Are You a Fighter?

Everyone knows getting published is an uphill battle. With few exceptions, it’s a long, difficult and often frustrating road with the possibility of heartbreak at every turn.

(I’m so optimistic today, aren’t I?)

The fact is that many of us have a desire, a dream, a passion which we believe is fueled by God. We want to write books. And we want to be published authors. So today I want to remind you that you are going to have to fight for it.

You’ll have to fight off impatience and develop fortitude. You’ll have to fight off insecurity and believe in yourself and your God. You’ll have to fight off weariness and build perseverance. You may have to fight off pride and learn humility. You’ll have to fight off all the forces that constantly endeavor to hold you back or keep you down. You’ll have to fight through the obstacles.

And remember, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (I love a good cliché now and then.)

You know how Christians talk a lot about God using our trials and tribulations to make us into His image? Sometimes it feels like a bunch of platitudes. But the concept is true and it’s powerful. Our challenges make us what we are, what we can be. Ask yourself: How am I allowing God to mold me and grow me and strengthen me through the trials of this writing journey?

When you get a rejection or yet another disappointment along this road, try not to ask Why? Instead, ask What? What do you want me to do with this, God? What are you trying to tell me? What can I learn?

And then, look at your rejection letter, or your painful critique, and say, thank you.

In the words of my favorite Christina Aguilera song, Fighter:

I want to say thank you:
Cause it makes me that much stronger
Makes me work a little bit harder
Makes me that much wiser
So thanks for making me a fighter

Made me learn a little bit faster
Made my skin a little bit thicker
Makes me that much smarter
So thanks for making me a fighter

Are you a fighter? Do you want to be? Do you disagree that you need to be? Tell me about some of the challenges you’ve fought through.

(Click here to listen to the song.)

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Danica/Dream on June 23, 2008 at 12:17 AM

    >What a great post. I think this is something every writer needs to hear. At the end of the day, it’s all about the one who keeps fighting through it.

  2. meliaka on June 22, 2008 at 11:03 PM

    >Awesome post… As one man once said, “And that, my friend, will preach.”

  3. elaine @ peace for the journey on June 21, 2008 at 10:31 PM

    >I’ve been attending the She Speaks / She Writes conference this weekend in Charlotte. It’s been a fabulous time of learning more about the craft of writing. I was able to pitch my book with 4 publishers and all four took my proposal with them. I know, it may not seem like much to some of your more seasoned veterans, but it means everything to me. I was praying for a nibble.

    I received a full portion in the matter. And yes, I am a fighter and will continue this process until my words breathe their full potential.

    Thanks for this blog. It’s been such an encouragement for me.


  4. michael on June 21, 2008 at 9:51 PM

    >Thank you, Rachelle. I, too, needed to read this post and your comment about this strange road I’m on.

  5. Jennifer AlLee on June 21, 2008 at 9:14 PM

    >Would you believe I actually had the song “Fighter” playing on my iPod when I read your blog? And yesterday, when you put the post up, was my birthday. Spooky!

    As for fighting, yep, some days more than others. Last year at the ACFW conference I felt like I got kicked in the teeth. The first editor I pitched to told me my book was totally wrong for her line. I had done my homework, and I can even show you a book from that imprint with the same type of plot I was told was absolutely wrong, so that was discouraging. Especially since it was my first conference and first editor pitch EVER. To make things worse, another editor didn’t know I had an appointment with her, so she left. And you know how at meal time the editors sit with you? Well none of them showed up at any of the tables I sat at. At one point I went to my room, sobbed and asked God if he was trying to tell me something. I really wanted to hide in that room until it was time to go home.

    But I sucked it up. I left the room, participated, learned a lot, and God blessed me with two of the best writing friends ever. The relationships I built at that conference are so valuable to me that now I can look back and laugh at the experience. I can see, too, that I wasn’t quite ready to pitch to some of those other editors, so it’s a good thing they stayed away from the tables!

