As writers, we need to get feedback to improve our craft. Unfortunately, the feedback part of the equation is scary. Whether it’s submitting to contests, querying agents, or simply sharing our work with close friends, it can be intimidating to let someone else read our work – we’re giving them permission to tear it apart. To tell us what we need to do better, and really to tell us if we’re chasing a cloud.
But here’s the kicker: If we don’t do it, we’ll never get better and our dreams of publication won’t be realized. (Even if you self-publish, you still have to get feedback and improve and make your book the best it can be.)
To get what you want, you have to ignore your fears, or put them aside for the moment and dive in.
My little dog drove this home to me the other day, while my husband and I were chilling on a rowboat at a local state park. She is terrified of water. She’ll go in, but only if anything past her belly won’t get wet. It doesn’t matter how bad she wants something. Even if it’s just a few more inches, she won’t go past the part where water starts to lap her belly. She’ll just stand, paws and legs wet and poke her paw out toward it, as though she thinks she has some kind of telekinetic power. After watching her do this for six years, let me assure you that she doesn’t.
In any case, the other day, she was sitting in the back of the rowboat, quite agitated. She’d tried everything to come up by where we were. (She even knocked over the cooler and sent cans of soda into the water while trying to climb up and over it. Those suckers might float, but does NOT mean they are easy to retrieve.)
Eventually, I settled into my book and my husband settled into a rhythm with his fishing pole. We heard a splash. Next thing I know, the little dog is paddling ferociously by me, terrified of the water that was surrounding her. I giggled. Then, found a bookmark. I tried to tip the boat toward her, but that didn’t work, so reached in. She scratched me a few times, but I pulled her up. And then she was quite pleased with herself, though sad about being wet, as you can see in the picture to the right. (However, neither of us let her crawl into our laps, which is what she really wanted: cuddles for being brave.
As writers, what can we learn from this?
I learned that:
- Sometimes you have to go after what you want
- Sometimes getting what you want won’t look the way you thought
- You’ll always want more
- You have to keep trying (more on that in a moment)
I went back to my book, my husband went back to fishing.
And then I heard another splash.
The little dog was in the water again, this time on my husband’s side of the rowboat. I think she was after the bait. She was fascinated with it, earlier. She just thought it was the neatest thing. That’s her, in the water, at the top of the page. I love the big scared eyes.
The husband put up his fishing pole and rescued her. The poor thing sat, shivering on the boat, for quite some time. And no, still no cuddles. When she made another go for the bait, I stuck her in back, hoping “out of sight, out of mind” would work. She wasn’t happy with the arrangement, but we didn’t give her long to dwell on it. We went in soon after.
From her second dive and subsequent swipes, I learned that:
- Goals change over time
- Just because people like you doesn’t mean you’ll get what you want (Read: an agent can love you, but that doesn’t mean he or she will want to represent your work)
- You have to keep trying
Taking the plunge is hard to do, but if we want to succeed as writers, we have to be submitting to agents and other publishing gurus. We have to keep trying. We have to keep writing. We can’t sit back. We also have to understand that we’re not going to get what we want if we don’t try. And sometimes, even when we do, we’re going to be rejected, whether it’s because we weren’t trying hard enough, we weren’t shooting for the right goal, our actions had unintended consequences or it just wasn’t the right person.
What have you learned from rejection, taking the plunge – or my little dog’s story?