First of all, huge thanks to Christine for hosting me today. I really enjoyed her post from Monday with the song "Firework". The music, lyrics, and comments on the post put me in a better mood and made me feel hopeful about my writing future.
Which got me thinking. Do you ever ask yourself if you were meant to succeed as a writer? Maybe you're just wasting your time with these endless hours of clacking away at the keyboard, when you could be doing laundry or watching TV. Or maybe you should spend more time at your job, since there have been rumors of layoffs and you don't want anyone to know you're moonlighting as a fictionalist. Throughout the years of our lives we sometimes feel confident enough to call ourselves writers, and at other times we hesitate to even list it as one of our hobbies. I've been in and out of these attitudes, but somehow always started writing again.
The low point is rejection, of course. When someone hits you with a polite or blunt "no thank you" for something you poured your soul into, something you KNOW is good enough to publish, it's painful. All we can do is remember that publishers are fickle, they want what they want when they want it, and if you don't have exactly that at exactly the right time, it doesn't matter how good you are. You just have to keep sending it out. I sent The Rogue Shop to 7 publishers and got 6 rejections. What if I had stopped at 6?
As I was waiting to hear back on my manuscript, I thought acceptance would be the ultimate validation of my worth as a writer. It came in the form of a simple email, and it did stun me to silence. However, that moment didn't really compare to a moment I experienced just yesterday, when I got my very first review from the very first critic who read the finished book. When she said my book "resonated deeply" with her, that it brought her a "lasting peace and a warm feeling of hope", when she called my characters "brilliant", and called my book a "solid, wonderful debut"-- (this lady is not a relative, by the way, and I don't even know her), that did more for me than all the publisher's acceptances in the world. It hit me that my book was all of those things BEFORE it was accepted. This was the same book that six publishers declined with form letters.
Now, I'm not going to fool myself into thinking that all of my reviews are going to be so great. There will be people who don't like it, who toss it aside and say "meh." But one person, a person who reads a lot of books, loved it and gave it five stars. This means something to me. We focus so much on what editors and publishers want to see, on what the "market" demands. Why not ponder a bit more on what your bookworm little sister might like, or on what the members of your own book club might want to read? It's flesh and blood readers we're writing for, not corporate lackeys chained to a desk piled high with slush. In writing The Rogue Shop, I wrote the book I wanted to read, and I wrote it for fans of LDS fiction. People who want more than something "clean" to read, a story with humor, believable romance, and pure emotion experienced by true characters.
Finally, back to the question: Were you meant to be a successful writer? Answer: If you feel driven to do it, you have a gift. That gift's value to publishers is important, because it will determine how many people you will reach with your writing. However, the big picture is that the worth of souls is great, and if a hundred, ten, or even one person is moved or inspired by your work, you have done well with your gift. Keep sharing it. Keep writing. Let your "firework" burn!
"Swear you'll never become a Mormon."
It was more likely I would become a vegan. "Don't be ridiculous, Aunt Jean. I'm not going to become a Mormon."
"Swear it on the Bible."
Trying to escape from his Texas Baptist upbringing and a troubled past, Chris Kerry came to Salt Lake City to get an education--and nothing else. But keeping his promise to stay away from the Mormons proves difficult, especially with two cute college girls living across the hall. And when Chris finds a new job at a tuxedo shop, his promise unravels as he discovers new friendships, hidden secrets, and a lost heritage he never imagined he had. The Rogue Shop illuminates how we recognize truth even in the most trying of circumstances. Michael Knudsen's hilarious debut will remind you about the value of faith, family, and friends as Chris learns from his past to move forward into a better future.