On discouragement

It’s easy to feel discouraged as a writer.  To begin with, we have trouble convincing ourselves that our writing is any good.  It’s just a hobby, we tell ourselves, It’s not like I’m ever going to be published.  Sure, we imagine walking through Barnes & Noble and seeing our books right there, on the shelf, made of actual paper, but it’s a dream, really.  We think about how our characters will be able to brighten someone’s day, or ignite a reader’s imagination.  But it’s not something we actually plan on doing.  And then, somehow, as the years go by, and we’ve finished several ‘starter’ novels, we finally come up with something that we think we might be ready to share with the world.

And so we take the leap.  We query.  We get rejected.  Again and again.  It’s all a part of the process, and we know it.  But sometimes, it starts to get to us.  Or maybe I’m alone in this.  Some may have more resilience…but I doubt it.  I think all of us feel the discouragement that I’m feeling today.

You guessed it, another “pass” on my query.  Very kind, very polite, and exactly as it should be.  It’s not my first rejection; rather, it is the one that feels very much like the straw that came right before the straw that broke the camel’s back.  The one that makes me think that maybe this should be just another starter novel, even though I’m in love with my characters and would never tell them to their faces that they might end up just being more ‘practice.’  

So, I suppose my question is this: where should the line be drawn concerning rejection and discouragement, on one side, and acknowledging a product that is not ready for the world, on the other?  Moreover, where is the line that stands between writing as a hobby and writing as a profession (in other words, giving up ‘the dream’)?  I’ve thought about this a lot today, as I walked around the neighborhood with my six-month-old daughter strapped to my chest, watching her face positively light up and revel in the joy of rattling an iron gate repeatedly against its own locking mechanism (sorry for the racket, neighbors).  And I think in her perfect, uninhibited smile I found the answer.

Writing is something I’ve found joy in from the beginning; something that made me smile and feel fulfilled since the first time I allowed my creativity to flow.  Now, it might not seem like as rowdy and carefree a time as banging an old iron gate, but I assure you, my smile is just as genuine when I finish a story as my daughter’s was today.  And that, my friends, is why I will not give up on the dream.

Because although it is easy to take rejection personally, and to be discouraged by “pass” after “pass” after “pass,” none of it can take away the sincerity of my story.  None of it can take away the accomplished feeling I get from finding the perfect words to end each chapter, and finally each book.  That is how I know that the things I write matter, and that I am in the right business, even if the ‘business’ end has not necessarily taken off yet.

So, I guess I’m saying, in so many words, don’t give up.  Keep living the dream (because you are–you’re living it every time you write), and don’t let the rejections get you down.  At the end of the day, if publication doesn’t happen (and don’t give up on trying!), at least you’ve contributed to the world by creating something meaningful.

And in the meantime, if you’re feeling frustrated, I’ve discovered that rattling iron gates is actually a very cathartic coping mechanism.  🙂

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