There Is No Time For Despair
Here are some truths:
• Publishing is in flux and no one is quite sure what the future looks like.
• Publishers are merging, resulting in fewer places to submit manuscripts.
• Many authors who have published numerous books are finding their advances going down, not up.
• With self-published books now plentiful, there are more books than ever before for readers to choose from.
• It is difficult figuring out how to effectively market books.
• A book’s potential sales are highly unpredictable.
• Many authors’ books don’t live up to the publisher’s sales expectations, meaning the publisher might not want to renew their contract.
• Poor sales figures can make it difficult or impossible to get another traditional book deal.
• Writing can be difficult and frustrating.
• Sometimes it’s hard to meet deadlines.
• The publishing journey often doesn’t live up to an author’s expectations.
In the midst of these truths, I frequently counsel writers who are experiencing moments of disappointment and dejection. They might be anxious that a series of speed-bumps could signal the end of their writing career, sometimes before it has even started. Often they are questioning whether it’s time to give up. Some are sad, thinking their lifelong dream is dying. A few are wondering how they are going to pay the bills.
While I understand that everyone has to deal in their own way with disappointment, and we all have a right to respond to setbacks in our own way, I also want to encourage everyone to avoid getting bogged down in despair. Because here are some other truths:
• A few bumps in the road doesn’t mean your dream has to end.
• Publishing setbacks are not “failures” but necessary and expected rites of passage in this business.
• Just because things didn’t go the way you envisioned doesn’t mean things can’t still go well — possibly after a re-envisioning of your goals.
• People are reading more than ever, meaning we need writers more than ever.
• There are more options than ever before for getting your work in front of readers and getting paid for it.
• You can embrace your identity as a writer, and refuse to let external circumstances change that.
• The best way to deal with dejection is to stand up and fight. Don’t let yourself settle in to the despair. You’re not a quitter — pull out that fighting spirit and decide to be a writer regardless of the obstacles.
I’m not trying to be a cheerleader or a pollyanna. It’s just that I spend a lot of time talking writers off ledges, and I understand what that ledge looks like. But you cannot afford to spend much time on the ledge. You need to get back to work. You need to acknowledge your fear and your frustration, then turn it around and make a new plan. You need to refuse to spend time worrying about things over which you have no control (the publishing industry at large, for instance) and focus on what you CAN influence.
Just don’t let yourself get trapped in despair. You can’t afford the time. Get back to work!
Interesting that this post originally went up about seven years ago, yet it’s both accurate and valid today. Just found my comment from the original post, and it’s still valid, as well. Thanks for the encouragement.
Definitely interesting! Thanks for being here Doc!
[…] For those pursuing traditional publishing, Becky Tuch give 8 reasons your submission strategy sucks and what you can do about it, Janet Reid makes sense of parsing subjective vs. objective assessment from agents, and agent Rachelle Gardner insists there is no time for despair. […]
Writer’s gotta write.
Everything you said is true. For that reason, writer’s need to figure out why they do this thing in the first place. I know for me, it is not about the money … though, of course I DID hope to become a multi-million dollar bestseller-Ha! But don’t we all. The truth is, there has never been a good way to predict which writers would hit what level of pay in a given time period. Jane Austen’s novels didn’t really take off until long after she was dead. Having come from a family of Creatives, I often tell my writer/artist daughter this, “There are two misconceptions about careers in the arts: One, that you can’t make a living from it, and Two, that you MUST make a living from it.”
For me, writing is how I process what is going on in the world around me. In other words, it’s how I stay sane . I will keep doing it with bumps and slowdowns along the way. I’m currently in a period when I need to step back and care for family members. Because I want to keep doing it, the key for me is to live simply. Because my family and I have chosen not to chase all the typical bells and whistles that most people possess today, we are free to pursue the passions that really bring us joy in life. We don’t have a big house or fancy cars. We have pay-as-you-go cellphones ($7/month, I kid you not). Much of what we own is repurposed hand-me-downs. But we know what we want out of life and what truly brings us joy. It’s not something that can be paid for. I want to write!
This is a great post.
It also points to one area where writers for the inspirational market should have a leg up, at least it’s our birthright, if we remember and choose to claim it. If we truly view our writing success as being in God’s hands (not lazily, obviously, but with a faithful servant’s dedication to our work), we should be able to have a measure of that peace that passes understanding. That is an invaluable gift for our free taking in these ever-more-complicated circumstances.