    So I’m still fighting. Still believing I’m on the right road. Still excited to see where it goes and what God has in store. You’re right, Rachelle, it’s hard work, but I’m going to keep at it. And now I’m going to turn my music back on!

  6. Timothy Fish on June 21, 2008 at 5:37 PM

    >For a great door, and effectual, has opened unto me, and there are many adversaries. – I Corinthians 16:9

    Obviously, Paul’s idea of an open door wasn’t one that was easy to walk through. That seems to be the same idea as with this post.

    As for life finding its way into my writing, Gwen, I don’t think I can prevent that, not that I would want to, but part of what makes fiction great is that it allows us to escape life for a while. Writing fiction allows us to put our characters through things we hope we never experience, visit a world that may never exist or may never have existed and imagine possibilities. Writing is a little like golf. There are people who make a living at it. There are people who make a very good living at it, but for a large number of people it is a hobby that gives us something interesting to do on our own and also has a significant social aspect to it. I think some writers enjoy attending conferences more than they enjoy writing. If that is the case, do these writers really want to “succeed” at writing and ruin the dream by replacing it with the hard work that is required?

  7. Rebecca LuElla Miller on June 21, 2008 at 2:03 PM

    >Rachelle, I copied the same line from your comment that Catherine did: The difficulty of the road is not an indication that you’re on the wrong one. Great line!

    Your post is thought-provoking and inspiring. (How is it you keep hitting these home runs?) Thanks for the encouraging reminder.


  8. Anonymous on June 21, 2008 at 1:39 PM

    >This is Eric from Alabama again:

    We fight for obvious reasons. Since I began writing over four years ago, I’ve learned that writing can be hard at times, the editing process especially. But the creative process is the best part. You’ve been there. You’ve walked the streets of Rome, climbed the Swiss Alps, getting to know your characters better than anyone. You’ve day dreamed about it so much that your story seems almost real to you. That’s why we push on and fight, because we love it. The Bible says, “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” You do it because it’s you. It’s in you.
    You don’t give up because an agent reads the first paragraph of your work and shucks out a rejection letter. I would dare to say that when most rejections take place, the agent or editor has barely scratched the surface of your novel. I’ve been going slow for most people. In four years, I’ve only been rejected six times. I’m on agent number seven right now and so far no agent has read past the third chapter, if they read that far.
    What I have done is try to learn from them. I’ve done my best with the assistance of a published writer turned editor to learn how to make the first sentence, first paragraph and even the first chapter to really jerk you into the story.
    You have to take every rejection, take any advice, any help and take a step higher, take it to the next level. If you do, your chances will go up.
    Besides, I’ve heard of authors being rejected 40, 50 or more times before landing an agent and eventually a publisher. That tells me if your work is publishable, someone eventually is going to pick it up. You just have to find the right one who is into your stuff.
    I’ve by no means arrived. I haven’t found an agent yet. I guess the last four years have taught me patience though. I didn’t have a choice in the matter. And neither does anyone else who wants to be published. One of these days when you finally get there, it’s going to be worth it. Think about writing for a living, doing what you love. That’s the best anyone could ever hope, making enough money to pay your bills, doing what you love. The love of the story and the love of the craft is what keeps me going. Anyway, I’m out for now. Gotta go on vaction.

  9. Gwen Stewart on June 21, 2008 at 7:48 AM

    >Hey Timothy, you’re a writer, correct? So you’ll take your real life experiences, even if you can’t remember where your bed is located and a tree limb is covering your driveway, and turn it into compelling fiction. Somehow, somewhere, it will come out of you and pour onto the page.

    I think real life helps us craft better fiction, which in turn helps us get published. At least that’s what I tell myself when I’m juggling the multitude of different roles I live out every day.

    Take heart, Timothy. 🙂

  10. Tami Boesiger on June 20, 2008 at 11:49 PM

    >Hey, babe, thanks for the pep talk!

