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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hope, Dreams and Success

Lately it seems there are many blogs or comments on blogs about how difficult it is for almost everyone to get their books published in these hard economic times. The tone of these messages can leave me feeling as if I shouldn’t even bother trying. I assume the authors of these blogs mean to be encouraging, but sometimes I feel even worse after reading what some people have to say, especially when they quote percentages. At those times, I have to draw upon my inner resources rather than give in to despair.

There is a story by Neil Gaiman, author of “The Sandman” comic book series, that has come to my mind over the years when things look bleak. The main character, Dream, is debating the strength of humans, if my memory serves. While his opponent tosses out scenarios that prove humans are weak, Dream counters, proving a worth foe. However, his opponent finally presents a situation where it appears he has won the verbal battle. There is no physical possibility of a human escaping the situation, and his opponent is already celebrating victory when Dream responds with one word that defeats anything and everything imaginable: Hope

No matter the circumstances, humans possess the unique ability to hope. It is a gift, along with the freedom to choose. But can hope become a roadblock to us continuing on the path to publication? Possibly. Sometimes our idea of hope is all or nothing. Hope represents getting the call and becoming a NY Times Best Seller. There is nothing wrong with clinging to this dream, but if this is the only outcome we picture for ourselves this year, how do we keep our spirits up when we don’t realize that dream this year or the next?

Sometimes adjusting our expectations and accepting not everything happens on our prefered time table can help us prepare for the longer journeys some of us face. Honestly, I would love to find an agent this year. Who wouldn’t, right? Unfortunately, it is out of my control to some degree, but I can control a few things and this will be my focus. I can polish my manuscript to the point of perfection. I can write the very best query possible. I can research agents to make certain I am querying ones that represent my genre. I can keep sending queries to different agents. And I can keep writing so I have a variety of stories that maybe will be that one which receives the response, “This one is for me!”

I can also choose how I measure my success. If I don't find an agent this year, will I consider myself a failure? I suppose I could, or I could celebrate the smaller successes, such a receiving more requests for my manuscript, that move me closer to realizing my dream. The only way to reach my destination is one step at a time.

What keeps you going when facing hard times, and what are some of your successes so far this year?


  1. Well, I've made some tough choices about my completed manuscripts this year (i.e. maybe they need to be put in the proverbial drawer, and/or get a major overhaul). I count that as a success, because it means I've recognized and accepted some hard truths about them. And I've started work on a new MS that I feel is more representative of me and the direction I think I should be headed. Also, it seems to be highlighting my true voice. So, that is a success for me as well, as well.

    But yeah, even though I recognize that I'm not there yet, I'm not giving up on the dream. I'm just going to keep plugging away. I'll get there someday. Great blog, Samantha.

  2. Great blog, as always, Samantha. I generally avoid inspirational speakers because I find them depressing.I can't relate because we don't share the same motivations or goals. Often the person speaking was first published twenty years ago when the publishing world was a different place.

    Like you, I measure success by getting more requests and getting farther in the submission process. But I also count publishable manuscripts. If I ever get the call, I'd like to have more than one novel to show for all the time I've spent writing. And I can look back on those early efforts and see that I've made progress in learning the craft.

  3. Being a psychologist, most of my writing(s) are submitted to referral sources, the courts, or in presentation forms in front of large groups - and there is sort of an expected standard (and therefore a strong level of influence) to my reports or presentations. Before they're done, I'm always listening to what I think/ feel about what I wrote. Is it logically organized? is there an "art" to the flow of the document/ presentation? Am I interested? Do I laugh? Do I feel emotional at times? Basically does i make sense at the forest level, and at the level of the trees? Collectively, it leads to an internal feeling of readiness (if there is a positive answer to these questions) - and the proof is "usually" in the pudding - people are impressed by the reports, or the presentation is a wonderful success.

    I think this would be quite different if I were measuring success by number of publishable manuscripts - or if I found an agent. I could have several of these internal feelings, without publishing, without the story being read by the right agent where a connection is made. I think I would have to still measure success by my ability to listen to my own tuning fork, while constantly trying to learn from experience - and hopefully alter my tuning fork in such a way that leads me toward my dream-

  4. Setting goals for writing is a tricky business. I think one of the most important realisations I had last year was about setting goals for myself. I cannot choose when an agent will accept me, or when I might be offered publication of one of my stories into print.

    Those milestones requires someone elses participation and commitment. But if you tell an acquaintance you write, their first question always seems to be about where can they see your book.

    For me, I keep a list of my stories, ones completed, ones in progress, and some that are still in outline stage. To me, that list is tangible proof that I'm a busy working girl because the list always changes.

    Whenever I have a down day, I drag out my list and I get a kick up the tail. :)

  5. Great post, Samantha! I actually ignore all reports of "hard times." I prefer to look at the world through my rose-colored glasses and assume that none of what I hear on the news applies to me. It might sound naive, but it's served me and my husband quite well over the last few years. It helps us focus on our goals and on abundance, rather than focusing on lack.

    However, a little over a year ago, I was very down on myself for a couple reasons: 1) I hadn't found a publisher yet and 2) I hadn't gotten pregnant yet. Those were the biggest concerns in my life at the time and it was really getting to me that they hadn't happened. But then we went to a magic show. That's right, a magic show. The magician is Steve Cohen, Magician to the Stars. His show is very intimate (max 50 people at each show) and he's more along the David Blaine lines than David Copperfield. Anyhoo, the most amazing thing happened - he singled me out during the show, guessed that I was a writer, among other things, and then went on to someone else. Well, that was cool, but not the coolest part...A few minutes later he came back to me and very seriously and sincerely said, "I want you to know that all your hopes and dreams are going to come true this year." I almost started bawling on the spot. I don't know if he knew that or if it was the power of my mind *believing* that he knew that, but it was only a matter of a few months before all my hopes and dreams came true :) Sometimes, simply believing something - no matter how far=fetched it may seem to our conscious mind - is the key to our own success.