Have you heard of Alison J. Picard? She just requested to see my book after I queryed her. How would you rate her as an agent? thank you
[…] A little bit of motivation from agent Rachelle Gardner that I had in my archives: There Is No Time For Despair. […]
Okay. It’s me again. I’ll really shut up after this. I just have to say, Rachelle, that I really appreciate your care and concern for writers. Whether you represent them or not, you encourage writers and help them to be the best that they can be. This site is my light in the gloomy monastic-feeling writing life. I love to read the comments of my beloved writing family. NOW, I’ll shut up.
One more little thing. It may sound trite, and perhaps like something a first grader might say, but I was reminded this morning by that still, small voice in my head that writer rhymes with fighter. Fighters train. Fighters have to keep at it. As somebody has said, you only fail when you quit. Okay. Now, I’ll shut up.
A failed attempt at a career was what made me realize that what I REALLY want to be when I grow up is a writer. I wanted to write stories all of my life, but never took myself seriously – until 11 years ago. I wrote my first novel and submitted it. It was rejected for reasons known only to God and the agency to which I sent it. But, since then, I fixed it up. I CAN’T quit writing. I’d go nuts. Even then, I’d probably write with my toes on the padded walls with a crayon.
[…] Agent Rachelle Gardner is absolutely right when she says there is no time for despair. […]
[…] to achieve the goals you have set for yourself.I read a wonderful post by agent Rachelle Gardner on There is no Time for Despair in which she said the most amazing thing “You can embrace your identity as a writer, and refuse […]
My glass is half full.
[…] There Is No Time For Despair | Rachelle Gardner […]
Rachelle, you mentioned not trying to be a pollyanna. I wish that other people had not turned that character name into a disparagement. Pollyanna was not working from an unrealistic mindset. She had been taught to practice the biblical reaction of being glad.
As the Bible commands Be not afraid/ Do not fear some 365 times, so too does the command Be glad appear frequently. Personally, I’m choosing to make a specific point of being glad/thankful each day because the alternative is ugly.
Thanks for posting these reasons for writers to take courage. I appreciate them even though I have yet to sell a full length novel.
Dejection? Despair? Not sure. I’ve never been published, and the closest I’ve gotten to talking to an agent or a publisher is when I’ve emailed them to ask if they, or the company they work for, might support my religion. So far it’s a no on all fronts, though only two were kind enough to write me back and tell me.
But then if you take the time to think of it, ask yourself why you are writing? Do you love to write, or do you think people should pay attention to you because you think you are good? Do you love your characters and want to tell their stories? Or are you trying to get published because you want to prove yourself?
We, as writers who love our craft, need to remember that we’re doing this as something we love. It’s not work, though it may be hard at times, it’s passion and excitement that should drive us. Not the want for money or fame.
If you love writing, that’s all that matters. Whether you have books in libraries and stores, or binders packed in boxes in your basement, it doesn’t matter. Writing is what should make you feel fulfilled, not money.
So what if you don’t get published, be proud in the fact that you accomplished something, even if only you and your family will ever read it.
whenever I start feeling a little blah about writing and how hard I try and still no book, boo hoo…so I remember the man who wrote the book The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. After suffering a stroke he had locked in syndrom, his right eye had to be sewn shut, so he dictated this book by using a special machine and his left eye. He would blink and move the curser to the correct letter…it took about 200,000 blinks to complete the book.
Boyohboy did I need this today. Last night I had a meltdown in front of my husband regarding how hard this is, how much effort I’ve put into editing my MS, how I’ll never get it finished, how the editor who asked to see it will forget about me….Thanks for the reminder to SNAP OUT OF IT!
Someone said to me once that they knew my novel would get published because they knew I would never give up. At first I was all WHAT? DON’T YOU THINK I HAVE TALENT? But after sitting with it for a while, I realized it’s true. If you want to get noticed in an artistic field, you have to keep showing up day after day after soul-crushing day because you have hope, because you want the prize of recognition for your effort, because you want to have conversations with people you’ve never even met.
While I was looking for an agent, a very successful writer told me she’d queried 167 agents before she found hers. It kept me going.
It’s helpful when writers are honest with other writers about how very hard it is, how very much effort it takes to keep doing it when you still have to go to your day job and pay your bills and do your laundry and raise your kids, how appetizing the couch and TV will look when the only time you have to write is that tiny bit of leisure time we have at the beginning or end of the day, how people in our lives will shake their heads in amazement that we keep doing something that is so clearly not succeeding in their eyes.
Thanks for this. I’m bookmarking it.
