I was going through my email last week, looking for something, when I stumbled on a couple of messages I've kept around for encouragement. They were sent after a workshop I attended in early March of last year. It was a pretty rough experience and left me doubting my ability to cut it as a writer.
Let me set the stage. I had a novel I'd been working on, off and on, for about 10 years. Yes, you read that right - 10 years. But I'd completed the first draft (finally) the previous summer due to a period of unemployment. I'd submitted a part of it for critique and been told it hadn't sucked. I'd lived with it so long, I figured I knew everything about it by now.
Well, I didn't. That workshop made it glaringly obvious that this manuscript had serious problems. And I despaired of ever fixing it. After crying a bit (okay, more than a bit), I put the story away. Faced with yet another rewrite, I just couldn't bear to look at it any more.
But I knew that I had more to learn. About that time is when I started working seriously in short fiction. I read. I attended more workshops (in person and online). And I kept writing.
Fast forward to March 2012:
- I have one book published (the first in the Hero's Sword series), with a contract for three more.
- I have a short-story accepted for publication in an online magazine.
- I have another short story accepted for publication in an anthology.
- I've learned (through workshops and books) a ton about just why that first novel manuscript didn't work.
What a difference a year makes.
The biggest difference in where I was in March 2011 and where I am in March 2012? No, not the books or the workshops (although they have undoubtedly helped). It's something intangible, something I think every successful writer does even if they can't articulate it.
It's perseverance. "Stick-to-it-iveness." A plain-old refusal to give up.
It's changing the mindset from "I'll never get this right" to "I am going to get this right - eventually."
Because honestly? I've wanted to write fiction forever. Really. If you'd asked me at any point in my life what I hoped to be doing in 10 years, I'd have said I'd be a published author (no really, it was part of my answer in an interview in 1998)
And I finally made it happen. Not because I'm talented, or a genius, or the next Stephen King. I just wouldn't give up. Call it what you will - stupidity, stubbornness, whatever.
Am I a NYT or Amazon best seller? No, not yet. Still working on that. And that's something I can't control.
But when I go to Amazon, I get to see a book, an honest-to-goodness book cover, with my name on it. I can control that. I can write and learn and publish myself. And that is pretty freaking cool.
A year ago, five years ago, 25 years ago - I wouldn't have thought it would happen. But it did. And all I really did was show up, keep doing, and stuck to it.
So when my daughter, 12, looks and says, "I'd like to work for a fashion magazine someday, but it probably won't happen" I know what to say.
Keep dreaming, keep working, keep showing up. Persevere.
Because hey, you just never know.
Calendar image courtesy of tanakawho - used under Creative Commons