“…we are writers. We earned the title. We stay in the race even though it hurts, and damn it, it hurts. Sometimes, a helluva lot. Can we just acknowledge that? Of course we can. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. It makes us real. It makes us writers.”
When people tell me they don’t like to run, I often ask how far they ran. They usually respond two or three miles, to which I respond, “Oh, you just didn’t run far enough.” Stay with me here. I promise this analogy circles back around to writing.
They just look at me like I’ve lost it. After all, if they didn’t like running two miles, why would they like five? But there’s an interesting phenomenon that takes place while running. After a few miles, I stop thinking about wanting to stop. I stop thinking about the pain, the gasping, and perseverance becomes a habit. So goes the writing journey.
When I wrote my first book, I believed that was THE ONE I would succeed with. No, not at all. I succeeded with the fifth book I wrote. For you Office fans, think Michael Scott Paper Company as he names his fifth business. I can still revise and shop those earlier books, of course, but the point is, I kept going, kept writing. Perseverance is a habit. During that time, I went to hear many authors speak. The themes and genres they spoke about were different, but one thing they often danced around was just how painful it was to experience rejection. Some of them had gotten lucky on the first meeting or query with an agent or editor, while others had queried for years but usually wouldn’t talk about how painful this experience was. They would simply offer the platitude, “You’ve gotta develop a tough skin.” Trust me, there’s no need for self-flagellation, the journey itself will take care of that.
I suppose many of these authors feel that being honest about how bad this rejection hurt (and for self-pub authors, I imagine negative reviews can have the same effect) would cause writers to wallow in these feelings to the point where they would become paralyzed. However, I think the opposite can be true. Feelings of isolation can cause a person to give up, and perhaps quicker. Just knowing there are other authors out there who understand what I am going through can make all the difference in the world. So, if no one has told you lately, allow me to be the one: it’s okay to feel the hurt now and then. You’ve poured your heart and soul into your writing. It hurts when your work gets rejected, when someone doesn’t get it, when yet another year goes by and there is nothing to show for your efforts but an inbox full of rejection letters. In fact, I’d argue this pain is a good sign. This means you care very much. There’s beauty in this, and we authors know the value of feeling. It’s the difference between a flat character and a character who makes a reader want to turn pages well into the night. Experience the sorrow. Hell, let it soak into your being; let the tears run down your face as you have a cathartic cry.
And while I’m on my soapbox, let me address the idea of authors getting up and telling a room full of writers they cannot yet call themselves writers. Here’s the thing: have you experienced any of the above? If you answered yes, you’re a writer. Period. Honey, you’ve suffered for it. Call it like you see it. I’ve got your back!
It means everything. It means nothing. We reach a point where we may need to let a project go, but we grieve it and start another one. Why? Because we are writers. We earned the title. We stay in the race even though it hurts, and damn it, it hurts. Sometimes, a helluva lot.
Can we just acknowledge that? Of course we can. It doesn’t make us weak. It makes us human. It makes us real.
It makes us writers.