Thank you, Rachelle! The writing journey has been a faith strengthener for me. As a Christian writer, I have to depend on the Lord for encouragement, inspiration, and the strength to go on. After a setback, I spend a lot of time in God’s Word assessing and praying. Sometimes I need rest, and I have to step away. As I wait on him, he puts me back together and encourages me to get back to work.
Write on, Rachelle!
Excellent post and follow-up replies. I find it’s not just the publishing world that flummoxes me but all that’s going on around me in the day-to-day: home life; day job; family members who need help; hurricanes and snowstorms.
Finding that place and way to focus are my biggest challenges, the things that mess with my mind enough to push the “Despair” button. And that’s when I, like Andrew and many others, I’m sure–turn back to faith and stay in the day: this gift, the present.
One of the things I am eternally grateful for is the fact that self-publishing has become acceptable in the writing field. No longer are self-published authors considered vanity writers, and it’s “okay” for readers to buy a self-published book.
As for despair, I had my fair share in my earlier years, especially after a big name book publisher asked me to do a rewrite in one of my books they were interested in, then returned a standard rejection form when I submitted it.
My response to this was to quit writing for many years. What was the use?
Then, because I had more time and because I had to, I started writing again, with some (self-published) success. I won’t get rich on it…heck, I couldn’t even live on it if it were my only income…but it is satisfying.
I’m glad I started writing again.
Despair? Wanting to give up?
Yes absolutely been there and did that just a few short months ago. I even said so right here on this blog in the comments section.
Then I did something that I thought I already did.
I gave it over to God once and for all. But this this time I actually left it there in his hands to do with it what he would.
And guess what happened.
A few months later I got a regular newsletter email that had a link to a writing contest. Said “what the heck” and entered.
In September I had a meeting with an agent who “loves my work and believes I am called to write”-had to quote because that is exactly what she said.
So now, I am awaiting the next step in getting my writing sold.
All because I gave up and gave it up.
[…] my literary agent Rachelle Gardner posted a rather motivational article entitled There Is No Time for Despair. She begins by listing a host of things writers can despair about, things […]
I needed this today . . . thank you for this post. When I find that I am in despair, I reach for my Bible. I get on my knees. And when I feel that I have nothing left but God, I realize that He is all I ever had to begin with. Then I find the only true hope or encouragement that there is in this world.
Again, very timely post. Thank you.
I think everyone has days where it feels like nothing goes your way; like your plan might not be His plan. On days like this I make it a point to count my blessings. Sure, things don’t always go my way, but a lot of stuff has.
I have a loving family, supportive friends, and several great stories waiting for someone smart enough to recognize my talent 🙂
When you’re low, take a look around and recognize the things you DO have, and the things you’re still missing won’t seem quite so big anymore.
Chemo fog knocked me to the mat in the middle of my twenty year journey to become contracted. I stayed down for a few years, but while down I prayed and surrendered that dream to God. I came to a place where it was all right if His will was no longer for me to write. In time my brain recovered and I did write again. Since then, thought of the ups and downs of publishing that are completely out of my control don’t worry me so much. It’s natural to be concerned, but I try to keep my focus on what I believe He wants me doing, writing the best stories that I can.
Rachelle, as an aspiring writer, there is something immensely comforting in knowing that once I have landed an agent there is one more person available and committed to talk me off the ledge.
I had an awesome writing day yesterday! Some things fell into place that I’d been working on for months. I had about given up hope of getting these issues resolved, but it seems every time I get to that point something happens to send me a signal that I have to push forward.
Serendipity, synchronicity and divine intervention!
Yes, it is the signals, the teeny tiny cairns that whisper, “this is the way, keep moving forward.”
Whenever I feel despair I find falling to my knees works better than climbing on ledges. I really hate being told to have patience and trust, but I hear it A LOT.
The best way to pull myself from despair? Service. It’s hard to feel bad about my life when I’m giving someone else a helping hand. It really puts things in perspective.
Also, this is a great time to be a writer. The options for publication are growing constantly. Social media is changing how we market (gives a whole new meaning of ‘a friend of a friend of a friend recommended you’). The whole world is open to us and all we have to do is work hard.
Thanks for the pep-talk. I’ve stepped back through the window and locked it tight. No more ledges … for today :o).
I love everyone’s comments.
Stand up and fight. So true. So needful.
Lawdy be in a bucket of feeling sorry for myse’f, but is this post timely.
