Close your eyes. Now, I want you to imagine yourself at home, switching the laundry, when you hear your cell phone ring. You go to it and answer it.
“Hello, this is Stacy Tyler, of Tyler Literary,” a woman’s voice says. “I’m calling about your query letter.”
“Oh?” you say, feeling your heart pick up.
“That’s a great piece you sent us. Can you send the whole manuscript right away?”
You agree (of course!), promise to send it all immediately, end the call and feel elated. They liked it.
Here’s my question: Does it still bother you that those close to you never read your stuff or weren’t more supportive while you were writing?
In that moment, not really, right?
But it matters now and that’s because the next level of success (maybe something like the above) hasn’t happened yet.
Writing is one of those professions that has an extremely long and difficult lead up to mastery. On top of it, the time invested is lonely, often draining, and carries no promise of delivering your dreams.
This is why writers are such sad lot sometimes. We chase hope, characters and ideas by ourselves. Few people encourage us. We give up parties, sleep and exercise – and for what? We do it in desperate hope of the moments above.
Who believes in us? Henry Ford referred to his wife, Clara, as the “Great Believer”. She supported his ideas and endeavors, even when they sounded insane. Maybe some of you have such a person in your life but, odds are, most of you don’t – and it makes the trip harder.
In my writing life, I often feel like I’m hiking the Himalayas alone. I see myself, wearing a huge parka, covered in gear and snow, with chapped lips gritting my teeth as I scale up yet another ridge, still miles away from the summit that looms so impossibly high above. Sometimes I slip and fall, tumbling back down the ridge, landing in a painful heap at the bottom and have to start all over again. Other times, I make it and gain a whole new inspiring view of the mountain. I turn around, so excited to show it to someone, but no one is there. This view, this achievement, is just for me.
And I think that, while you’re heaving your mind and words all over this terrain, it’s especially painful when someone, whose opinion you value, gives a lackluster reply or an unsupportive aside when you talk about your work. It would be amazing if they were believers, like Clara, wouldn’t it?
I want you to see that they are only important to you now because you haven’t made it yet. When you do start getting to where you want to be, you won’t need them as much. It’s in this lonely phase that the lack of them is the hardest. And this lonely phase will likely last the longest of your journey. This is one reason why writing is so hard. My only hope for you is that you will see that it’s part of the process to becoming a writer. Every writer must experience it and every writer must learn to deal with it.
You know where I’m headed next, don’t you? Yes, you must be the Believer, as cliché as it sounds. You are the one who brings yourself to the page and keeps writing, climbing and writing. You are the one who is going to master that peak way up above. Keep believing – and you will.
For further evidence that you’re not alone, check out this great post by fiction writer, Lori Lesko, “Why some of us are truly independent writers”