I’m currently sitting in a coffee shop, Christmas carols warbling through the speaker behind my head, and my chai tea offering a relaxing scent to what feels like a very holiday heavy morning. The Florida sky is grey today, the temperature a brisk 60 degrees.
It’s about as Christmasy as our sandy state can muster.
I’ve been staring at a blank screen for thirty minutes, willing brilliance to tap it’s way out of my fingertips. I want to start a new novel. I want to tell a new story.
I’ve never really had to look for a story before. My first novel came to me. It was practically gift wrapped and placed in my hands. And with the release date coming up in just six short months, it’s time to start in on the second story. Only, I feel like I’m shooting blanks.
There’s a sense of pressure hanging over me now that wasn’t there before. It was easy to say I was writing a novel the first time around because there was a sense of impending excitement surrounding it. There wasn’t a publisher, so anything was possible. But now? Well, to be honest I’m terrified of becoming a one hit wonder.
All of that assuming that my book will be a hit, of course. (And I am believing big, folks!)
So I type out story ideas, brief synopses of potential books, and I stare at them with a million questions. Are these too cliche? Are they interesting enough? Will people want to read a story about this subject? Will this fit into my brand as a writer?
What is my brand as a writer?!
The business side of writing can be paralyzing, and almost mind numbing. You’ve got to think of marketing and platform building. You have to keep your name on the forefront so potential readers know who you are. You need to stay engaged in the writing community, and most importantly – you must be predictable.
Any mother knows that the idea of predictability is a laughable concept. I cannot predict my days any more than the weatherman can accurately predict the weather. Which means I generally have a basic idea of how a day will go, but a surprise storm could well up and change a predicted sunny day into a deluge at any moment, leaving me completely surprised at the turns of events.
Maintaining predictability in my online interactions is only one part of the challenge, though. Because I also need to establish myself as a predictable brand. And what does that mean?
It means when people go to the book store to buy my books, they should have a basic idea of what they’re going to get.
I’m working to figure out what exactly this means for me, and how to operate within these parameters. Thankfully, I have smart people on my side who are willing to help me figure this out. I’m grateful for these smart people, because otherwise I think I’d stumble around in the dark until I finally threw my hands up in exasperation and decided to call it quits.
I don’t want to call it quits. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I want to ride this wave of creativity that keeps my soul afloat, even in the midst of all the unpredictability.
And so I will keep returning to the blank screen, tapping out ideas, many of which will probably be erased. I’ll keep scratching at the surface, waiting for inspiration to coming calling again. And I will keep my eyes open for the next story that needs to be told, because it’s waiting out there. I can feel it.
The muse is starting to whisper my name.
What are you up to these days, dear readers? What projects are you working on, and how are you maintain predictability in the midst of this unpredictable life?
His voice reached through the phone pressed to my ear and I took a breath to give the expected response, then stopped. Tears pricked the corners of my eyes, and I felt the wind sort of escape in a small sigh.
“I don’t know,” I said, voice trembling slightly.
A month ago, I signed my first contract with a literary agent. For over a decade, I have been trying, without success, to secure a literary agent. It is a very big step toward my dream of publication – this is what I’ve been waiting for, what I’ve wanted to do since I was a teenager.
I should be excited.
I am excited.
But I’ve lost momentum.
When I began blogging seven years ago, I had no idea where that journey would take me. Very early on I came across one of the Compassion Blogging trips, and as I read through those posts I felt a deep longing for my words to matter. As much as I loved chronicling the humorous moments of mom-life, I knew I wanted my site to become more.
I would walk through a year of grieving and heartache, and I couldn’t find my footing in the blogosphere anymore. I had accomplished my goal, and while writing has always been an outlet, at that point in time I found more solace in working on my novel, because blogging began to feel too painful. I was so very raw in those days, and I felt exposed online.
It’s been such a journey these last two and a half years. And now here I am, on the cusp of seeing another dream realized, and I find myself wildly overwhelmed.
If it weren’t for my husband, I think I would have given up a long time ago, because this process of doing what I love hasn’t been easy. Success, however you may measure it, hasn’t fallen in my lap. I’ve worked for it – I’ve worked really hard, and I have a stack of rejection letters to prove that what I do isn’t for the faint of heart.
Maybe I shouldn’t have kept the rejection letters. Maybe the folder full of “No” is a little bit of a downer, but it does make the “Yes” a little sweeter. And inside that folder full of “No” are little glimmers of hope. Editors who took the time to write me a personal note on their typical form letter response.
“Love the concept, and the writing is beautiful, but it’s not a good fit for us.”
“Keep working on this. You have the beginnings of something really special, but it’s not there yet.”
When I got those notes, I placed them on top of the stack of rejections to remind myself that I really can do this writing thing. Because the truth is, when you fight for something for so long, and you are constantly pushed backward, you start to question whether or not you’re cut out for this gig.
But now, there is someone else out there who believes in me. An agent who believes me capable of telling the stories I long to tell. I have a writing partner who, like my husband, has always been my cheerleader, and she’s right beside me in this new journey. She’s helping shape a message that the Lord placed on both of our hearts so many years ago.
I’m overwhelmed by it all. This is where the real work starts, and there’s a small part of me that is just scared. I’m afraid to get too excited. I’m intimidated by the need to gain blogging momentum again – to rebuild a platform in an already saturated market.
And that ever present nag that tells me I might not be good enough to pull this off likes to prick at my ears in the quiet moments when I’m most vulnerable.
Dream chasing is hard. It will always involve rejection. There are so many “No’s” that make up a “Yes.” And we’re all prone to look to our left and our right, and to see the people who are doing the things we want to do and assume that the success just fell in their laps. But 9 times out of 10, that’s not the case.
They worked hard for it, too.
If you’re chasing a dream right now, and you feel overwhelmed by it all, can I urge you not to give up? Don’t look at the “No’s” as a finality, but as the stacking point for the great big “Yes” waiting in the wings.
Maybe it won’t look like you thought it would, and maybe it will be more work than you assumed, but at the end of the day your dream matters, and the tenacity with which you’re willing to run after it will be the tipping point between excellence and mediocrity.
Let’s be excellent together.
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