What popped out of my mouth the other day, “After this book, I’m done. I’m retiring from writing books. I’m going to do personal training again. I’m done.” My husband just shook his head because he knows this, the writing, is what I love more than I should. Still . . . yeah . . . I have my days.
Dejection, despair? Nah, I wouldn’t go that far. I’ve been through plenty of hard times in the past, and each one of those has given me more confidence that I can get through whatever the future throws at me.
Wanting to give up? Sure. I spent most of last month in a sling on pain medication after I broke my collarbone and three ribs in an accident on 10/1. Couldn’t get my left arm to the keyboard for the first few weeks, so I ended up typing mostly one-handed. Plus I was over-inundated with day job stuff–new grant of accreditation application, accreditation annual report, etc., all dozens or hundreds of page documents the typing of which, thanks to our lean staffing structure, was entirely up to me.
But I kept forcing myself to remember what I’m in it for. I’m not in it for riches. Well, that’s the dream, but it’s not why I write. Nor am I in it to see sales go up or down. I’m in it because I enjoy crafting worlds in my imagination and then telling people about them on the page.
I once discovered a poem that had a particular meaning to me. I was going through some challenges in my academic life at West Point and had taken a long weekend for a solitary hike up the Appalachian Trail up into Connecticut. Coming back my weather-related Spidey senses started tingling (humidity up, birds stop singing, etc.) and I started hoofing it down the trail. There was a small monastery up in the hills there, off of the roads, where they have a shelter for hikers and a book store. There, in the book store, not knowing how I’d made it back to the academy without getting soaked to my bones, not knowing how I’d then make it through the year successfully, I found this poem:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.
Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As every one of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won had he stuck it out;
Don’t give up though the pace seems slow–
You may succeed with another blow.
Often the goal is nearer than,
It seems to a faint and faltering man,
Often the struggler has given up,
When he might have captured the victor’s cup,
And he learned too late when the night slipped down,
How close he was to the golden crown.
Success is failure turned inside out–
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit–
It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
– Author unknown
The light at the end of the tunnel IS the oncoming train.
But the darkest hour IS before dawn.
And if it’s worth doing, it’s probably going to take a long time to accomplish, with many points of dejection and despair along that timeline.
Writers depend on inertia. Sometimes it keeps you stopped; sometimes it keeps you going. It’s our physics.
It was said pretty early on in the game, “Don’t give up your day job.”
People who love to write don’t write for the money although it’s definitely necessary to feed the family.
Survival is a matter of fact. Sink or swim. If you can’t roll with the punches, pick a different fight. People will always be telling stories and the mediums through which they are told may change but they will not die.
If houses merge, I have no doubt new ones will rise and gain strength and steam through this changing playing field.
It’s not the end. It’s a change, and it won’t deter me at all. Will it make it harder? *shrugs* Time doesn’t wait for hard. 😉
When tempted to despair
And think life is unfair
I gaze into the sky
And cry out “Father why?”
At times he takes me high
To see with a lofty eye
That life works as it should
All things are for my good
At times he leave me placed
For life is interlaced
With those who need my hand
I see what He has planned
But even when I’m blinded
He’s there and I’m reminded
No stone can stop my stride
When God is on my side.
Nice poem, PJ. Haven’t read it before. Original?
Thanks Stephen, I wrote it impromptu last night.
[…] There Is No Time for Despair – Even though publishing is changing and sales are hard to predict, there’s no reason […]
Happened over here through someone’s link posted on Twitter. Glad I did. I was all ready to disagree with that whole “necessary and expected rites of passage” thing, but it’s quite possible that without the setbacks, I might never have put that first foot on the path I’m on now. Which I love. Yeah, the setbacks let to despair. And this post inspired me to write my own. (Should anyone care to read it. http://cornerkick.blogspot.com/2012/11/oh-boy-im-glad-i-didnt-quit.html)
This may sound trite but…
I trust in Jesus, not numbers. (which is saying a LOT for me because I’m a lover of all things numbers as much as I am of words)
When it comes down to it, that’s really the core of how I keep afloat. Everything I do should have Jesus as my aim. Things like book sales and publishing contracts… it’s all fun and wonderful. But if I didn’t think it was what God wanted, if He wasn’t at the heart of my writing, then none of it would/should matter to me.
Really, I think ALL of life should be that way. It isn’t always, even for us Christians. But it’s my goal, my aim, to be looking heavenward in all I do.
Girl, you rock 🙂 Never surrender! xx
I think it’s true that more people are reading, especially thanks to Kindles and other e-readers. It is easy to be discouraged, especially since it’s quite possible to write all day and still have nothing to show for it. On the other hand, spending all that time writing is still something.