  11. Timothy Fish on June 20, 2008 at 10:59 PM

    >I fought my way through the sea of people going through security at the Atlanta airport this afternoon. I spent a little over an hour on the plane editing my WIP. I fought my way through Fort Worth traffic only to discover that I had a large tree limb covering half of my driveway, so I’ll be fighting with that this weekend and anything related to writing will have to be put off yet another week, but then I’ll be doing the stuff that really pays the bills. The fact is that none of that is really fighting at all, it is just life. I figure I don’t have much hope in the publishing fight when I have trouble remembering which city my bed is in, but with the current situation, I’m not sure that I’m ready to change that.

  12. Kim Kasch on June 20, 2008 at 9:24 PM

    >lea ann: Such a touching story – thanks for sharing.

  13. Mar on June 20, 2008 at 6:46 PM

    >I’m in the middle of my first serious attempt to write that novel-that-changes-the-world — I really dig your call for determination. Thanks.


  14. Anonymous on June 20, 2008 at 4:36 PM

    >Eric from Alabama:(maybe I’ll get hooked up with a real blogger identity before too long)

    Patience and persistence. Sometimes those words are easier to preach than to live out. But they are necessary. Vital actually.
    Can you see yourself doing anything else other than writing? Even though you may have a full-time job, wife and kids as I do. Do you believe in your story? Have you read others like it? Do you believe your work is somewhere in the ballpark?
    Have you edited and edited and edited and edited until you could almost speak it without having the pages in front of you?
    If you know you’ve done all your homework. If you know you’ve polished it and it is ready, then you can’t give up.
    I remember people over the last couple of years asking me, how many times am I going to proof read and work through my book. My response is still the same. Until it gets published. That’s still my response today. And if for some reason it doesn’t get published, it won’t be because I didn’t try…repeatedly. I guess you just keep going. I believe Thomas Edison tried about two thousand times to make a working light bulb. Wait a minute…let me look and see. Yep. He succeeded. I’ve got a dozen or so burning in my house. Patience, persistence, yeah, that’s the ticket.

    p.s. Rachelle, the writing contest was fun. The first one I’ve entered. I look forward to the next one. Thanks.

  15. Lea Ann on June 20, 2008 at 4:25 PM

    >My child. Lying unconscious on the bathroom floor. Pool water puddling around her limp form. A freak swimming accident and she was dying inside her head. Brain trauma.

    Through the hands of skillful medicine and a boatload of miracles, she lived through the coma, fought to lift her hand, her leg, her smile. And she did it.

    Four years later, my fifteen-year-old daughter has taught me much about being a fighter.

    “Mom, if you could change anything about the past, would you go back to that day and not let me have the accident?” she asks now. Her dreams of the basketball court are a dim memory. Now learning disabilities, right-side weakness, surgeries, and a constant painful limp are her new companions.

    “I don’t know, honey,” I had to answer. “I’ve watched you grow into such a strong, vibrant, Godly young woman because of it. And in spite of all the sorrow it has caused, you are who you are because of the way you let God handle it. No, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

    “I thought so,” she smiled. “I like my limp. It reminds me of how much God loves me.”

    We could all learn a lot about perserverance from Susie.

  16. XDPaul on June 20, 2008 at 3:43 PM

    >One of my favorite illustrations of Christian submission is when Professor Ransom finally realizes that the fate of a new world depends on him facing the near-corpse of Weston (his enemy) possessed by devil, and, by God’s grace, beating him to death in a drawn-out, desperate struggle. The submission is that he puts aside his own fears, his physical weakness, his concerns for propriety and his natural peaceful approach and simply did what God-given conscience demanded. We don’t often think of submission to Christ as a thing that might involve bludgeoning. But that is exactly what “submission” means. When you submit to a lord, you offer your sword in service to him. When you submit to our Lord, you offer your life to His purpose.

    Sometimes, Kingdom work involves your fists. Or, conversely, the palms of your hands. After all Our Lord set the bar – scourging the temple but accepting his scourging.

    The important thing is to know when the fight is called for and when its time to take a beating.

