By Martina Boone @4YALit
Today, we continue the journey from where we left off on Monday. Following the dreaded rejection.
But there's a hidden treasure in every rejection, a measure of achievement. We have tried. We have succeeded at putting ourselves out there. And we are learning that being creative requires us to face rejection. We are preparing ourselves for years of rejection yet to come. Rejection by agents. Rejection by editors. Rejection by acquisitions boards. Rejection by reviewers. By readers.
Art is subjective. Not every agent is going to love our work, and when we submit our first book, or our second, or third, or sixth, we may discover that it's still meeting with rejection. But maybe, maybe, instead of a form rejection, if we keep battling, we glean a piece of knowledge that points us in the right direction. We learn what we are good at writing. Do we have a great voice? A way with description? A facility with rhythm? Plot? Characterization? And we learn what work we have yet to do, all the elements of writing where we need improvement. We discover that rejection can be energizing, and we realize that we stand on the brink of a landscape that is only just opening up before us.
THE ROAD BACK
Having come through the initial battle, we must now regroup. We pull out the craft books. We dig deeper. We seek more experienced mentors. We attend different kinds of writing conferences—conferences focused on craft instead of sales. We read more fiction than we have ever read before, and we begin to read it in a different way, critically, not to find fault, but to peer beyond the curtain of story to examine the motions and machinations of the wizard. Now we are determined to complete the journey and come home with an agent and a book deal. We can smell success… Our mentors can smell it on us. (And yes, this is often the point where we do find ourselves wearing the same pajamas the entire weekend and feeding our families cold, leftover pizza for breakfast on Sunday morning.)
The faster we race toward that finish line, the more painful it is to trip and fall. And we will go splat at some point. Getting a Revise and Resubmit on a manuscript may make us believe we are almost there. Or at least that the next manuscript will surely be an easy sell. After all, this time, we've done everything right. We've plotted. We've schemed and themed. We know (and like) our characters better than our siblings and in-laws. (At least some of them.) We would like to move out of our current homes and take up residence in our storybook settings. And yet. And yet. When it comes down to it, we may be close and still not close enough.
At the climax of our writer's journey, we are going to be tested again, usually when we think we can see a champagne bottle set out on the table. That's the moment when we stumble and go down. We fail. Again.
At that moment, while we're lying curled in a fetal position on the cold cobblestones and whimpering for chocolate, the thought of picking ourselves up and trying again seems like more heartbreak than we can bear. Another round of revisions? Another unagented manuscript? Another unsold book? Or one that's published but undersells or underperforms our hopes? It's all useless anyway. What's the point? We can't DO this anymore. We can't keep spending a year or more writing a manuscript, pouring ourselves into the pages, only to fail again.
But wait. This—yes, THIS—this exact moment, is our defining moment! Our darkest moment. Our long night of the soul.
Everything we create comes from within us. By sharing it with the world, we lay ourselves naked for judgment and ridicule. That's painful. It's hard. It's our battle. Sometimes it can feel as if death would be easier. Certainly, it's easier to give up.
As Walter Smith put it, "Writing is easy. You just sit down at the typewriter, open a vein, and bleed it out drop by drop."
It is also worth remembering that writing fiction is both a selfish and selfless endeavor. We write to communicate. The human spirit aches to share experiences. There are readers out there hungry to escape or enhance their own lives. And they may be struggling with a problem they will solve through or during the reading of a book. They may be searching for just the thought, the sentence, or idea, or emotion that we have labored over within the pages of the book we've written.
The moments of communion when a reader feels a book was written just for them—we've all felt like this when reading, right?—is what lets a book live on and grow beyond us. It's the elixir we are all hoping to find and bring back. The writer's holy grail. The lucky few writers who achieve a communion like that leave behind a legacy. And doesn’t that deserve a battle? Aren't we willing to fight for it? Aren't we willing to keep learning to achieve it, fighting to achieve it—because, yes, we will have to keep fighting, fighting harder, with every new manuscript we begin.
If we want, need, that elixir, we will pick ourselves up after that long night of the soul.
We will be reborn into a world that's very much bigger even than the one that we believed we had found. We finally know how very little we actually know, and we see the breadth of what we have yet to learn. That in itself is staggering. But we are committed to a lifetime of learning, experimenting, reaching. We are strengthened by our successes and our failures, and in the act of pushing past our dark moment, we finally break through that dark veil of doubt that held us back from writing in the first place. The turmoil in which we began is finally resolved, our wound is healed at last.
RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR
We return to our families and jobs at peace with ourselves, prepared to continue the journey of the writer. Whether we have achieved the first stage of publication or finally broken through with a novel that takes us to the next step, or anything in between, we carry success within us. Because we no longer feel like we're in a hurry to get "there." We can let ourselves fall in love with the process. We can love the writing, the current book, the next book, knowing that there is an endless well of creativity inside us. Not every book will sell. Not every book will sell well. But every book will teach us something, about ourselves, about our world.
Every book is a brand new journey.
FOLLOW YOUR BLISS
"If you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be." ~ Joseph Campbell
Can you relate to the writer’s journey?
ABOUT MARTINA BOONE