Today is release day for my third novel, Believe. It’s a completely surreal feeling. The book is done. It is out in the world, out of my hands. People can buy it. It belongs to them, not me. It is a completely satisfying, terrifying feeling, and it never really gets “old” or less intense. To celebrate, I will make a large pot of spaghetti sauce with slow roasted Roma tomatoes from the farmer’s market. I will work on the next book. I will get ready for the launch. And I will watch Breaking Bad. Honestly, in the last few days, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Jesse Pinkman!
A friend recently shared a post with me about “the differences between published and unpublished writers.” It was mostly disrespectful, and I don’t want to draw any more attention to it here.
But as a teacher, I feel compelled to respond to it. Especially today, when I feel so grateful, when I am so acutely aware that there are many books that could also be on the shelves, but for some reason, are not YET.
In every other field I have worked in, if you work hard, you get results. Success is a result of work and effort. There is a direct correlation.
Not so in the writing world.
Here, you can do everything right. You can study the craft. You can write every day. You can revise and re-imagine and go to conferences…you can create beautiful books that need to be discovered, that would help readers.
And still: you wait. You yearn. You hope.
We’ve talked about this: This is art. It is subjective. To succeed, you also need TONS of determination and tenacity. In most cases, years of it. But you also need other things. Like luck. And faith.
I have been lucky. (I think about this all the time!)
I was lucky to meet the great Deborah Brodie at a time when she wanted to mentor a new writer. I was lucky that instead of throwing up her hands in despair, she encouraged me to go to VCFA. I was lucky to have friends who believed in me, an employer who didn’t mind my taking off time twice a year, and parents who would watch my kids during those residencies. I was lucky that my kids didn’t mind going to bed early and that they loved to read. (Really, if it were not for them, I never would have written a word.) I was so lucky when I met my husband, a man who still supports “this crazy process.”
I was lucky to be given just the right readers at just the right time. That includes my friends, my agent, and my editor. My students. I am lucky every day to work with amazing writers who are on their journeys. They teach me more than I could ever teach them.
Regarding the process: I never understood why or how the ideas came when they did, but I’ve never questioned it.
I say thank you every day and write. I hope every day that I am the right reader for others.
Faith has been important, too, especially for a book like Believe. In Believe, I channeled the moments in my life when I felt most skeptical. I journaled about times when I was sure that faith was a hoax. And then I thought about times when, without faith, I surely would have crumbled. In the end, it was faith in the process that helped me find the story: faith that there was a character that needed to have her voice heard, faith that what I had to say would be interesting to others–that I could do it! It was the faith that others had in me that let me write this book.
So today, if you are writing a book and could use a little inspiration, here is my message:
Keep going. Every day. Even when the words aren’t there. You have something to say!
Listen. Look. The world is an interesting place. Your point of view is too. Read. Read a lot. When you read a book that you think isn’t as great as yours, don’t be discouraged. Be determined. Learn from books. Trust that there is a reader that will love your story, too.
Study. The craft opens doors.
Find support. From a class. Or a friend. Or a loved one. Before there are agents and editors, there are readers who will tell you what shines in your manuscript. Find those honest people and be inspired.
Have balance. Writing is only part of your life. Hug your kids. Or call your kids. Connect with friends and your spouse, your loved ones. Appreciate your parents and the gifts you have received. If Facebook drives you crazy, stay off.
That is what I do. I say thank you. I pay it forward. Even when the internal struggle seems overwhelming, I have faith. It happens. BELIEVE is proof.
If you live in the Chicago area, come to my launch party! It’s on Sept 15 from 11am-1pm and will benefit Curt’s Cafe, a center for restorative justice. Area writers will read, and there will be food and a raffle! And swag!!! Bring friends!
And if you like writing tips, sign up for Monday Motivation. You can find the form on my website, www.saraharonson.com, under TIPS! xos