Monday, August 9, 2010

Dreams Undefeated

My mom sent me a inspirational article she'd found somewhere. The final line said:

The truth is, you're not defeated until your doubts and regrets take the place of your dreams.

I'm embroidering this on a pillow somewhere, tattooing it on my forehead, spray painting it on my office wall. Anything necessary to keep this in mind. Why? Because the reality of a writer can be tough. So often our doubts and regrets get in our way. It can be hard to push that send button, to give your manuscript to crit partners, to put it all out there when there is a very good chance it's going to get annihilated.

Are we going to get rejected?  You betcha.

Are we going to have crit partners hand us manuscripts that are so shredded the paper barely holds together?  Yep. Been there, done that, will do it again. Soon (love you guys) ;-D

Are we going to have agent after agent and publisher after publisher say "No thanks, it's not quite good enough?" Oh yeah. Frequently.

Will we have readers and critics hate our books and give us scathing reviews?  Definitely.

Do you have a file full of unfinished manuscripts that you've started and then banished to the dark recesses of your sock drawer?  Probably more than any of us would like to admit :)

Does all of this equal failure, collapse, DEFEAT?

Oh no. It most certainly does not. Why? Because no matter how many times we get knocked down, we get back up. We write more words. We send out more queries. We revise for the thousandth time and then we sit down and revise again. The more we do it, the better we get, the better our chances are of finally succeeding.

We are never out of the game unless we take ourselves out. Only when we are too afraid, too disappointed, or too pessimistic to continue on are we truly defeated. NO ONE can defeat you. Those rejections can't defeat you. Those bleeding red manuscripts aren't defeat. They are opportunities for improvement.

I've heard those who say that no matter how hard you try, you won't make it. The odds are too steep. There's too much competition. The market is too tough. And anyone who tells you otherwise is just being nice or overly optimistic. Well, all of that may be true.

But I know one thing for certain. I definitely won't make it if I stop trying. I was scared stiff to send my non-fiction book out to agents. I didn't have the platform. I had the experience but didn't have the "professional" background. I did it anyway. And I'm watching my dream come true. Someday, I'll see a novel with my name on it on those shelves as well. If it never happens, well, it won't be because I let my doubts get the best of me - because that would be something I'd regret the rest of my life.

The reality is, our chosen path is hard. It's downright brutal.

But the truth is, you're not defeated until your doubts and regrets take the place of your dreams.


Vicki Rocho said...

Thanks for the pep talk!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great post! I know if I never see my books on a bookshelf, it isn't because I didn't try. ;)

Jared Larson said...

Thanks Michelle. Great post. Helped me out after a tough rejection yesterday.

Matthew Rush said...

There's only one way to guarantee failure: give up.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Great post and so true. Thanks! I've figured this one out on my own, but it still feels good to hear it!

C. N. Nevets said...

Never give up, but also try to learn (when appropriate and possible) from the down-turns, too. You can also defeat yourself by blinding charging into a dead-end writing career on optimism and terrible execution.

Sometimes a rejection is a rejection. Sometimes a rejection is part of a pattern that should call a writer's attention to something that needs to be adjusted.

Michelle McLean said...

Exactly right, C.N.! A good stream of rejections usually means there is something that just isn't working - opportunities for improvement, for sure. Blind optimism helps no one.

What I hate to see is the person who gets a stream of rejections and instead of sitting down to see what needs tweaking, throws their hands up in despair and never sends another query.

Or the person who gets tough critiques who becomes too overwhelmed, depressed, or angry to do anything about it instead of buckling down and fixing what needs fixing.

Rejections and critiques shouldn't be ignored, by any means. But they also shouldn't be used as an excuse to throw in the towel.

Thinking of it now, I probably should have clarified that I'm not talking about optimistically plowing ahead on the same project for years and years LOL Sometimes, a project just need to be shelved (I have a few of those myself). But those shelved projects shouldn't be used as a sign that you'll never make it. I know very few writers who publish the first book they ever wrote.

Bottom line, I don't want to see anyone quit because the road is a tough one to follow. It might take 20 years and 100 manuscripts, but if writing is what you love to do, don't let any of the setbacks defeat your dream. Work harder to obtain it.

C. N. Nevets said...

Agreed. Nothing brings me more emotional pain than seeing people in a position of power (e.g., parents and lovers) actively engage in dream-squashing activities. When I see someone just give up on their own because it's hard, that actually makes me angry. Don't act like you want it if you'd don't really. And if you want it, act like you do.

That's not to say that sometimes some time away isn't called for. I've had a few hiatus periods in my life, and I think those were valuable.

As a wise man once said, "I'm no writer; but if I were, it seems to me I'd wanna poke my head up every once in a while and take a look around, see what's going on. It's life, Jake. You can miss it if you don't open your eyes."

Michelle McLean said...

wonderfully said :) A good hiatus is definitely called for every now and then. I generally take a nice long break between projects, whether they are successful or not. And I always take a day or two when I get a particularly harsh critique so I can come at it with fresh eyes and perspective, when the sting of the initial rejection or critique has faded a bit. I usually come back from these breaks energized and more ready than ever to work.

And it really is amazing what taking a break from it all can do for you. You have to live life before you can write about it :)

Michelle McLean said...

By the way, "Don't act like you want it if you'd don't really. And if you want it, act like you do."

Priceless. Perfectly said, absolutely agreed :D

WindyA said...

Love that line! Thanks so much for sharing and for the words to help nudge me along! :)

JEM said...

Well said! I love getting this kind of inspiration early in the morning :). Thanks for the post!

Sarah Bromley said...

Fantastic post! So much of this business is about developing a thick skin, of getting over our own egos, and of being open enough to listen to what's being said about our writing and learning from it. The only person who'll defeat you is yourself, you know?