This post couldn’t be better timed for me. Right now I am sinking into a mire of darkness.
I rarely feel dejected or discouraged about my writing (at least not for long) but I have suffered from depression pretty much since adolescence. It comes and goes. I’ve discovered there’s no way to actually beat it, but I’ve learned how to live with it.
Andrew’s post at the top pretty much sums it up. Do something, even if it’s minor. Maintain discipline. Keep things in perspective.
Faith might be the most important thing. It’s the lifeline that pulls me from the depths. Though at this moment I feel that life is pointless, I know it’s just the depression talking. I just have to hang on to my lifeline, and the sun will rise again.
My counselor taught me the best way to banish dejection is to work. Work at writing, engage in physical activity, keep a schedule, and do whatever gives you joy. People who do no work will sink into despair. People who work retain hope. There’s a great short story that illustrates this: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.
Yes! Thankful I have at least three ways to banish the melancholy: Take a fast meditative walk, write my heart out, go play the piano.
What perfect timing. thanks for the post, Rachelle. I was just telling another friend I signed up for Nano and have been battered with one issue after another since Nov. 1st. I just got my ACFW MP3’s and am listening to Live Free, Write Free by Arnold and Rubart. So together with 2nd Tim. 1:7 I’m ready to get back to the day job and then the writing job. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Dejected? Discouraged? Absolutely. Been peering off that ledge alot this week.
Great post, Rachelle.
It’s funny, but every minute I spend writing translates into 60 seconds of not fretting about writing. And produces work that I will eventually sell, a lot of it directly to readers.
This is the best time in history to be a writer.
Hurrah! Or Huzzah! Or Amen, or something.
The points you’ve made here remind me of just how stubborn I can be and how persistent I’ve been in pursuing my dream of publication. I’m not there yet, but I will be one day.
I’m going to print this off and hang it up at my desk to remind me of all that stubbornness when obstacles get me down.
Back to the work. I see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I have my next project ready to start. Excitement over both! Even with no book contracts!
“Have you experienced moments of dejection, despair, wanting to give up? How did you handle it?”
One word at a time, then hopefully a phrase, then a sentence, then a paragraph, then an article or chapter. Maybe even a book.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you should not end a sentence with “from.” I have a blog about why we should be allowed to do so. It discusses other stupid rules also.
It’s titled “Following Senseless Language Rules to Avoid Criticism.” It’s funny, and we need to laugh.
Wow, once again you’re talking directly to me, Rachelle. In 2012 I’ve had my first big publishing house publication, great reviews, NPR appearances…and it didn’t sell. Hasn’t earned back the advance (yet). My agent rejected my next two book proposals; my editor left the publishing house; my last five magazine queries have gone unanswered. I’ve self-published two books and sold all of 5 copies. But what to do about it (besides bake a lot)? The bottom line always comes back to I’m a writer, there is nothing else I do as well or gives me as much satisfaction. So I face that empty screen again and try to make it full, and remind myself that money and recognition are just by-products of the process.
Discouraging news is the pits! The pit of despair. But after I stick my foot in that mess, the voice in my head says, “Wait a minute. I don’t live here.” Hope and calling and gifting do not come from a marketing VP or a pub board.
Great point, Olivia. It’s our choice as to whether we live in the pit of despair or climb out and live on higher ground!
Absolutely! I moved to the sticks and started writing full-time just over a year ago, and I’ve already felt like jacking it all in several times after rejections.
But I’ve had a couple of ‘nice’ rejections, that have been personalised to say that the agent / publisher did like my style, but that particular piece wasn’t for them. That, paired with a couple of short story publications, have given me the confidence to keep going, and I’m currently working on a NaNoWriMo project to edit and submit next year.
For me, the other writers on Twitter are a big help. I’ve printed off every rejection I’ve got and keep it in a box file, and it’s probably still less than a dozen. The established writers on Twitter constantly remind me that over the years they have received HUNDREDS of rejections, and that I’m not even allowed to feel sorry for myself for a minute unless I get at least fifty.
Bullet #3 is my favorite, and you know why! Just because your dreams looks differently in reality than it did in your imagination, doesn’t mean it’s not the dream being realized after all.
I wrote this post a couple of weeks go, and I’m including the link here, totally NOT to blow my own horn, but because I think it offers hope to other writers facing similar circumstances.
Thanks, Rachelle, for your fighting spirit and inspiring words!
