There are a lot of steep hills in this writing journey, though the downward trajectory often dominates the road. I've seen disappointment rattle budding authors so badly, they gather their pens and paper and drive home, heads hung down. A shame, really, since talent is evident in their work.
But I understand. Oh boy, do I understand. I've been writing novels for nearly five years (a nanosecond in the publishing world, an eternity for me), and the only change I've seen is in the quality of my work. I recently lost a contest, and while the scores were much higher than they'd been in the past, I'm now asking the big question:
I know I'm meant to write, but does God intend for me to be published?
I'm searching for validation, something that indicates one of these days, God plans on spotting one of my stories on a bookshelf. When that validation fails to present itself, I doubt my calling. It's usually then, when I start to gather my pens, that headlights shine through the darkness:
I have come across your manuscript(s) and wondered what you want me to do with them...I am sure they will be valuable some day but sure do not want them to fall in the wrong hands.
Don't give up on the writing, each rejection is that much closer to an acceptance!
Hope you have not give up on writing. Please keep writing.
All this from the same person over the course of several days, during a time when once again, setbacks convinced me my journey has only one road, and it leads straight home. I hadn't mentioned that to the dear, sweet friend who serendipitously delivered these upbeat messages to my Inbox. On the contrary, I've been trying not to spread my chronic writer's-fatigue, fearing friends and family have grown weary of it (why not, I have!)
While such encouragement fuels my motivation, it also confuses me. Can kind words from a friend be construed as validation, or is it just that--kind words?
Perhaps I assumed the logical conclusion of writing is traditional publishing. Even so, I take the following into consideration:
In his keynote speech at the '08 Blue Ridge conference, after sharing an event from his childhood that closely mirrored an event in mine, agent Chip MacGregor asked attendees if they would continue to write, and write well, if they knew they would never be published. Mr. MacGregor, if you're out there, I answered yes that night, and again whenever obstacles or potholes threaten to upend me. And I'll continue to do so. If my novels never reach bookstores in the traditional manner, I'll still strive to ensure they're the best work you'll never read.