I finished my first novel–I mean edited-down, polished-to-a-gleaming-shine, FINISHED-finished–about 3 months ago now. When I was done, I thought, FINALLY. Now my writing life can finally begin!
You know nothing, self of 3 months ago…
So I’m in the querying stage. I’ve gotten 10 rejections so far. I thought I had prepped myself for this stage of the process. But let me tell you, each one of those no-thank-you emails is like a punch to the gut (not that I’ve ever been punched in the gut, but those emails knock the wind out of me, so I imagine that’s what that feels like).
I’ve been writing my whole life, and writing-writing, with a career in mind, for six years now. When I first started out, I wasn’t great, to put it mildly. Now I wouldn’t call myself Tana French, but I think I’ve gotten pretty good. I’m also an avid reader, so I trust my own judgement at this point. Plus I’m up to 9 beta readers who have all called my novel “unputdownable.” And in the rejections I’m getting back, most agents haven’t even read any pages. It’s so frustrating! In every query email I send, I just want to yell, “MY BOOK IS GOOD I SWEAR!! PLEASE GIVE IT A CHANCE!!” (I won’t do that, though)
I’ve been feeling a little discouraged lately, if you can’t tell. When that happens, I go back to the advice I got from a good friend in a dark bar (is there any better kind?): perspective, perspective, perspective.
This attitude is best summed-up by my father. When I told him how I was feeling, his response was, “So you’re not getting paid to live your dream? So what? How many people really are? You’re young, you’re healthy, you’ve got a good job, a roof over your head, people who love you, and something you love doing. That sounds like a pretty good life to me.”
If that’s not perspective, I don’t know what is.
And yet–and yet–I’ve never been one of those people who settled. Yes, I have a good job. Yes, I have a nice life. But I want to be a writer. Want it more than I’ve wanted anything before.
And then I remembered this quote I read once by Anita Shreve, and though I just spent the past twenty minutes googling, I can’t find it. I’m totally messing this up, but it went something like, “I think just being a writer would be enough. Even if it didn’t come with success. Even if I were just a waitress, who only got to write on her days off. I think that would be enough.” (If anyone can find the exact quote, please let me know!)
Perspective: I am a writer.
I thought since I’d spent so much time working so hard on something, recognition would just come, in time. Maybe it just hasn’t been enough time. Maybe this isn’t the right debut book. Maybe it’s the marketplace right now. Maybe I’ll have to self-publish. Maybe I’ll never have the success I’ve dreamed about.
But no matter what, I am a writer.
So when I’m feeling discouraged about the querying, I just open up my word document and get back to work on my second book. It’s not about settling, at least I don’t think so. It’s about working towards who and what I want to be, and being grateful for what I have along the way.