On Saturday night, I got a voicemail from a writing contest coordinator. I’d entered a big thing and, it turns out, my novel made it to the semi-finals.
The writing life is one in which a person can go a long time without any kind of outside validation. It’s hard to tell whether your writing is “good enough,” hard to find an agent, hard to break into traditional publishing.
Hard to keep going, sometimes.
So the news about the contest came at a good time. It made me feel I’m on to something, that my story resonates and is well-written. Four days later, however, I got my first ‘no’ from a major publisher. They asked if I had any other novels to show them (which, I guess, is a kind of compliment since it means they liked my writing). Still, a rejection.
It made me feel like I might have been kidding myself, that my story is confusing or weird, that it’s poorly written.
I didn’t cry, but I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.
But then two creatives whose careers I’ve followed died this week. They were young. One was a multi-published author with a big following. I felt sick and unsettled.
In my grief and shock, I decided, once again, that I’m not going to allow my life to be consumed with things that don’t matter in the end. I’m not going to be ruled by the ups and downs of the writing/publishing life.
I refuse. (Of course, I’ve refused before, so I’ll need to be reminded when the next big thing happens).
I’m here to say: I have an agent who’s great, a novel that is winning awards and is on submission to big houses, and I have a growing platform. These are the things I would have salivated over last year. Now that they’re my reality, though, I’m no happier than I was. I still worry about the next thing. What if a publisher doesn’t understand what I’m trying to do? What if I get published and no one buys my book? What if they buy my book and hate it? Or worse, don’t care at all?
My life could be over tomorrow. Or today. I refuse to spend it hand wringing about things I cannot control.
In the end, there are more important things than whether I’m published or not. And being published will not end up making me happy.