Depending on whether or not you follow me / this blog, you may or may not know that I finalled in the RITA’s this year. It’s incredible. Amazing. Unexpected and fantastic and the cause of so much joy and relief.
‘Relief’ may seem like a strange word to apply this situation.
But here’s the thing: unless you are one of maybe three or four of my closest confidants in the entire world, there’s something you don’t know.
And that’s that I came the closest I have ever been to quitting writing last fall.
However vocal I have been about my success, I have been exactly that silent about my failures. It’s what we all do. We say it’s about being professional. It’s about putting our best foot forward, about not coming across as crazy and negative and defeatist. But it’s a problem, because when other people only ever see the good things, it’s easy for them to imagine that there are no bad things. As a beginner starting out in this industry, or as someone who’s gotten one rejection too many, you might look at the people who are achieving the things you want for your own career, and you might think they have their lives together. That it’s smooth sailing once you finish your manuscript / contract an agent / sell your first book / win your first award.
But it’s not. There’s still crippling self-doubt, and there’s still that lingering sense that everyone else is doing better than you are, somehow. That you’re not as good as you used to be, or you lost your touch, or you’re an imposter, pretending to have a clue when you’re fumbling around blindly.
Or at least that’s how it was for me.
Last year, I could not seem to write a single word I liked. I’d had a book perform less well than I had hoped it would. I was struggling to finish rewrites on a manuscript that felt completely, totally, utterly wrong. I was convinced that no one wanted to read the ridiculous, overly esoteric crap I kept feeling like writing, and there was a part of me—a big part that just said: “No.” There wasn’t any point to what I was doing. I wasn’t any good at it anyway. I should just stop it. Go home. Get a real job.
To the rest of the world, I kept up a bright face. If I had nothing nice to say, I said nothing at all. I had days at a time when I’d lurk on social media but keep my trap shut, because all that wanted to spill out of it were horrible, self-defeating things about how nothing was going my way.
I tell you this not because I want your sympathy. I tell you this because it’s how I felt. I knew it was irrational. I knew it was absurd, but none of that mattered. I felt down in the dumps. I wanted to quit.
And then three months later, my book was named a finalist in the RITAs.
By that point, my mood had started to come around anyway. Maybe it was the lengthening days, or the optimism of starting a new project. But let me tell you, nothing has ever kicked me out of the blahs the way getting that call did.
I shared my happy news with everyone I knew. But now I want to share my deeper truth: My darkest day came about three months before my brightest.
So no matter how down you’re feeling. No matter how hard this crazy, impossible, wonderful job of writing seems. No matter how low you get.
Don’t. Give. Up.
The only way to get to where you want to be is to keep moving forward.
Your brightest moment could be just around the corner.
Don’t. Give. Up.