I haven’t been writing as long as others have on this blog, but I have experienced enough rejection from lit mags (the lack of explanation for why they’re rejecting my story is always frustrating:) to have a few “woe is me” moments.
Like another person said, I usually allow myself time to “sit in” my feelings and accept it. Then I remind myself that everyone has their preferences and if one editor didn’t like my writing, another one will.
Usually reminding myself that I’ve been through worse than having a story rejected is enough to help me get over myself and keep it moving.
Thank you, Rachelle. It’s been a difficult season for me, especially from a writing perspective. I even had a bad dream about it last week! But your faith and confidence in us, your encouraging words, are part of what keeps me hanging on!
You know, there have definitely been times I’ve felt dejected.
But ice cream does wonders…
Oh wait. 😉
In all honesty, it usually takes me a few days to take bad news and digest it. But after that, plus pep talks from my friends, family, and awesome CP, I get back in the saddle.
Because I’ve been called to this.
I don’t know if that means I’ll ever get published. I don’t know if I’ll ever get an agent. I don’t know if my words will ever reach anyone outside of my beta readers.
But I know who DOES know all of that, and He’s on the throne. Who am I to question that? (Doesn’t mean I don’t question it, and sometimes rage and through hissy fits, but those are not my proud moments…)
My sentiments exactly. I sometimes wonder why I’m in this and what I’m doing anyway. Then I turn my focus back on the One Who called me to write, and I get back in the saddle and keep at it.
It also helps to read over a few of the letters of gratefulness that I’ve received from those who have been encouraged by what I’ve written.
However, the bottom line is trusting in God to work out His purposes in His time. That includes helping me write what is mine to write, opening doors for publication, and touching lives with the words I pen.
Where I have found my ledge is with the whole issues of building a platform that is substantial enough to make me acceptable for a traditional publisher. I keep on only because I want to be faithful to what I believe the Lord has called me to.
I trust that He will bring it about in His time.
Dejection and despair … yeah, I’ve hung out with them a few times.
I’m getting better at slamming the door in their faces a lot quicker.
It always comes down to this: What else would I be doing if I wasn’t writing?
Um … nothing.
This is who I am.
This is my time to write.
So … if I’m up on a ledge, I’m taking my Mac with me.
Oh … that’s right … there is no ledge.
There is also no spoon.
I don’t think you’re a pollyanna at all. I’ve read a lot of articles by bestselling authors who were not always bestsellers. They had contracts not go through, publishing houses go out of business, had to change genres or names because their books weren’t selling, but they pressed on and never quit. I hope I do that too and don’t let a bad year or five influence the rest of my life. Thanks for the great post!
Some examples of writers who pressed through: Tess Gerritson (might’ve spelled her name wrong), Jayne Ann Krentz, and Debbie Macomber.
Dejection and despair both creep into my writing world on occasion, but I can usually knock them out with a swift upper cut of perspective. For example, I live in Connecticut, in-land enough to skirt the full wrath of Hurricane Sandy’s wallop, but so many friends and family on the coast lost everything.
We are all entitled to a little despair, a little wallow-time, but let me say – nothing shakes off the “why me’s” faster than walking in the shoes of someone living through an experience so devastating.
I’m so glad you wrote this. Sometimes when I read blogs or article, especially those written by seasoned, published writers or agents, I feel like all I read are cautionary tales of potential pitfalls and failures. It’s like the jaded view of writing. Yes, we realize all that, but sometimes it’s a good boost to remember why we persevere.
You’re so awesome!! And for what it’s worth, I think Pollyanna was on to something.
I always appreciate your straight-forward way of speaking truth and life into your readers.
I’ve not written as long as most commenters on this blog, but I’ve faced discouragement. When I do, I find that taking a little (emphasis on little) time to step back from what I’m working on and pray about it helps me regain a good perspective.
Talking with friends who are farther down the road also helps me.
Remembering Who gave me the story and that He gave it to me rather than someone else to write always brings me back to a place of moving forward with it.
Good thoughts on the matter, Jennifer. Sharing with the Lord and with mentors can help gird us when we stumble and motivate us to push forward once more.
Rachelle, thanks for the industry overview and the encouraging words. Writers must pay attention to industry trends and manage their expectations accordingly. And whatever you do, don’t quit your day job.
You’ve got a tough job! I’ve been on both sides of the ledge, talking friends off and listening to their reasons why I should climb through the window. I appreciate your wisdom but was surprised “people are reading more than ever.” That’s good news! I’ve attended several ACFW conferences, but I’ve never seen activity like I saw at the 2012 conference. Writers were picking up agents and two of my friends got three-book deals. It’s all still possible. That’s great news for all of us. We just have to write the best books we can. Thanks for your insight, Rachelle!
