. No matter our talents, education, backgrounds, or abilities, we each have an inherent wish to create something that did not exist before.” ~Dieter F. Uchtdorf (“Happiness, Your Heritage”, October 2008)

Most of us write because we must. Something deep inside of us compels us to find the words to express some part of the human experience. To make sense of it. To find an element of control over the uncontrollable. We write to examine our darkest fears, bring them out into the light and vanquish them in the hopes the next generation can escape their icy grip.

We don’t write to be famous, although that would be a bonus. When you come to realize that writing is more about who you are than a career choice, you can deal with the waiting, self doubt and rejections much better.

Be Willing to Learn
“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~Dale Carnegie

Writing your first novel is a huge accomplishment. You’ve done something few people ever do. However, one novel doesn’t mean you’re ready to join Rowling, Meyer, Patterson, King, Card, Martin, or whatever author you admire. Five or six novels may not be enough if you’re not willing to learn and grow. Every writer can become better. As we learn more about our craft and practice daily, our skill set increases.

Great writing groups, beta readers and critique partners are a valuable part of this learning process. We must learn how to accept constructive criticism and improve because of it. This doesn’t mean we have to change everything in our story because someone made a comment. It means we need to open our minds and evaluate what that question or suggestion really means in the context of our story.

It’s All Subjective
“I have a problem when people say something’s real or not real, or normal or abnormal. The meaning of those words for me is very personal and subjective.” ~ Tim Burton

Agents, publishers, readers, everyone has different life experiences and different taste in books. We learn this early on with beta readers. But do we reallylearn from it? One beta reader returns a section covered in comments and questions. They hate it, or simply don't get it and you despair. Then, a second reader returns the same section with lots of comments on how brilliant you are and this is "OMGosh the best scene EVER!"

What the heck?

As the writer, what do you do with this kind of information?

First off, you can’t change your story every time someone makes a comment. Why not? Because enjoying a story is dependent on each individual reader. You will never be able to write a book that every human on this planet will love. It’s not possible. That’s why you need to understand why you write and why you feel compelled to tell this particular story.

Understand those two things and you can stay true to yourself and your characters. Questions, comments and suggestions are simply clues to what one person sees, or doesn’t see, in your story. It’s up to you as a writer to use those clues in your pursuit to a final product.

This holds true for agent rejections as well. These gate keepers are flooded with stories and they can only handle so many at a time. This means they get to be picky. If your story isn’t their cup of tea, they will say “Sorry, this isn’t for me, but I’m sure there is an agent out there for you.”

That doesn’t mean your novel is un-sellable. It just means it didn’t fall on their side of the subjective line.

Prepare for the Reality of “Published Author”
“I will prepare and someday my chance will come.” ~Abraham Lincoln

There are loads of blogs out there about how to prepare for success. They speak of platform building and professionalism. However, none of them prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster of achieving my dream.

We are writers because of one fundamental thing. We have great imaginations. In fact, all of us carry a vision of what life will look like when our book is released into the world. Mine includes billboards on the side of the highway with my cover and author photo, people cheering and falling over each other to get to the pile of books at signings, interviews for morning shows and directors lining up to offer me movie deals. Does yours look similar?

Sometimes the hardest part about getting published is that the reality is so different from the dream in our heads.

My debut novel was released today and you know what? I still have to get up at the crack of dawn to get all my kids off to school. I’ll have to clean my house, wash clothes, run errands and cook dinner. Life will continue on just as it did when I was just a writer. And 99% of the world won’t even know I wrote a book.

Focus on the Positive
“You are essentially who you create yourself to be and all that occurs in your life is the result of your own making.” ~Stephen Richards (Think Your Way to Success: Let Your Dreams Run Free)

It would be all too easy for my over active imagination to send me into a tailspin. But reality doesn’t have to feed our doubt. Every story we write is an accomplishment and something we should be proud of.

Here are some ideas to help us stay motivated and focused on the positive.
  • Stay busy
  • Write something new
  • Read good books
  • Eat chocolate
  • Buy something as a reward (new shoes, shirt, something)
  • Go to dinner to celebrate accomplishments with family or friends
  • Remember why we write
  • Learn Patience

  • No matter where you are on this journey be prepared for surprises. There are going to be moments of joyful discovery and sessions of doubt, but in the end the journey is more than worth it.

    Have you found ways to stay positive in the face of rejection? Do you just want to talk about the crap your going through right now? Talk to us about it!


    Deborah Walker said...

    I deal with rejection by seeking out more. I'm short story writer and have around I'm a short story writer and I have around 40 stories on submission at any one time.

    You get used to rejection pretty quickly and it loses a lot of its sting-- most of the time.

    Charity Bradford said...

    Wow! 40 stories out at once! That is fantastic. I guess eventually our skins thicken and we just go with it. Thanks Deborah!

    Patchi said...

    Call me stubborn, but when someone tells me that something isn't working, I just try harder. I love critiques because they help me figure out what isn't working. Rejections do the same. With enough hard work, things will work out.

    Charity Bradford said...

    That's a great attitude!

    Suzanne Furness said...

    I think we all have days when the rejection 'hurts' more than others. I usually try and have at least a couple of things out there so that I can tell myself, 'Maybe next time.'

    I agree to try and stay positive and keep writing are two of the most important things to remember!

    mshatch said...

    Rejections suck, no matter what, and the only thing you can do is pick yourself up and write some more or quit. And since I'm not quitting...

    Charity Bradford said...

    Hear hear! Quitting is NOT an option.

    Charity Bradford said...

    Thanks Suzanne and good luck with the writing. I'm sending positive vibes your way.

    Susan Flett Swiderski said...

    I'm glad you got some comments this time, because this is a really good post. The way I see it, some people love escargots. They consider it a delicacy, but to me? It's snails. Disgusting snails. Just as we all have different palates, we have different tastes and opinions about writing, too. While we should welcome critiques, we shouldn't be devastated when a reader or agent doesn't have the "proper palate" to appreciate our particular offering.

    Charity Bradford said...

    Great analogy! Thanks!