It happened just the other day. For the first time, I received a rejection correspondence from a literary agent. This agent was kind and respectful with her words, but she is not interested in what I have to offer. The rejection did something surprising to me. It actually made me beam with happiness. It was one of the best days I have had in a long time. Let me explain why...
I have always known I wanted to be a writer. If you would have asked me in high school what I was going to do with my life, amidst the teenage attitude you would have uncovered that I wanted to write a great American novel. I know this dream is not limited to just me, but the dream is very personal for me. Writing was part of my identity. I loved using words to express myself. It came naturally to me and I truly enjoyed the process. And then something happened.
I allowed my dreams to be derailed because of the opinions of other people. Every time I mentioned writing as a profession I was told writing was a hobby. I heard countless tales of how difficult it was to get published and how unpredictable income would be as a writer. I processed all of it. I took it to heart. When it came time to go to college, I did not take the path my heart was telling me to take. My brain took over and I made logical choices devoid of passion. Eventually, I left college and I got a job doing something else.
Truth be told, through all these years, I still dream of writing a great novel.
Back on Track
So, 20 years after working in an unrelated profession, I met a new friend. She is an author, and a successful one at that. She said if I feel like I should be writing, I should write. So as quickly as that, I started writing again. She said just do it. My first draft would be bad. Accept that, just get it down on paper and start moving forward. So I did.
After about a year and a half of work (sometimes committed and focused, other times distracted and painstaking) I had a proposal ready to send off to agents. This is a non-fiction book; not the novel I dreamed of. But it is a subject matter I believe in and I am proud of what I have to offer.
Doing vs. Dreaming
Several weeks ago, I sent my proposal to nine hand selected agents. I know this is where the real work begins, but taking that step made me feel accomplished. I wondered if I would get any response. And then it happened. I got a rejection. And you know what.... while people were saying, "oh, I'm sorry", it validated me. I am no longer a person who dreams of writing but spends all my time working doing something else. I am a writer trying to get published. I am not talking about writing or thinking about it or dreaming about it.
I am doing it. I am failing at it, I am learning in the process... and it feels damn good.