Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did. ~ Newt Gingrich
Last week we explored semi-colons and rejection and learning.
This week let’s look at rejections and perseverance.
My first manuscript flew from my mind through my fingertips onto the page because my muses mainlined Ritalin. I printed all 65,000 plus words so I could edit my world altering master piece.
I rolled in the writer’s high.
Butterflies dance the Electric Slide in my stomach and adrenaline pumped my veins.
Time to set my art free.
After a trip to the library and perusing Writer’s Digest Guide to Literary Agents, I sent out my first snail mail query letter per the agent’s instructions.
Every day for five weeks I raced little Ralphie to the mailbox looking for my Little Orphan Annie decoder ring so I could inspire the world with my novel.
The letter arrived on a Thursday. A white envelope with the agent’s logo. My hands shook. My palms reached first-date-with-your-high-school-crush sweaty.
I raced inside the house. Stumbled over two cats. I shouted, “It’s here, it’s here, it’s here.” My voice squealing like a twelve-year-old birthday girl winning Bunco at her slumber party.
My better half and I sat on the living room sofa. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders. I slit open the envelope. And pulled out a form letter.
“Thanks so much for your query. Unfortunately, though, I don’t believe I’d be the right agent for your work.”
My gut twisted into a butcher’s knot and lodged in my throat.
A humbling beginning.
I keep my rejection letters. Everyone one. I view them as earning my sentences. I go back and re-read them. My most recent query contained a personal note of encouragement from the agent, not a form letter. I know I’m getting closer.
Sometimes, I meet the agents who wrote them at writer’s conferences.
An early rejection form letter came from Elizabeth Pomada, Larsen/Pomada Literary Agents. The theme of the letter: “Assume we are wrong. Persevere until your books reach the goals you set for them.”
Two years later, I met Elizabeth Pomada and her husband and partner, Michael Larsen.
Michael stands about five feet and four inches tall. Thick, manicured gray hair. Tailored suit with vest. Conference attendees buzzed around him the way mosquitoes feast at a June picnic.
While standing next to me in line at the dinner buffet, he offered to read my first page and give me some advice.
I handed him the page. He looked up, a politician’s smile fixed his lips.
He liked the opening hook. But the first page sucked. My words, not his.
He said, “Persevere.”
During an interview with Gerry Swallow, a.k.a. Dr. Cuthbert Soup, over at the BoFN, I asked him for advice for up and coming writers, he said, ”. . . be relentless.”
The Book Doctor emphasized craft.
In baseball, baseball players who hit the ball 25 percent of the time make it into Baseball’s Hall of Fame.
But only one percent of writers achieve traditional publication.
So if you work hard. Improve your craft. Be relentless. And persevere. You will succeed as a writer.
And carrying a big stick couldn’t hurt. Or giving yourself a bouquet for luck.