Wednesday, March 24, 2010

No, No, No....

I am still smiling over Monday's news. I love reading the comments from well-wishers, here and on Lori Benton's own blog about her new contract with literary agent Wendy Lawton. I am thrilled to know that something we did on Novel Matters has made a tangible difference for an exciting new author. To think of those whose kindnesses have meant so much to each of us, and then to know that we have carried that spirit forward... Wow!

But what of those worthy authors among our entrants who didn't win? To think of the times we have all been rejected: "No we don't want your manuscript, no we don't think you have potential, no please do not re-submit - ever. No, no, no. "

And now, however gently, we have said "no" to some of you. Ouch.

Discouragement is going around. You know the dreary economic stuff already. I've seen writers collapsed on benches, slumped over pieces of paper that seemed to pronounce final condemnations on their writing careers.

I said "seemed." Now let me tell you the truth.

1. Even established authors get discouraged. Sometimes they find themselves with book contracts, up against tight deadlines - and discouraged - all at the same time. It sounds strange, but they look at the stuff they're writing and think, "this is no good; the publisher's going to send it back." Once in a while the publisher does send it back. Contracts provide for this.

Sometimes their books get taken out of print. Sometimes they get bad reviews. Almost always they find the life of a published author is a lot like the life of an unpublished author, and this can be disheartening. They're not better looking. They're not more intelligent. They don't suddenly have their act together. In fact, I think my personal act has gotten somewhat less together since I became an author, because my right brain has decided it's going to run things from now on, and my right brain is a mess.

Not only that, but even in good times, few authors make much money, writing. Please tell me you're not doing this for the money.

2. Even with all of that, if you're a writer, then writing is the best thing you can do. Not for money. Not even just for publication. Yes, you want an audience. But your best chance of finding that audience is to write for joy - for the sheer joy of seeing that what you have written is very good. There is no better feeling in the world.

Meanwhile, if you, the unpublished author, want readers, then go out and get some. They're called friends.

Remember The Inklings, the writing group that first heard C.S. Lewis' The Chronicles of Narnia, and J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings? Make your own Inklings. Find some writer friends of like mind, meet with them in a cozy place, and read your stuff.

Bear in mind that people read books, even in bad times. Therefore publishers must publish them. And as Randy Ingermanson once told me, "Those big-deal authors who sign contract after contract? Even they get old and die. They have to be replaced." Doesn't that make you feel all warm and gushy over the possibilities? If you keep writing and keep improving, one day it will be your turn.

Meantime, try to make your writing a sort of prayer, something you do because it pleases God. I've learned - or more accurately I am trying to learn - a lot from The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. He says we tend to take our identity from what we have, what we accomplish, and what people think of us. But when we view our lives and each other through those lenses, it separates us from one another and from our true selves. It's one of my favorite books.

Let not your heart be troubled. Sit down and write.


Footprints From the Bible by Cynthia Davis said...

Love your reminder: "try to make your writing a sort of prayer, something you do because it pleases God." It's so easy to get caught up in the mindset that publishing is the only valid result. In reality, as you say, writing for joy and to please God is a higher calling.

Patti Hill said...

Katy, I always feel hugged by your words infused with truth and love as they are. Thanks.

Nicole said...

"If you keep writing and keep improving, one day it will be your turn."

To die? Yeah.

And to self. And eventually to this world.

Unknown said...

Great post, Katy. And so true. At all stages of the publication journey a writer hears "No". Or gets frustrated, or feels unable, or rejected.

Your post made me smile. I read portions of it aloud to myself.

and I love Henri. Thank you that, too.

Latayne C Scott said...

Katy, I agree wholeheartedly with the recommendation of The Way of the Heart. It helped me clarify --no, it made me purify -- some things I needed to know in order to be not my own self, but God's writer.

Kathleen Popa said...

Cynthia, I'm thinking of a favorite passage by My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok:

Jacob Kahn to Asher Lev: "Millions of people can draw. Art is whether or not there is a scream in him wanting to get out in a special way."

"Or a laugh," she (Anna Schaefer) said. "Picasso laughs, too."

"Or a laugh," he (Kahn) said.

Thank you, Patti. Bonnie, I'm always so pleased to find someone else who loves Nouwen. Latayne, the book had the same effect on me. Only I wonder if God's writer isn't your own self?

Nicole, you cheery soul, you.


Carla Gade said...

Thanks so much for the encouragement that we always receive at Novel Matters. And for the wonderful opportunity!

Steve G said...

Keith Green sang, "Make my life a prayer to You..."


Thank you SO MUCH for this. I really needed this encouragement today, and you have so blessed me!

I'll have to check out The Way of The Heart as well.

Have a wonderful day!

Samantha Bennett said...

This post totally refreshed me. "Try to make your writing a sort of prayer." Good stuff!

pat jeanne davis said...

Katy, your post gave encouragement today. So true are your words. God bless you.
Pat Jeanne

Kathleen Popa said...

Thanks everyone, for your comments. How did I get a ticket to this party? Our readers are the best.

Lori Benton said...

I love this post, Katy. I think if I could have stopped writing I would have done so a long time ago. Twenty years (some of those spent mentally battling back after cancer) is a long time to do something with no outside reward. That reward has to come from within. "The sheer joy of seeing that what you have written is very good." I agree, there's no feeling like it.