The old storyteller tradition isn’t around much anymore. We’ve evolved from villages gathering around a communal fire and listening to stories of history and gods to putting those stories and so many more on real or electronic paper and letting people from far outside our community share them.
This writing life is a long one. It can be ponderous at times, fraught with perils such as Doubt, Writer’s Block, and Lack of Inspiration.
Every hazard, though, can be overcome by sheer determination. Some call it stubbornness. Some call it not knowing when to quit. Some call it persistence.
I like the last one. Reminds me of the story Hank Phillippe Ryan told at the Writers’ Institute this past spring, the one about how her editor loved her story, but the board shot it down. She rewrote it, and it did sell. Same with Stephen King, how he tossed one of his first manuscripts when no one was interested in it, and his wife rescued it and told him to keep going.
It’s tough, though, to keep going when you feel like you’ve done so much work, learned so much about the craft, followed the advice of the heavyweights like Donald Maass and Anne Lamott and Stephen King, spent years polishing and honing and editing and writing. You belong to writers’ groups, have a critique partner or three, even go to writing conferences once or twice a year.
And nothing happens. Crickets. Queries sent into cyberspace fall into a cyber black hole. Live pitches to agents fail to garner material requests. Contest entries and pitch parties are nothing more than distractions. (confession time: not my experience. I’ve gotten more positive results than that.)
So you take your precious manuscript, the one you’ve sweated and worried over, the one you’ve edited to within an inch of its life, and chuck it into a dark, dusty corner of that desk you never use. You look at the shelf of writing books, and wonder how many knickknacks those same shelves could hold. Maybe you could fit your entire state bird plate collection on them. Or remove the shelves and hang your grandmother’s memory quilt on the wall. That should cover it.
I think most writers have been there. Maybe not to the reject-all-writing level, but we’ve wondered, more often than not it sometimes seems, why the hell we subject ourselves to this torture. I mean, if a kid loves football, plays throughout elementary and middle school, takes private lessons, and never gets picked for the varsity team even though he always tries out, he’s wasted all that time, energy, and money. He may as well put that energy into something more achievable, like fishing.
The thing with writers, though, is we can’t stop. If we stop writing, we go a little insane. All those stories in our heads just build and build until our head explodes and all those stories get splattered over everything in sight.
Where was I? Oh, yeah. Persistence. Some writers are blessed/cursed with it. It’s not that we don’t know when to give up, it’s that we can’t give up.
Each small success is another step closer. Finish a short story? One step. Send the story out? Another step. Actually get it published? A big step. Finish a whole novel? Another step. And we continue on our journey. A short story writer’s goal might be inclusion in an anthology or publication in a widely-read periodical. A novel writer’s goal is to get that novel into the hands of readers, onto the shelves at Barnes and Noble, maybe even onto the racks at Walmart or Target.
So many steps to get there. Some writers are fortunate enough to get there faster than others, but persistence is the key. And persistence does pay off. See, if you got this far, you’re persistent 😀
I am fortunate to know many wonderful writers. It’s amazing how small the writing community seems, yet so far-ranging and encouraging. One of my writing friends mentioned a pitch contest I’d never heard of, so I figured, what the heck. I’d already tossed in for Pitch Wars and missed, but I did get some good feedback.
So, I did PitMad this week and the pitch contest my friend told me about. And I got positive responses from multiple agents.
Another step closer.
I got an R&R request from another agent, along with a lot of good feedback.
Another step closer.
I’m going to get there. Step by step.