1/1/12 — Author’s Note: Since the original publication of this post (over a year ago), things have changed. My amazing agent, Jennifer Schober, who never gave up on this work, eventually found a home for THE WELL OF TEARS and its sequel (see Persist Until You Prevail for details). The moral to this story, fellow writers? Never EVER give up on your dream!
A little over a year ago, my warrior/champion/literary agent ventured forth into the mysterious world of publishing with my novel in hand. After weathering what turned out to be one of the most tumultuous years in the industry, we were ultimately unable to sell my book.
Of course, I embarked on this grand adventure imagining, expecting, a very different outcome. All the same, I knew the odds were not in my favor and there would be pitfalls and perils I would have to face. The journey was long, and difficult–which is to say it was far longer and much more difficult that I had ever imagined. There were bleak and unforgiving days where it was all too easy to lose sight of the horizon. Hope was often elusive, and when it did materialize, it was fleeting.
As the weeks became months and the rejections piled up, I was reminded of the many writers I knew whose disappointment overwhelmed them, disheartening them to the point of resentment, and ultimately discouragement. I could not let this to happen to me; the dream was just too big a part of my life to let wither. I was determined to steep myself in the moment, to examine myself and my intent, to feel the inevitable highs and lows, and arrive on the other side of the experience a better writer and person than I had been at the outset.
While I did not succeed in publishing this first novel, I did succeed in preserving my creative passion. Despite the deep disappointments, I survived with my sense of self-worth and my belief in myself intact. I also gained a greater understanding, not only of the publishing industry, but also of my craft, my voice, and my artistic integrity.
How did I manage all of this? By preparing myself for the ordeal as best I could and re-provisioning myself along the way. When I came to the end of the road, I took a deep breath, had a good cry–and I congratulated myself for having the guts to give it a go. And, just as soon as I’ve got another novel polished, I’ll do it all over again.
I leave you with the results of my final analysis, and perhaps an insight or two that might help you on your own journey. Forgive me for capitalizing on an already over-used cliché; you must not blame my agent Jennifer Schober for accidentally suggesting it, but the metaphor fits so I ran with it:
Eat. Feed your creative spirit often and in abundance. A steady diet of self-restoration will strengthen your emotional fortitude and stoke the embers of artistic inspiration. Replenish your mind, body and soul with generous helpings of peace & quiet, ladle on the self-indulgence, and get yourself a big bottle of ego boosters. When all else fails, eat lots of chocolate. Fuel your senses by participating in a variety of human experiences, and don’t forget to treat yourself to the frequent companionship of those who make you laugh. A writer with a well-nourished psyche can sustain her passion and a healthy perspective no matter how many rejections she gets.
Pray. Seek guidance regularly from a higher authority–your agent, your writing coach, your mentor, or anyone else who can help you glean wisdom from the darkness. Seek knowledge. Ask for help from those who have succeeded where you have not. Listen to what the powers that be have to say with an accepting mind, even when you don‘t like what you hear. Especially when you don’t like what you hear. Take solace in the company of others who suffer as you suffer (writers groups, critique partners, and the like). And then, when despair threatens to overwhelm you, call on your greatest source of support–in my case, my best girlfriend and a bottle of really good Merlot or a late night heart to heart with my husband. And of course, on truly desperate occasions, some very expensive imported dark chocolate truffles, which in my experience are the ambrosia of enlightenment.
Write. As much as you can, even if you don‘t feel inspired. Especially when you don‘t feel inspired. Exercise those creative muscles regularly and with enthusiasm–conditioning helps stave off artistic atrophy. Push through the cramp of writer’s block and stretch yourself in new directions. Explore every idea that comes to you, but write the story you believe in. Accept the reality that publishing is subjective and the only control you have is over your own creative process. Embrace what makes you unique. Trust your artistic voice and re-dedicate yourself to your goals on a daily basis. Commit to mastery–publishing is a professional discipline that requires well-honed skills and expert understanding of the trade. Take all the time you need to be the best you can be, but most of all, write the next book.