Good insight, Roxanne.
We’re probably going to find ourselves on both sides of the ledge — wanting to jump off & holding the net when a friend is teetering on the edge.
We have to be prepared for both times … and know how to respond.
And sometimes what I’d say to myself isn’t the same thing that works for someone else … sometimes saying nothing is the best thing. Sometimes listening … just being there is the best thing.
Have I faced moments of despair and dejection, so bad I wanted to give up my writing? Yes. So what did I do? I gave up.
But God had other plans, and through a series of events I could never have orchestrated, He put me back where He wanted me, which apparently is writing.
Sometimes God doesn’t just close a door in order to open a window. Sometimes He shoves us through it.
As always, Rachelle, thanks for sharing. And thanks for being on the other side of that window to catch me when I fell through.
Very much my perspective too. I’m a real kick myself in the pants kind of woman. Hmm…what have I done when I’ve felt dejected and tempted to give up? 1. Allow myself to feel it. 2. Get it all out (quickly). 3. Reevaluate why I’m in this. 4. Sit to write or go for a run. 5. Get over myself.
That’s about the cycle every time.
Well said , Wendy!
Love this. 😉
Allowing yourself to have some time to feel bad is important. I had a friend whose deployment in an unpleasant part of the world was extended, after he was told he could go home.
He took a morning to feel bad, then went to the range and zeroed his rifle. Didn’t need it, but it was a physical act that put the new road in front of him, and the disappointment behind.
He never did come home.
Discouragement is a fact of life, no matter what the job or the passion.
I began writing when I was ten years old, and I’ve never stopped, even when my writing time was limited to five or ten minutes a day, and that with interruptions! I won’t claim that what I wrote during that time was good – it was horrible, and by then I had 7 published books to my credit. But I didn’t stop writing. Writing was the one tiny bright point in a day that was filled with difficulties I could have never imagined before I became the caregiver for a person with Alzheimer’s – 5 years of agony, sadness, and – the very good side – strong spiritual growth.
Writing is such a joy to me that even if what I write isn’t good enough for publication I’ll continue!
Working with an Alzheimer’s patient is one of the hardest trials I can imagine.
To see the positive side of that experience shows a degree of intestinal fortitude that I wish I had.
Awesome. The world’s lucky to have people like you.
Oh Andrew, thank you so much.
It’s hard for me to face dejection and despair, in my writing life, or anything else, when I’ve just returned from a desperately poor Third World country.
I know you’re thinking, “Oh here she goes with her ‘blah blah we have everything blah blah blah’ speech.”
Let me put it this way. Our team walked up to a pizza place for dinner(chill! It was after being in the mountains and eating very skinny goat for 4 days), and stopped cold in our steps. A little boy, maybe 7 years old, was sound asleep on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. Our director went and got the giant sheet we use as a screen for when we show the Jesus Film. He covered the child, whose arms were covered in raw burns, with it and a few people stuffed granola bars under the sheet.
That is despair, with a capital D.
And before you rail at us for doing so little, money would have gotten him badly beaten when we left, and it’d be illegal to bring him home with me without years of paperwork.
Jesus knew we’d always have the poor among us. He also knew that some of us have the capability and responsibility to do something about it.
Should we feel guilty about our First World problems like not having an agent or our book getting rejected? Not for one second.
Should we continue to pursue our goals of publication? Absolutely!
If we are called to write, then write! Not everyone is called to open an orphanage in Bolivia. But if you are, leave me a note, I know just who to call. 🙂
Take what talent and skill is given to you and DO something! Reach people, move them to bring change, wherever it is that they are called to serve.
You are blessed. You have a voice. But don’t be burdened by being only one voice, be burdened if that one voice stays silent.
Jennifer, thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s so easy to forget how very much we have. My heart weeps for that little boy. You and your team were Jesus with skin on for him. Thanks for the reminder that we can be that in our sphere of influence.
We can be what God has called us to be–writers. Hopefully, we will keep it in perspective as we walk the peaks and valleys of this calling.
Thank you, Jeanne.
I don’t think we have to try to save the entire world, but we do have to work hard to make sure our little world, our orbit, is the best it can be.
True Jennifer. Jesus even knew in His physical limitations He couldn’t “save the world”. That’s why he selected disciples and called on others to take up the call…
That last line…”be burdened if one voice stays silent”…is perfect.
