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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why Not Quit?

Several years ago, an agent complimented my perseverance. “You’re at the point where most writers give up,” he said, “but you’re still here.”

At the time, his words seemed golden, an encouragement to keep going. Now, I have moments when I wonder if I should have quit, even after a contract and holding the finished product of a book that contains my own words.

That moment didn’t come until 30 years after I began writing my first novel. The road to publication is often harder and longer and more heartbreaking than we can ever dream. So why did I keep going?

Logic dictates—or would that be sheer statistics?—that the longer you keep writing and trying to get published, the more likely you are to break into print, sooner or later. If nothing else, many people tire of the waiting game and decide to make publication happen for themselves, so I’m mainly talking traditional publishing here.

As writers, we have to examine why we write—is it for the love of stringing words together, or for the validation that comes from someone else choosing our work for print? The former can drive us indefinitely. We might be sidetracked by the more intense bouts of real life, but we’ll always come back to it. And those of us who write fiction often have the constant chatter of characters in our head, begging us to tell their stories. Regardless, for the lifelong writer, the need to write sings in our veins like an addiction. Even during the years when I’d shelved writing fiction, that need came out in other ways—letters, essays, debate boards online. When I came back to fiction more than ten years ago, it was with an almost indecent rush of bliss.

Where writing itself is concerned, I’ve heard it said that if a person finds they can quit writing, they definitely should. There are better ways of driving oneself insane. Writing with the specific aim of publication, however, is another thing entirely.

Seeking publication moves you from the realm of personal enjoyment/therapy/hobby to that of business. It isn’t as simple of finding someone who likes your work and wants to put it into print, although we wish it could be. It isn’t even as simple as learning to be a good writer, although that’s a huge element in the process. We must also learn how to sell ourselves—the writing of query letters and book proposals, the etiquette in approaching editors and agents, when to hire agents or publicists, promoting our work, how to read contracts, how to file taxes. Then there’s the issue of how little actual money even “successful” writers make.

People pursue publication for various reasons, some more mercenary than others, but basically we write not just to express ourselves but to be read. We might quit, then, for lack of interest in what we write. Or because of feedback that hurt too deeply, or problems with the writing that seem beyond our ability to fix or even understand. And sometimes those problems aren’t solved with mere “fixing.”

Sometimes it’s just that the journey seems too long, too hard. Many of those I started out with received contracts long before I did, and are multipublished now. The temptation is strong to ask, what am I doing wrong? Maybe it isn’t a matter of what we’re doing being wrong, but the timing being wrong. And if it’s mostly timing, are we willing to wait?

The only way I can explain why I kept going is that something inside me wouldn’t let me give up. And I can’t speak for others, but for me, as hard as it was, and as much as I know that getting a first contract was only the beginning, the wait was worth it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Shannon McNear is the author of Defending Truth, one of nine novellas in A Pioneer Christmas Collection (Barbour Publishing, September 2013).  A Midwestern farm girl transplanted more than 20 years ago to Charleston, South Carolina, she loves losing herself in local history, especially the colonial era, but is currently preparing for the impending shock of a . She’s currently a homeschooling mother, military wife, and a member of ACFW, RWA, and My Book Therapy. When not sewing, researching, and leaking story from her fingertips, she finds joy in worship, women’s ministry, and encouraging whoever God brings across her path.

29 comments:

Elaine Stock said...

Shannon, it's nice to meet you, even if it's via cyber space. Since I've been writing and waiting for the golden contract for what feels like a couple of hundred years now, I very much appreciate your encouraging post. The choice to quit pursuit of a career in any art form, whether writing, acting, music, etc. has always been discouraged by society, let alone many parents. Yet, what many don't realize--as you've expressed--those who are driven have this need to create our art flowing in our blood. We cannot surrender.

It's not easy waiting… and waiting. I'm learning that it's all in His timing. I'm trusting. I'm also stopping asking myself why He seems to make it easier for others to become published on a faster track.

I'm glad you haven't thrown in the proverbial towel. You're my inspiration for today!

Henry McLaughlin said...

Shannon, Thank you. This is just the encouragement I need to hear right now. Our writing journeys are unique to each of us. You've helped to renew my faith in God's calling to write and to be patient in the process and to trust Him.

Ane Mulligan said...

Henry, never ever give up. If God called you, then don't forget Him in your time equation. You write and leave the results up to Him. He has a time and the right place just for you. What if the person you're words will reach and change their life isn't ready yet? :)

Ane Mulligan said...

Shannon, I'm so tickled for you!! You've worked hard. May this be a huge blessing to those who read it. :)

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Congrats, Shannon! Wow, 30 years, and I thought my 8-year journey was long. May this be the beginning of a long and blessed time as a published author.

Shannon McNear said...

