But first, a note about what Dixon has been up to. I had shoulder surgery two months ago (my rotator cuff wouldn't rotate) and the creativity elves stopped visiting me for awhile. Either I was in too much pain, or I was fuzzy-headed from the pain meds. No more drugs now, and I'm doing well in physical therapy. It's nice to be back. Did you miss me? - Dixon.
I’ve been writing for eleven years now. While I’ve had some success, it’s safe to say that 99% of what I’ve written hasn’t gotten published. Okay, maybe 99% is a little high. Let’s settle on 95%.
My fifth book and first novel will be going on submission with my agent in the near future. (My first book was a memoir, the second an anthology, the third and fourth were picture books.) Going on submission is a scary process, made only scarier by the fact that one of my books, which I would have bet my life on would sell -- didn’t sell.
It’s a lot of hard work — not getting published. When you’re buried in rejection letters, there’s the added stress of wondering whether you’ll ever succeed -- whether your blood, sweat and tears will ever amount to anything.
I know many published writers whose books take up an entire shelf at the local bookstore. At book signings and speaking engagements, they complain about upcoming deadlines from their editors, their worldly travels to promote their published books, their rapidly declining advances. They bemoan their lack of sleep, interrupted and shortened because of their busy writing careers.
Successfully published writers seem to forget that we unpublished writers are also exhausted and overworked with our writing. No, we don’t have the advance or marked-up editorial letter to show for it. Hell, we still can’t find an agent, but we also make enormous sacrifices in order to write. Because we unpublished writers are working just as hard to get published as published writers.
We, too, struggle with self-esteem, depression and anxiety. We also have to wait until the kids are asleep before we can get a significant amount of writing done. We come home cranky and spent (from our other jobs, which actually pay the bills), and somehow muster whatever creativity reserves we have left to write engaging prose and scintillating poetry.
Recently, I went out to lunch with a wildly successful, best-selling author. Over grilled cheese and lemonade, she peppered me with questions about my own writing, my agent search, and my publishing history. She nodded when I confessed that I didn’t know whether it was worth it anymore — this writing life.
Here she was, living the dream: a big-time author, traveling the country to speak to reading and writing groups, researching her next novel in Europe, and selling foreign rights to countries I’ve never even heard of — and she couldn’t have acted more interested in my own, humble, and fledgling publishing career.
I left the lunch feeling validated. Reborn, almost, for she had taken the time to listen not only to my (numerous) tales of woe, but also to reveal her own, very discouraging start in publishing. By doing so, she pulled me from the pit of rejection-despair, and restored the fire in my belly for writing and submitting that had nearly gone out.
So if you are a published author and you find me standing in line, waiting for you to sign my copy of your book, do me a favor: Remember what it was like to be on this side of the process. Take a moment to look me in my discouraged, weary eyes. And ask me about my writing.
Anjali recently completed her first novel, Secrets of the Sari Chest, and is working on her second novel, Finding Om. She is represented by Robert Guinsler of Sterling Lord Literistic, Inc., and blogs at anjalienjeti.com