My aunt recently mailed me a clipping from a daily devotional. She does this periodically and I’ve come to appreciate her thoughtfulness. There’s nothing like receiving mail (real mail!) from someone you love letting you know you’re in their thoughts.
The text of the clipping happened to be Hebrews 12:1-3. I don’t write much about faith on this blog, but it’s a deep part of my life, and that just happens to be one of my favorite verses, particularly this part: “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
As a runner and an athlete, the idea that life is a race I’m running has always appealed to me. I’m on a course but I can choose how I run this race. Do I sprint the whole way and burn out? Do I choose the way of the turtle, slowly but surely getting to the finish line? Do I fix my eyes on the runner just ahead of me and let her pace me, or do I blaze past her and hope I have the endurance to keep the pace?
And what does this have to do with writing?
If you’re a writer, you’ve probably noticed, writing is more like a marathon than a sprint. It’s a long, grueling process and the end of the race – publication, success, best-selling NYT author (hey, why not dream big?) can seem miles away – 26.2 to be exact.
Along the way, you’re going to encounter setbacks. Injuries that most often come in the form of rejection of your work. It’s not just disappointing, it’s soul-draining. You start to lose your way and wonder why the heck you’re even in this race because it sure looks like those non-runners are having way more fun and not throwing their precious time away on something that may never be successful.
So you consider giving up. You bargain with yourself. Maybe writing isn’t as important to you as you thought. Sitting down to write is hard anyway, finding (and protecting) the time to write is too difficult, nobody wants to read these stories, so maybe your time is better spent elsewhere. Maybe you should get a “real” job or pick up a hobby that doesn’t make you want to pull your hair out? Netflix, anyone?
Plenty of people entertain the idea of writing, dream about it, start a story, even finish that story, but somewhere along the way, running the race becomes too much. The injuries (rejection), weather (unexpected delays), even the crowd cheering you on (distractions), it’s too much to deal with. You’re already way too busy with life to keep pursuing something that isn’t working out.
A writing mentor once said to me, “I know plenty of writers who are way more talented than me who never published. They gave up. I didn’t.”
I’ve been writing consistently since 2004 when I moved to Yemen and suddenly needed something to fill the long evenings I used to spend with friends and family back home. So I started pursuing something I’d always dreamed about, thankfully ignorant of how difficult a road the writing life is. Over the past thirteen years, I’ve gotten better as a writer, more disciplined, though I have my moments, but I haven’t seen much success and I’ve certainly endured long periods of disappointment where I questioned everything.
Let us run with perseverance.
I couldn’t quit the race. The thing about a race is you never know what’s around the next corner.
In June I submitted three pitches to a Twitter event called #PitMad, where authors pitch their stories in 140 characters and editors and agents browse the feed and favorite anything that appeals to them. When you’re pursuing publishing, anything that gets your work in front of industry pros is invaluable. Writers pay big money at conferences and workshops to do just that.
Originally I was going to pitch two stories, but I added a third when I realized the rules for the event allowed it. I was surprised when this third story, a young adult dystopian novel, merited the interest of a small press in San Diego. They favorited my tweet. I sent a query letter with a more in-depth pitch and a few pages. Then I had a request for fifty pages. Then the entire novel.
And then I had an offer for the series. It happened so quickly I could scarcely believe it. Yet it didn’t happen that quickly because I already had part of that marathon behind me. All that hard work, the training, the persevering. I rounded the corner on the course I’ve been running a long time.
I signed on with Glass House Press at the end of June to publish my young adult dystopian series. The first novel, Dreamers, is expected to publish in 2018. (Whoo hoo!)
Is that the end of the race?
I have a feeling it’s just the beginning, actually, and that I’m going to need all of that endurance I’ve built up, and all of that perseverance to continue.
But I’m excited about the race again, and that’s where a runner, and a writer, needs to be.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith.
Hebrews 12: 1-2