    When it comes to writing, I approach it like a workman. Put the labor in, make something pretty, and fight like the host in making it useful. It is only at its most useful when it is published. Therefore, if you are in the writing thing for something more than a laugh, fight until you have to quit. And then, don’t quit.

    Christ defended his Father’s House. He defeated death and the devil. He calls us to contend against principalities.

    You can’t defend, defeat or contend without a good old fashioned fight.

    Christians ought to fight harder than anyone, for we have the Champion for our model.

  17. C.J. Darlington on June 20, 2008 at 3:42 PM

    >Rachelle — I really needed to read this. Thank you. It’s just the encouragement I needed to keep fighting for this writing dream of mine!

  18. christa on June 20, 2008 at 2:44 PM

    >I’ve fought personal demons, being a single mom of five children, watching both my parents die, having a child with Down Syndrome, my grandson dying of SIDS,and spending two years away from my home because of Hurricane Katrina.

    So, bring it on because, to quote Elton: “Don’t you know I’m still standing better than I ever did
    Looking like a true survivor,feeling like a little kid . . .”

    With every challenge, I’ve learned. Sometimes more than I ever wanted to know, but God’s never failed me.

    In this journey of writing and publication, the bruises will make the victory all the more sweet.

  19. Mark Adair on June 20, 2008 at 12:31 PM

    >”Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

    Calvin Coolidge
    30th president of US (1872-1933)

  20. Anne L.B. on June 20, 2008 at 11:13 AM

    >WOW. So many beautiful, encouraging, eloquent thoughts. (Must be a bunch of Christian writers.)

    This all brings to mind the words the Lord spoke to reassure His people, during one of their darkest hours:

    “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
    (Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV)

  21. Cheryl Barker on June 20, 2008 at 10:40 AM

    >Rachelle, thanks for giving us encouragement to not give up. It’s so helpful to know that it’s a natural part of the publishing journey to have to fight for the chance to see our work published. Thanks for the inspiration!

  22. Marcie Gribbin on June 20, 2008 at 10:10 AM

    >Thanks for the encouragement and the kick in the pants, Rachelle!

    Kate H, don’t be too discouraged about only getting an hour a day to write. Think of what a good hour of exercise does to your body, that’s what a good hour of writing does for your current project. Baby steps, as they say in “What about Bob?”

    For me, with three little ones (especially in the summer), an hour a day sounds heavenly!

    I like this verse: “But, encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that you may not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Hebrews 3:13

    I also like to FIND encouragement daily, for the same reason.

    That’s one of the reasons I swing by this blog!

    June 20, 2008 9:08 AM

  23. Susan J. Reinhardt on June 20, 2008 at 10:08 AM

    >Rachelle commented: “The difficulty of the road is not an indication that you’re on the wrong one.”

    This line is enough to carry someone the distance. May I quote you on my blog? This is too good to keep to myself.


  24. Beth K. Vogt on June 20, 2008 at 9:59 AM

    >I haven’t always been a fighter. I was taught fighting wasn’t “nice.” I certainly saw a lot of dirty fighting in my life.
    But, yes, God is teaching me to fight–to persevere–in life. When he plants a desire in your heart, he won’t let you quit. I’ve been down for a few counts. I’ve felt like it’s been close to being a KO.
    But God’s strength always gets me back up off the mat to try again.
    And often, those times are the fuel for what I write about.

  25. Kate H on June 20, 2008 at 9:53 AM

    >I identify with all the challenges you mention, Rachelle. And I have an additional one that I probably share with some others out there: I’m a late bloomer. I started writing fiction seriously in my late 40s (but still with young kids at home), and I keep thinking I just don’t have enough time. Not only not enough time on a daily basis to write, but not enough remaining time in my life to achieve what I want to achieve as a writer. It makes patience that much more difficult, and discouragement so much readier to hand. Discouragement is my big enemy, and it doesn’t come only from rejections and criticism; it comes from the sheer difficulty of balancing everything in my life to make that measly hour a day which seems to be all I can ever grab for writing. And if I get sick and need to sleep instead–as was the case most of this winter and spring–I get out of the groove and get stuck, and discouragement threatens to drown me completely. If I didn’t have the support of family and friends–especially writing friends–I think I would have quit by now.

