A quick post to say hello (Hello.) and to say hey wow, STILL LIFE WITH TORNADO got its fourth starred review yesterday and I'm kinda tripping about it. I used to eat tacos every time I got a star but last night I opted for fresh corn on the cob here in Amish country. Two ears. It was delicious.
From the age of 24 to the age of 40 I wrote novels and didn't get published.
I collected 400+ paper rejection letters. I have no idea how many if we count email once they started using that in publishing.
I wrote 8 novels in that time. If you've read my blog before, you know that those novels were not good enough and I'm okay with that now. But back then? I started to believe the theories. I should be writing different books--not weird books. I should be a man. I should be an older man with NYC connections. I should be someone else. I will never get published if I keep writing what I'm writing.
I once wrote the meanest and most horrible and insane query letter to a random agent. I went off on some tangent about these theories. I blamed him for the state of my non-existent career. I felt the same way I feel now when they make remakes of old movies--WHY REMAKE SOMETHING? THERE ARE NEW ORIGINAL SCRIPTS OUT THERE! In short, I felt like this: WHAT ABOUT MEEEEEEE?
I never heard back from the agent and I'm glad I didn't. God, I was such an asshole in that letter.
Hitting bottom during 15 years of writing and trying happened more than once (still happens, really) but that time I really went too far.
We all do sometimes.
And I hope that agent's assistant deleted my letter immediately and never thought of it again and it isn't printed and hanging on some NYC bathroom wall of desperate-writer shame.
It feels personal, rejection. It feels really personal after 8 books and 15 years. It feels personal when 400+ paper rejection letters are taking up space in your filing cabinet. It feels personal when you see all the books being published and ask that awful question: But why not me? It feels personal when you look inside and make up answers to that question. There can be a lot of crying and destructive thinking and a lot of outward-aimed blame during this time. But eventually, after each blow, I took that personal question and made it into new books. Weird books. Because I write like I write and I can't do much about it.
And then Andrew Karre liked one of my weird books. And he published it. And now I am here, in my office, writing this post instead of writing my next book for him because I'm a little bit burned out at the moment after eight years of writing nonstop in a frenzy of If I stop, I will lose everything I've worked for.
Every time I think about Andrew, and I don't think he knows this, I think about how he saved my life. Not in that way, no. But in the way where someone (me) is meant to do something (write books) for some reason the universe decided and that person does that thing and 15 years go by and the person is starting to lose faith in a serious way and then, BAM! the person's faith is restored. Andrew Karre didn't know I started writing novels at age 24 and had been writing them for 15 years. He didn't know I'd been through any of this. He just liked my book and allowed me the chance of writing and selling another book. He had no idea he was restoring my faith in the universe.
In the last two weeks, I have heard "I'd love to write a book about X, Y, Z, but I don't have time" about nine times. I'm not sure why this is happening in the last fortnight--I've heard it many times before but this is excessive. I even just read it in an article yesterday. Someone saying they'd really like to write a book, but "I don't have the time."
This is the best way to avoid rejection.
It's the best way to avoid haters, bad reviews, and angry letters from readers.
It's the best way to avoid years of asking yourself why not me?
It's the best way to avoid the whole mess of traditional publishing. (Define that in your own way.)
I used to get really agitated when people said this to me. I still have two other jobs, two growing kids, a lot to do, and I certainly don't have a lot of free time. But the universe wanted me to write books, so I wrote books even when I didn't have time and didn't have money and didn't have faith in the universe's plan for me.
I'm glad I did. Rejections, haters, bad reviews, angry letters, the mess of publishing, and the why not me? have somehow helped me become crazy enough to keep doing this.
And every time I get an email from Andrew Karre, or see a Facebook post like the one above, there's a little sound that goes off in my head and I'm reminded that the universe has a plan for me if I just have faith. PING! That's the sound. PING!
If you're reading this and you're a writer and you want to be a published writer but you haven't quite gotten there yet, hear my PING! Go write more books. Find the time. It's okay that you hit bottom sometimes. When you get there, look for the graffiti I left on the wall the last time I was there.
It says: PING!