Thank you, Andrew.
And a nice slap upside the head with truth.
I’ll take that from you, Jennifer.
“Take what talent you have and do something.”
Perspective helps in the roughest of times. My life is good, so why despair over a temporary setback towards a dream?
yeah, and dumb jokes help too…
Q – What do you call a Christian who’s saved?
A – Lambinated
Hahahaha!! A certain pastor in Kansas is going to love this!
He did. 🙂
LOL. 🙂 I so enjoy your sense of humor, Andrew.
Humor is so important to facing life. Some days you just have to reach waaaaaaaaaaaaay out there and grab it.
Dejection and despair? Absolutely – my computer won’t let me turn off ‘a certain web browser’ that keeps crashing something called ‘Shockwave Flash’.
Please, pass the hemlock.
Seriously, it’s something I live with every day, because of a health issue. I’ve got to build up my morale every morning. Most days, now, I don’t really want to face.
Here’s what I do –
1) Do something – some small, positive step toward accomplishing what I want of need to do. Write a word goal that realistic, given that it hurts to sit at the computer, for instance.
2) Keep my environment orderly – what’s the use? Why put the tools away? Simple – it’s discipline. Discipline chases away the blues.
3) Work for me – my ‘day job’ is welding airplane parts for others – if I’m down I take a bit of time to work on my own project, on my account.
4) Remind myself that what I’m doing, whatever it is, is a very small part in a bigger whole. I may not finish and fly the airplane I’m building, my personal project – but that I’m working may encourage someone else, in a way I can’t recognize. I may never hit the success of a Richard Paul Evans, but I KNOW that I’ve been able to encourage some other writers, at least in a small way.
5) Perspective! Currently I’m reading Peter Hart’s book on the Battle of the Somme. Remember it? 1916? The day the Allies lost over 20,000 soldiers in one day? That’s 20,000 individual lives, young men, and men my age, who left their trenches to fall to steel and gas in the hell of No Man’s Land. They all hurt…as did their families. I’m alive, and writing, and that’s a pretty good deal.
6) Remind myself that God’s out there, somewhere, and that a long time ago He cared enough to send the very best.
7) Hug my wife, or cuddle up with my multitudinous dogs…they love me even when I don’t.
What a great reply, Andrew. I love your perspective!
Good advice,Andrew. And dont forget bloody Antietam, the worst day of fighting in the Civil War w/over 50,000 casualties. Publishing is like war; take no prisoners, and anyone, any writer, can be sacrificed. Its all about the bucks. My novel is about the last five days of Hitler and agents have told me its not marketable. This is when Follett’s Winter of the World is at the top of the best-seller list, and WW II continues to a major interest, even after 65 years!
I’d dare people to spend a day, or an hour, in your shoes. 99% of those people would say “no” after spending 5 minutes watching you try to move.
Your beautiful wife is a saint, and your dogs are angels. I’m honoured be your friend.
You, sir, could put us all to shame with your perseverance and refusal to give in.
Thanks for sharing this, Andrew. Your words encourage and challenge in the best of ways.
I may just print off this list … but I’ll change #7 to cuddling my husband …
Yeah, important change, there.
Today’s been kind of an object lesson for me. It’s one of the hardest morning’s I’ve ever experienced, but knowing that I’ve been able to touch a few people burns away the self-pity like the morning sun clears a clammy fog.
Great thoughts, Andrew. I always enjoy your comments. Just the shot in the arm I needed today.
Thanks for your reply, Andrew. I’ve been reading others’ replies to your post and it should be clear you’ve got a strong prayer base and supportive friends. You live in a broken shell, yet face each wave with strength. I’m a fan.
Andrew- Don’t fret, I have the same issues with Shockwave Flash! What is it with that?
The traditional publishing business is going the same route as over-the- air TV and radio. They are going to have to adjust to the changing technology and marketplace. Where it leads is hard to say for sure.
For an aspiring author like myself getting a deal the traditional route seems next to impossible. There are fewer publishers, the ones there exist are accepting fewer manuscripts and who wants to wait two years or more on a deal? Or even a reply back?
Even securing a good agent is tough enough.
I will probably e-publish through one of the reputable outlets. But I am taking my time, b/c I want it to be error free with no errors in grammar, etc.
A traditional book deal would be nice, of course, but what are the odds, what kind of deal could be expected and at what kind of time-frame?
Solid counsel from an excellent perspective. Thanks for sharing, Tom