|The most terrifying and exciting aspect of knocking on a door|
is not knowing what happens next.
I’m exhausted. Honestly, with the exception of my final weeks of college, I can’t remember a time in my life I’ve ever felt this bone-weary.
I’m terrified. In the past six months I’ve watched door after door close (or never open). Except for this one.
I attended a writers’ conference in April that I couldn’t afford because of the generosity of others. I met incredible men and women who were perfectly placed in my life in that specific moment to encourage me to lift my hand one more time. And I returned with an editor wanting a proposal, an agent wanting to meet, and two-thirds of a book to rewrite.
It feels like an eternity has passed, but in reality, it’s just been shy of two months.
Most days I feel like I’ve made little progress, but in reality I’ve finished a complete re-write of a nearly 50,000 word middle grade fantasy, and I’m about to finish the most in-depth proposal I’ve ever written for both the editor and agent.
That’s why I’m shaking.
During my conference I heard from more than one editor and agent that of all the writers they request work from more than 80 percent never respond. So, I thought, for every 10 pieces they ask to see, they get maybe two?
At the time I thought such behavior was completely insane. We’re writers. No matter what stage of our career we’re in we’re working towards publication, right? Being terrified of sending out queries and proposals cold is one thing. I completely understood that, but if someone was asking to see my work…that was the dream, wasn’t it?
Seven weeks later I have a better understanding of why so many writers drop off.
Perhaps, like me, they feel moments of intense pressure to submit something so perfect the editor can’t do anything but accept it.
Perhaps, like me, they love the fact that someone is waiting to see their work, but they fear the moment they send that piece out it will be yet another door that closes, or refuses to open.
And the pressure and fear continues to build until it becomes more than they can handle.
But what about the ones who push through, despite all of that?
For me, the past several weeks have seemed so long because they’ve been so full (and not with just writing). One day blurs into the next because I’ve had to train myself to focus on one thing at a time. First by finishing my rewrite, then by turning my attention to the proposal.
I’ve come to accept there is no such thing as a perfect book or book proposal. There is only my best effort to complete something I am heart-and-soul passionate about.
No matter what my writing resume looks like, there will always be the chance an editor or agent will say no. But if I don’t take the risk and follow through, I’m not giving them the chance to say yes, either.
And, as a friend reminded me last night when I had a momentary breakdown, if someone asks to see our work it’s because they saw in us during that brief moment our paths crossed something that intrigued them. That made them want to know more.
The question I have been asking myself every day since I got home is: Am I one of the majority who holds back? Or will I be one of the few who despite the feelings of uncertainty steps out and keeps trying?
Which is why today, like every day for the past seven weeks, I’m plopping myself into my chair and blocking out as many distractions as possible so I can finish what I started. Then I’m going to go see if this door in front of me is going to open when I knock.
How about you?