Thank you so much for your kind words, Elaine! We really do have to make that choice to not dwell in the envy and resentment. I'm so glad I could be an encouragement!

Shannon McNear said...

Henry, I second what Ane said!! This post is the perfect example--I can't tell you how I agonized over it! And yet, there are many who need the reassurance that yes, we aren't crazy for plugging along in this gig. Hang onto that sense of His calling! He does not revoke that, however dark the path might be.

Shannon McNear said...

Thank you so much, Ane dear!!! <3

Shannon McNear said...

Susan, thanks so much! And crazy, isn't it?? This would be why God doesn't tell us ahead of time how long things might take ... we definitely would give up! :-D

Elaine Stock said...

"What if the person you're words will reach and change their life isn't ready yet?" Wow, Ane. Double and triple wow. I've never thought of God's timing based upon this. Maybe this whole waiting issue can be viewed as an exciting opportunity to see what and who God is lining up for us to touch, and for them to extend the blessing to others and bounce back to us.

Patricia Bradley said...

Congratulations, Shannon! My journey was similar to yours except it took 32 years to get a book contract. It's funny how the years seem to slip by but I learned to enjoy the journey along the way. And realize it's all in God's Timing! Can't wait to read your story!

Anonymous said...

Very Inspiring Blog!
Congratulations and blessings,

Sheila Webster
Editor-In-Chief
Fellowscript

Angie Arndt said...

What a wonderful, inspiring post, Shannon! I'm so glad you're finally seeing the fruit of your waiting.

It's gotten to the point that even my mom wonders why I'm still writing. LOL! It's just like you said, I can't stop. I love the quote, "Maybe it isn’t a matter of what we’re doing being wrong, but the timing being wrong." I think you're right: it's just a matter of time. And if it ever happens for me, it'll be in God's time.

So proud of you!

Carol McClain said...

I don't know why I NEED to be published, need to be read--but the long, discouraging process cuts. I'm "old" and a thirty year wait looks probably--should I live thirty more. Oh wait--I've been working at it maybe 8 years...so now I'm rambling. Thanks for your thoughts.

Shannon McNear said...

Thank you, Pat! I heard your story not too long ago and found it encouraging as well--I knew you could relate. :-)

Shannon McNear said...

Thank you, Sheila!

Shannon McNear said...

Ah, thank you, Angie dear! Yes, it's hard when even our moms wonder why ... but we write because we must. Hugs!! Your journey will be worth it, as well!

Shannon McNear said...

It does cut, Carol! So, so difficult to watch that door open for others, over and over, and not for us. Blessings and peace over your own heart as you continue to walk this road!

Michelle Griep said...

Honestly, I don't know why it's taken a publisher so long to notice your stellar writing. Wait a minute. Yes, I do. God's timing, not mine or yours.

Shannon McNear said...

Absolutely, Michelle. :-)

Ellen Andersen said...

Great post. I've felt the urge to quit too, mostly from thinking I'm not like the other writers I know and meet with regularly.

But in the last few weeks I realized that God made those folks to be them, with their own journey. He made me to have my own journey. That helped rid me of the tendency to compare myself to them.

Carrie Fancett Pagels said...

As long as we're being obedient to God we have to trust in His perfect timing. I told my son today that if God told me to stop writing tomorrow I would. And I know He'd give me peace about it. But He hasn't told me to and I'll keep on. Many blessings to you Shannon!

Shannon McNear said...

It's hard not to make those comparisons, Ellen. Realizing others had their own journeys was something I had to do as well! Thank your for sharing. :-)

Shannon McNear said...

It's amazing how it all boils down to trust, isn't it? And it's so difficult sometimes to distinguish between all those voices in our head.

Blessings to you as well, Carrie dear!

Ane Mulligan said...

Carrie, If God ever asked you to quit, He'd prepare you first by removing the joy and passion for writing. When He wanted me to turn from drama to writing, that's exactly what He did. It became a chore and the joy was gone. When I finally did what He asked, I found the joy and passion in writing. :)

Martha W. Rogers said...

Yes, Shannon, God's timing is most important. Most women my age would have given up simply because of their age. I prayed and knew the Lord was telling me to keep going, so I did. My advice to others is like yours. God has a special reason for waiting, so keep writing and pray and have patience. I'll be 78 next birthday, and I'm still writing. So glad YOU didn't quit. Like Ane said, as long as the joy and passion are there, persevere.

Martha W. Rogers said...

You're right, Ellen, and the journey He has for you will not be like anyone else's. He knows you better than anyone else, and He has great plans because you are you.

Shannon McNear said...

Martha, you have been such an inspiration to me!! Thank you for the encouragment. <3

Martha W. Rogers said...

Thank you, Shannon. I love to encourage writers, especially those who are still waiting for publication.