    I also get discouraged about the state of publishing these days. The kind of book I want to write is not what’s popular, and it seems to be getting more difficult all the time to make a living as a writer, which is my ultimate goal. So far I’ve earned a grand total of $57.23 (and spent thousands on conferences etc.).

    But on a positive note, I’m off tomorrow for a whole week of writing in the company of like-minded friends. I hope to come back all charged up again with some good progress on Novel #2 under my belt.

  26. Anonymous on June 20, 2008 at 9:37 AM

    >When I started in this business, I used to save rejections. Something about keeping records or whatnot. I remember the day I hauled that box out of my closet (it was sadly brimming) and thinking, “What am I doing? Why do I keep this ghastly memento?” I threw them all away.

    My first lesson as a writer: anonymous rejections don’t deserve one cell of brainspace.

    Today, I have a friend who has a first novel … she has submitted this book to agents, hoping for representation. Finally, an agent expressed interest, but asked for revisions. Eight months later, she is still sitting on the revisions. I don’t know why. Fear of success? Fear of failure? I can’t say.

    I, too, have been in my own private Idaho. Imagine that an editor loves your book, but will not offer a contract until it’s been revised. So you revise. The editor likes the revision, but wants more. Supplies another detailed rewrite letter, but still no contract. You revise again. During this process, the editor says, “I really admire your persistence. You could probably sell this book elsewhere by now, but I really appreciate that you want to produce the best book possible, not merely get published. That’s very rare.”

    My second lesson as a writer: never turn away an opportunity from experienced professionals, no matter how slender the reed.

    What I tell myself every day: some people might have better fortune, but only the fighters survive.


  27. Rosslyn Elliott on June 20, 2008 at 9:29 AM

    >Does anyone besides me ever read these encouragement posts and think “Oh, Rachelle just rejected my proposal, and she’s trying to prepare me for it.” LOL! (That’s gallows humor–I’m laughing at the strong odds of rejection, not at its impossibility.)

    I don’t have to worry, however, about whether this is what I should be doing. My writing is not perfect by any means, but I know it’s within shouting distance of where it needs to be. Like Gwen, I’m pretty determined. I’ve faced some serious adversity and discouragement in life, and made it through.

    I’ve always liked this quotation from the movie “Damage,” which was otherwise sordid and forgettable.
    “Damaged people are dangerous. They know they can survive.”
    My damage has been healed, but those difficult experiences have equipped me with resilience and stamina.

  28. JC on June 20, 2008 at 9:17 AM

    >I’ve always love that song. The survivor song is good too (Beyonce I think).

  29. Tiffany Stuart on June 20, 2008 at 9:15 AM

    >Rachelle, did you write this for me?

    I needed this today.

    Thank you for reminding me to fight and learn and thank God.

    Now back to doing the hard work of writing. Looking forward to being inspired with my WIP, sitting beachside starting Sunday..

  30. Catherine Downen on June 20, 2008 at 9:15 AM

    >”The difficulty of the road is not an indication that you’re on the wrong one.” Thank you, Rachelle, for these encouraging words and for this particular post. I’ve wanted to be a writer since the age of seven. Now, almost four decades later, that desire is still there. I’ve put my dreams on the shelf many times, mostly these days because of the demands of raising a family with three teenagers, but the desire always returns. I’ve tried other roads, but I always find myself back on this one. My dear Christian mother-in-law assures me that God will restore to me the years the locusts have eaten, so I continue to trust that after faithfully serving my family and raising my kids, my day will one day come. Your encouraging words give me hope and help me hang on and perservere until that day. Thank you. You are a blessing.

