When I began writing my first novel ten years ago I had this grand idea that I would write this great story, get published within a year of completion, become a bestselling author, do interviews on news shows, book signings, quit my job teaching, begin writing full time, and life would be great! This is the way every dream begins – HUGE.
Upon completing my first novel I took a couple weeks and enjoyed the fact that I had actually finished a novel. Off and on for six years I had worked on that story, and I finally could say that I had gotten to the end. All that was left was an agent, publisher, bestseller, interviews, books signings, quit teaching, start my next story, and life would be great.
I had no idea how to get an agent, but I was determined to figure it out. So, I read different authors’ websites, agents’ blogs, and bought the Writer’s Market books. I tried to educate myself. I learned about the different genres, word count, format, and query letters. I learned which agents accepted e-mail queries, and which accepted snail mail. Then I assigned my novel to a specific genre and began learning how to write a query letter. I learned that writing a query letter was more difficult for me than writing the actual novel. I’m still trying to figure out how to write the damn thing. I made a list of all the agents that represented the genre of my novel. After making my list, I began one by one sending out query letters to each agent. Then, I waited.
After three weeks I started receiving responses from the different agents. Most of them were form letters, some took the time to personally respond and give some advice, even a few asked to see the first few chapters, but they were all rejections. It doesn’t matter if rejection comes in the form of a letter, email, phone call or in person; rejection sucks! You’ve given your all to your dream and then to have someone else, who in my case, had not even actually read my manuscript, reject your work can be devastating.
I went back to the books and blogs to see if I missed something. Then I saw something that I had forgotten about because I was so excited I finished a novel: edit! I wasn’t sure how to edit my own work. I was a reader and all i knew is what I liked to read. So, I picked up my manuscript and began rereading. I realized quickly a finished product is not always a great product. I noticed things that needed changing or deleting, but I realized that self-editing was difficult for me. I started looking online for different editors and quickly realized I couldn’t afford any of them. At this point I was so sick of it all that I didn’t care anymore. I laid my novel aside and accepted the fact that writing it was as far as I would get.
Thankfully, I had not quit teaching. So I settled back into my non-writing life. Life began to happen at a faster pace. Relationships, friendships, jobs, social life, etc. they were all good. No complaints. But that dream was still there. The desire to tell stories had not left me.
I thought of going to workshops or taking classes, but the reality was I couldn’t afford to pay for the workshops and/or classes. After a year or so another writer introduced me to the book The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman. Then I read Noah Lukeman’s other books: A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation, and The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life. I was reading these books because they dealt with what agents are looking for, and they dealt with editing. I was doing my best to educate myself. I did a little more editing on the novel, but I still wasn’t comfortable with my own ability. Once again I laid that first manuscript to the side.
With my dream still in my head, I realized that I just needed to keep writing. So, I did what I had done before: I sat down at my desk, turned my computer on, opened up a word processing program, placed my fingers on the keyboard, but unlike before, my fingers didn’t move. I stared at a blank white screen for about twenty minutes, and then shut my computer off. For six years I had been working on one story. When I began that one story I had a beginning and a destination in mind. As I stared at that blank white screen I realized I had no story. I had no beginning or a destination. All I had was a dream and desire.
I finished my first novel four years ago. I have yet to get an agent or published, still teaching, yet to do an interview or book signing, and life is…I can’t complain. In those four years since I completed that novel I haven’t been able to write very much. I have started a few ideas, but nothing has taken hold of me like it did before. I’ve saved the things I’ve started hoping that maybe in time I can come back to them. Slowly, I’m starting to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. It feels good just to write down ideas. I’ve read books like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and Bird by Bird by Anne Lammot for inspiration. When I do write I just put down what comes to me.
I’ve quickly learned that the life of an unpublished writer is difficult. You have a job or jobs, and responsibilities that take time away from your art. You find yourself tired at the end of the work day with no energy to even write a single word. Or, as hard as you try nothing happens; the cursor just keeps blinking. Then maybe you get a few hundred words down and your excited, but when you reread what you wrote, you realize it’s all shit. But, because you have a dream and desire you keep trying. You keep walking the path and learning from the journey.
So here are three lessons I’ve learned so far, and these are lessons that apply to anyone’s dream:
1. Don’t give up on your dream. – It is okay that your dream is big. It should be! Just because you haven’t reached the end of the journey to your destiny doesn’t mean that your dream isn’t going to come true; it just means your still on the path and the journey isn’t over yet. You have things to learn, and experiences to go through. Don’t give up! Persevere! Keep dreaming! Even if it means staring at a blank screen for now.
2. Patience. – There are those amazing crazy stories about the luckiest people on earth who show up at the right time in the right place and everything gels together, and they make it big without any real effort. Those people make me sick. They are spoiled little dream kids. (Sorry, my bitterness that I’m learning to deal with.) But those stories are amazing because they aren’t the norm. Maybe you will be that lucky (dammit, I hope not…Sorry), but for most of us, achieving our dreams often times requires patience. There is no time limit when it comes to pursuing our dreams.
3. Do all you can do to make it come true. – Apart from those spoiled little dream kids (see above) the majority of us have to work hard to achieve our dreams. Practice. Read numerous books on whatever our dreams involve. If we can afford it, we pay for workshops and classes. The reality is that achieving your dream more often than not means working hard. There are gonna be things you wish you could do but you can’t afford to do. This may mean you have to save your money till you can go to the workshop or take the lessons. In the meantime, do something else that is related to your dream. Just make sure you do all you can do to make your dream come true.