The Big What If?

It’s important to not ever forget how hard this writing-and-publishing thing is.

My struggles right now on this cool December morning may feel frustrating: I’m writing the big climactic sequence in Act III of my novel and it’s dark in here and I can’t see my own hand before my face and sometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, and sometimes I feel like I won’t make it, and sometimes I question everything, but I’ll figure it out, I’ll write my way through it, I will.

Fact is: No matter how hard I may think this is when I’m deep in it, it was far harder before—when I didn’t have the permission, and the opportunity, to write this novel. Nothing was harder than that.

I think of the other writer friends I know. I have writer friends out on submission with agents. I have writer friends out on submission with editors. I have writer friends on endless submission with editors. Writer friends starting over. Writer friends paused and not sure if they should start over.

Here’s a beautiful post from a writer friend of mine, Jade Park, about rejection. I agree with her when she says:

[R]ejection is like heartbreak. There is only so much you can do, like running and commiserating with friends, to stave off the devastation of heartbreak…but in the end, you have to let the devastation wash over you and run its course. The more in love you were, the greater the heartbreak. The more hope you had in a writing opportunity, the greater the impact of rejection.

But I also have faith in her perseverance and her talent, and I know she’ll make it through.

This weekend another writer friend told me her theory that you should try for things for one year—if you’ve actively tried for one year and haven’t gotten any closer, then it means you should stop. She said it far more eloquently than I did, so please accept my paraphrasing.

I think she was reaching the end of a year of trying for something and was thinking it would soon be time to stop. So I said if I’d followed that theory I would have stopped writing years ago. I wouldn’t have had my first book published or gotten the chance to write this new one.

But then when I admitted I’d gone through years of rejections when I was trying to write for adults… and it was only after I reinvented myself and started writing for young adults that things started happening, she said that didn’t exactly disprove her theory. Because, true, once I started anew, it didn’t take a year.

So maybe it is a matter of reinventing yourself. Or trying—but with something new. A new story? A new manuscript? A new outlook on life? I don’t know. I do know that I don’t think the person who wrote this post in the summer of 2007, less than a year before her first book deal, and less than two years away from her agent and her second book deal, would have heard a word I said. I needed to let the rejection run its course. Maybe I needed to get my heart broken to gain the strength to start over. Maybe it couldn’t have happened any other way.

No one can tell you to keep trying. But I think the main reason I didn’t stop was because I kept asking myself… What if?

How can you ever know the answer to that question unless you try?

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