So this funny thing keeps happening to me over the last few weeks. Not funny haha, but like ironic funny. As a writer, rejection is the name of the game. The last conference I was at, Donald Maass was the Keynote Speaker, and he said your chances of being published boil down to 1:2000. I did the math. It’s not 99.9% I’d read a thousand times. Your odds of being traditionally published are .05% So really, it’s like a 99.95% rejection rate. Which might not seem like a big difference, and maybe you’re right and it’s not, but it can feel like it when you’re in deep in the trenches.
Recently I told y’all my essay, out of thousands, was accepted into the new Chicken Soup For The Soul anthology, THE EMPOWERED WOMAN. It’s a huge deal. Same odds and I beat them. And in the same breath, I told you I won a contest.
Now I can officially tell you all what I won. I entered a two-part writing contest for The Las Vegas Review-Journal and I won the essay portion. It is amazing to feel like I’ve won both of these things lately but honestly, it’s just been a lot of hard work. They are two wins among a mountain of rejection.
There is one thing Donald Maass said that will forever stick with me. He said your odds won’t always be 1:2000. If you work hard, you learn, you hone your craft… If you keep at it, keep writing, listen to editors… If you read books on writing, you read books, you write, write, write… Your odds will get better. He went on to talk about how an “overnight success” is rarely that. Authors who the outside world see suddenly in the spotlight have worked hard for YEARS to get where they are. Often you’re not reading their first book. You’re reading their third, fourth, or maybe even their twentieth book. Overnight success is a mirage in the writing world.
So the funny ironic thing that has happened to me? I’ve had several people think everything is just roses for me. It’s come so easy and good for me. I must be so talented. Little do they know I have a pile of rejections I could wallpaper my bedroom with. I work hard every single day on my craft. I work full time, run a not-for-profit-organization, have my niece and nephew over every weekend, and I write, read, and hone my craft in every single free moment in between. And once in a while that gets me a yes.
A hard earned yes. Not something that was simply handed to me. Tallent doesn’t just happen. It takes practice. Something I’ve been working at for years and years. So remember the next time you think, dang this author has come from nowhere into the spotlight. He/she is just an overnight success… Remember they didn’t come from nowhere. They’ve been working years at it. Google them. Read their blogs, read their tweets, read their struggles and appreciate the journey that took them to you. They might even have other books out that you’ve never heard of. Read them. Then leave them a book review after you read their novel as a thank you (love it, hate it, all books need reviews). It will make all the difference in the author’s eyes and give their book a boost so other readers can find it.
I don’t ever want to sound ungrateful. Because I’m incredibly grateful for every opportunity. But nothing in this world comes free. Nothing worth having is rarely easy. I’ve been writing since I was in the third grade. That’s roughly twenty-three years. I’ve been writing for twenty-three years (weird to put it that way). I wrote non-fiction seriously for eight or nine. I’ve been writing fiction seriously for the last four. So for four years solid, I’ve been writing fiction and learning as much about storytelling as I can. I’ve written three novels, one of them twice (nearly three times now). I’ve written many, many, short stories, and am working on my fourth novel now. I take it incredibly seriously because it’s the most important thing in my life. I want to make a career out of writing. So while I might not, and many other writers might not show you every time they fail, know they do. We all do. And being published is an incredible accomplishment on any level. Winnings contests is also wonderful. But sometimes the assumption that it all comes easy or that we clearly have everything handed to us on gold platters is shitty. Because we work hard for what earn. So say congratulations. You can even say your hard work is paying off. Just don’t make them feel sheepish and unworthy of what they’ve worked for by wrongly assuming they didn’t earn it and that it was somehow handed to them.