In my own experience and from talking with or reading about other writers’ experiences I have come to believe that there are three things an aspiring author must have to be successful.
In the most wonderful book, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, there is a most wonderful quote: “Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.” When I started on my journey toward being a novelist I had plenty of hope, but I did not realize how far the scope of my hope would have to extend. I didn’t realize that hope would be something I’d have to hold onto with white-knuckle, muscle-trembling force. I didn’t realize hope would carve an aching hole in my heart.
To be a writer we must hope for everything…
A great idea.
The ability to turn that idea into a whole, marvelous book (this is a BIG one, ’cause it’s incredibly hard).
The time to sit and write, sit and think and write some more.
Friends and family who take time to help us bounce ideas, edit and clean up the final draft.
The perfect query letter.
A contract with a rockstar agent.
A publisher who reads our proposal, loves it and buys it.
The ability to survive the wait while all this is going on (writer’s purgatory, as one writer friend calls it).
That people actually buy, read, love the book when it is finally published.
That we can start the whole process over again for the next book.
And on and on…hope must live in every thought, action and word. Hope breathes life into dreams; if you don’t first hope for it then you will never act on it.
True hope requires persistence. Trying to get a book published is like standing in front of thick brick wall. There is no way to climb over it or go around it, you must break through it. You must pound at that wall with your persistence until it crumbles to dust and you are standing on the other side with a book deal in hand.
To persist means to keep asking, keep trying, keep doing. Again and again and again. I constantly tell myself, after each rejection or failure, “Try again. Someday someone will say yes.”
A famous example: Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, the amazing, best-selling, life-changing book we all adore, was rejected 60 times before someone said yes. And the Chicken Soup for the Soul authors – 123 rejections. For a look at more famous books and authors that persisted, CLICK HERE.
So I keep pounding at that wall and I hope you do too. My hands are ragged and blistered, my muscles burning with fatigue, but I don’t stop. Because the next time it could be an acceptance, a yes, a book deal. A dream finally realized.
Persistence means nothing is you can’t endure the bumps in the road. The definition of endurance is: the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina.
For a writer trying to publish their first book the definition of endurance is:
The ability or strength to face each rejection, all the rejections – LOTS of rejections – with courage and an open mind; to accept criticism, roadblocks, writer’s block, and all the other stuff that will get in the way with grace and understanding; stamina to persist.
It takes a thick skin and a determined heart to survive the road to publication. Quite honestly that road sucks. It’s bumpy and it’s long, oh, so much longer than we start out imagining it to be. You can’t be a writer without knowing how to endure rejections. We must take them in stride and use them as motivation to keep trying, not as a reason to give up. There is something to learn from every rejection, even if it’s just that publishing is a very subjective business.
I have endured over 100 rejections over the last five years (I don’t actually keep track – that would be depressing and a petty waste of time, but I’m pretty sure it’s about that many between agents and editors). Each one results in a stab of pain in my chest and a moment of wanting to give it all up, but then I take a deep breath and get over it. I will endure as many rejections as it takes to get my yes.
Writers – do you agree? What other things have helped you along the way?