Helga’s Post #71 – A few days ago, writing pal Silk told us that we writers are Beautiful Dreamers (BD). Try to read it if you haven’t yet. It’s a touching, feel-good and inspiring post. I would like to follow her train of thought further, given that today is special.
Beautiful Dreamers pursue their passion, creating art, even without the promise of financial gain down the road. They measure success in different ways. They are in love with their pursuit and their creativity. That is their calling. What needs to be added is that they also have a steely resolve. If success does not happen immediately – and by success I don’t mean financial, but any recognition of merit – do writers roll over and play dead?
I imagine hearing a resounding ‘no way’. Instead, like the proverbial and clichéd “when the going gets tough…” our commitment continues unabated, and often more intensely. We have learned how to take it on the chin, rejection letter after rejection letter. Like Paula commented on Joe’s last post, Kathryn Stockett’s The Help got rejected over 60 times!
Kathryn never gave up, not because she was merely a Beautiful Dreamer, but she knew with absolute certainty that she’d written an exquisite novel. She knew that her judgment was superior to those 60 agents who penned those ill-fated rejection letters. She dug in her heels and never lost faith in herself. A true BD, but with a steely resolve.
This theme came to me when I started a new project this week. No, not a new novel, but something that needed doing in a big way: de-cluttering my office, an extra bedroom converted to my very own private writing space. It’s where I started my first novel, Taste of the Past, a culinary historical mystery co-written with writing pal and friend Paula.
My de-cluttering project started when I could no longer find anything amidst the towers of bulging files piled high, mostly drafts of my writing and critiques from my writing group over the last four years. How did it ever get to this mountain of writing?
I started sifting through the files, beginning with the early ones. Several re-writes of Taste of the Past, followed by multiple chapters with typed and handwritten margin notes, of my cold war novel Closing Time. (A little history on our critique group: At that time, Sean, now best-selling author writing as Sean Slater, was still member of our group, in fact our founder. When he got too busy juggling his writing career and holding down a job as a cop, plus being father of two kids, the rest of us managed to snag Silk and Karalee to join our newly minted 5Writers5Novels5Months group.)
Next from the pile surfaced draft chapters and critiques of my sequel to Closing Time, Train Bleu, an incomplete draft as of yet, and finally chapters of my WIP, Dragon’s Blood. There was more. Much more. As I worked my way to the lower reaches, I found stuff I had almost forgotten. Novels started and shelved when I couldn’t find the passion they needed. There was one about a Canadian woman whose husband gets missing in Indonesia and she travels there to find him, only to get ensnared in all sorts of nasty stuff. A suspense story that I may pick up again when I can think of a better plot.
Next in line was an early draft of a wine mystery, taking place in the Okanagan. Some bottles of wine show up with labels drawn by Pablo Picasso. Another co-op project with Paula that may find its legs some day.
Enough already? Not yet. My next find, near the bottom and almost forgotten, a post-war story in Vienna during the Russian occupation, written in the POV of my mother. A fictionalized memoir that I found somewhat too raw to pursue. I hope to find the courage some day to give it another try.
I kept them all. As I sifted through this mountain of writing it occurred to me just how much our group has achieved in the time since we started. What an intense, determined and, yes, talented bunch we are. We stuck it out together, through plenty of hurdles in our writing life and through personal crisis and set-backs. Not once did it occur to any one of us to throw in the towel, to say, enough of that, I’m a failure because no agent likes my work.
Because we know we are good storytellers and we can write. Otherwise this group would have dissolved long ago. To some of us, getting published means more than to others, so perhaps we measure success differently. But I do know for sure: We have the resolve it takes to keep on writing even in the face of rejection letters and other obstacles.
In the end, all writers, and especially those who never give up, are success stories. They are the unsung heroes in the world of story telling. Let’s celebrate us.