Has anyone told you lately that this is hard job? Here, allow me:
THIS IS A VERY HARD JOB.
Sure, on one hand, we’re doing what we love. Writing stories, letting our imaginations run with interesting, and sometimes crazy, ideas. We write late, wake up early, and do it all over again because we love it. Not only that, we gotta write. It’s just what we do.
And then there’s the other hand. We polish our stories, make them the best we can for human consumption, and submit them for editor and agent approval. Ninety to ninety-nine times out of a hundred? Those precious stories are rejected. Our craft is rejected. And we are expected to smile, say thank you, and do it again and again and again. Because we are insane, yes, and because what else are we gonna do? We gotta write. It’s just what we do.
At the end of 2017, I find myself here, with these two hands. Thankful and grateful I’m still here after five years, working hard, grinding away at a career even if it feels like it’s moving at a snail’s pace. And on the other hand, I’m asking myself: “Am I crazy?” Because I have to be honest, reader. Sometimes I feel like what I’m doing is crazy. Working for days and sometimes weeks on a short story. Asking friends and family to spend their hours beta reading it. Submitting it, receiving a rejection. Submit again, receive another rejection. And occasionally, an acceptance. If I’m lucky, $100 for all those combined hours, and a publishing credit I pray to the gods will somehow entice an agent to take a chance on me.
I had a very frank talk with my husband about these battling feelings on our date night at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Indian food restaurant. It’s usually the one night a week I put on real pants (if you work from home, you feel me so hard right now), even put on a little make-up. But instead, I looked down-right sloppy. No make up, hair hardly brushed. I couldn’t even pretend to put on a mask. I was just tired. (I should give myself a little credit…I did put on pants.)
I explained everything that I was feeling to my husband – feeling beaten down and pretty exhausted. And true to form, he was nothing but supportive. “Take a week off. Take a month off. Hell, take a year off,” he suggested. “Don’t write for publication. Just write for you.”
“Would it help if you focused on novels instead of short stories?”
I nodded. They were all great suggestions. I dug into my matter paneer and he his bengan bharta (tandoor baked eggplant with peas and herbs). I temporarily forgot about our conversation as we both burned our mouths on way-too-spicy food, drank pitchers of water to cool the burn without avail, and laughed.
The next morning, I woke up feeling better. I got to work on research for my novel. I wrote a draft for this very post you’re reading now.
To be honest, I don’t know why. The only thing I know for sure is that no matter what, I’m going to write. No matter what I’m feeling, no matter how many rejections pile up. No matter how many acceptances grace my inbox. I don’t know why.
I gotta write. It’s just what I do.
Judging from your picture it’s a good chance I am old enough to be your father. What I have learned in all these years is to limit the regrets one will have in life. Turning a dream into a reality is hard but think of the satisfaction you had in doing so. Yes, there is a chance you and I may not be millionaires but at the same time we will not have any regrets.
I began writing books five years ago. I wish I had started sooner but I had to experience things before I did. You too are experiencing things and as time goes on those experience will show in your writing. So continue the hard work, expect rejection and little pay, for now anyway. Success follows those who stick around the longest. But most of all remember the big reason you are doing this: The absence of regret.
Hi Bryan – very wise words. Thank you. I just keep telling myself that very thing – don’t ever quit. Ever.
You are welcome.
One more thought: Surround yourself with people who are really good with things that you identify as your weakness. Keep them close and always return the favor. In the world of writing they are priceless.