  31. Catherine West on June 20, 2008 at 8:28 AM

    >I think the key really is believing in yourself.
    So many of us seem to struggle with this. Thankfully I have been at this a while, with more than a few rejections with my name on them. I think the thing that keeps me going is knowing that I’m supposed to be doing this. No, I’m not going to say God told me too, but I think there comes a point in one’s life where you just ‘know’ – ah, this is where I belong.
    Getting to this point wasn’t easy. I was certainly tempted to give up, many, many times. I’m so glad I didn’t. They say the more you learn the more you know, which always sounded kind of dopey to me, but it’s true. I set out to really learn the craft of writing. I never enjoyed school and I admit to being one who’s eyes often glaze over during lectures, but you’d be surprised how much you absorb even when you don’t think you have.
    I now know that I can string a few sentences together that actually make sense. I can set out to write a full length novel and complete it.
    I have come to accept rejection is part of this business and it’s not personal. Easier for a seasoned writer to say this – when you’re first starting out they do sting so much more.
    But I’ve made a choice. I’m a writer. I have people who believe in me, who tell me I can do this, and I consciously choose to believe them because they’re not all related to me and I’m not paying them. Learning to believe in myself is a daily struggle. I trust God with what He’s doing in all of this, and I think if you can do that, then even the most painful rejections can be received with grace and hope.

    P.S. I think there is an unspoken rule that says you can take at least an hour to shout, scream, pout and cry when you get that rejection, but then you’re done.

  32. Rachel H. Evans on June 20, 2008 at 7:57 AM

    >Wow, how did you know I needed that today? 🙂

    My husband always says, “When life kicks you around, don’t quit. Ask what it’s trying to teach you.”

    Thanks for the post.

  33. Ariel Allison Lawhon on June 20, 2008 at 7:48 AM

    >Insecurity seems to be the ever constant battle I wage. For someone so young (I turn 30 next week) I’ve experienced a good deal of sucess: one published book under my belt and three more on the way. Yet I always fear that I’m not good enough. I long to have a humble confidence in my words and in this path that God has chosen for me.

  34. Rachelle on June 20, 2008 at 7:45 AM

    >Good point about the balance, Jim. But if you DO believe God is leading you to seek publication, remember the spiritual truth that His path is never easy. The difficulty of the road is not an indication that you’re on the wrong one.

  35. Jim on June 20, 2008 at 6:50 AM

    >Psalms 138:8 The Lord will fufill his purpose for me; your love O Lord, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands.

    The challenge I see, is finding that balance between being a “fighter” and remembering the caution in an earlier post this week: “don’t mistake it to mean He’s telling you it will be published”

    Certainly I will continue to seek God’s lessons on this journey.

  36. Karen on June 20, 2008 at 6:09 AM

    >Thanks, Coach! Great “locker room” inspiration!

  37. Gwen Stewart on June 20, 2008 at 5:15 AM

    >Rachelle, thank you for this inspiring post today. I expect you’ll have at least fifty responses; I’m sure it’s timely for many of us!

    Many times I’ve read my writing to my husband, asking him if he thinks I’ll ever be published. Of course he always says “yes” (God love him). I ask him why and his answer is always the same:

    “You’re stubborn enough.”

    Is that wise, or what? Not talented, not learned, but stubborn. I’ve got that important quality in my corner.

    What’s been difficult for me is acclimating to the imperfection of my work. I want it to be perfect. The first time. I don’t want a first draft; I want a complete novel in ten days. I hate that it’s not perfect; that other people read my first draft and say “huh?” and find inconsistencies and problems. It’s black and white for me: it’s either inspired and amazing, or it’s the worst print ever put on paper.

    God has stretched me from that black-and-white place through this writing process. Dovetailing from your post on “God told me to write this”, I have learned that the call to write is like that verse about the light and lamp unto our feet: God only lights up one step at a time. Even if you do feel called to write, you’re going to have to take each painful step along the way. Even if they’re halting and slow and not PERFECT.

    Wow, thank you for letting me release that frustration. Thank you for being an agent who understands the writing journey.