Yesterday evening, on a live Q&A with my community, The Finishers, I admitted that I was finally beginning to feel impatient and frustrated about having a novel out on submission.
This is a strange and new feeling for me. One of the benefits of being as prolific as I am is that I don’t overly attach myself to the outcomes of any one project. I write quickly, I finish quickly, and I often have several projects on the go. If one thing doesn’t work out, I’m disappointed for sure, but I’m not broken or paralyzed by it.
But the novel. Ah, the novel. The novel is different.
The novel has been my life, my dream, and in my every thought for the last seven years.
And finally, finally, two months ago, my agent and I went on submission.
It hasn’t yet sold.
There have been a few rejections, some very positive ones. One editor at a top publishing house said this book deserved a wonderful launch. Another called my writing “utterly absorbing.”
But it hasn’t yet sold.
The more positive the rejections, the more this hurts.
I was thinking about this as I was recording audios for a new course that I’m creating for The Finishers called Success Habits for 2018. In it, I say– repeatedly– that success in writing comes from daily consistent action. From a mindset of refusing to give up, from keeping on going even when you’re getting nothing but rejections, especially when you’re getting nothing but rejections.
I remembered, as I was recording, something I’d forgotten. That this feeling, this frustration and impatience of putting in years of work and having nothing to show for it, this feeling of watching others talk about their successes and feeling a twinge of envy, is not a new feeling.
In fact, it’s exactly how I felt in my first few years as a freelance journalist.
When people look at me now, they see a successful freelance journalist with clips and bylines in some of the biggest names in the business. They see the work that I’ve done, the stories I’ve written, the awards I’ve won, and the editors I’m connected to.
They don’t see the years of rejections, of wondering if it would ever work, of empty bank accounts, of killed stories, and of botched jobs.
When I called my father sometime in the middle of last year to tell him that I’d had the biggest income month of my career, he was ecstatic. And he said, “No one else will know. No one else can. But I was there. I know. I know what it took to get here. I know how much you believed even when it looked impossible. You said you would do it. You did it.”
This feeling of dejection isn’t something I’ve felt in several years, but it’s not an entirely new emotion. I think of the months and the years that I so desperately wanted to write for publications such as The New York Times and TIME, how I’d stay up until three in the morning watching travel shows on repeat because I so desperately wanted to see the world, how I read story after story about how journalists built their careers, reported on events, and sold their pieces.
The same way I read story after story about book deals now.
I remember that it wasn’t one idea, one story, or one subject that eventually built up my career.
It was a body of work.
My success will come when it comes. But even if I achieve everything I want with this first book, there will still be a second book to write, a third to sell, a fourth to promote.
I don’t yet have a body of work.
And so, as I sit at my desk recording lessons for the Success Habits 2018 course, I laugh at how often I have to take my own medicine, how much I sometimes ignore my own advice.
Do I feel like working on my second book when I’m feeling dejected about the first? Of course not. But I also know that you cannot build a body of work without the courage to start something new even as the old one is still ongoing.
I open up the Scrivener document with the outline of my next book. It’s time to build a body of work. It’s time to start the next novel.
I start writing. I begin.
P.S. If you’d like to listen to the first three lessons of the Success Habits 2018 course, you can do so here:
Day 1: Who Will You Be This Year?
Day 2: Your Daily Non-Negotiables
Day 3: The Next Best Step