Last week I decided my files needed some organization. In actuality, as any good writer knows, I was avoiding working on a difficult passage in my current work in progress. So, I opened my file cabinet and, in the process, gave myself a good case of depression.
One of the thickest files in the drawer contained rejections. The earliest one I kept goes back to 1984. Yes, you read that right. I’ve been collecting rejections for over thirty years. I looked at that date and the thick pile and started feeling really sorry for myself and asking the cosmos why I continue to do this if I’m never going to get anywhere with it. I slammed the drawer shut and wallowed in self-pity for most of the day.
Later in the day, knowing the mess that the drawer contained and being – according to my family – obsessively organized, I re-opened the drawer. And it’s a good thing I did. For within the dark confines of that evil drawer, was a Pandora’s box that contained a kernel of hope.
I found a file containing the reviews I’d published in a well-read magazine. There were almost a hundred of them from the decade I’d spent with that publication. Those reviews led to the articles I did for my local newspaper and the ones I do now for various newsletters and magazines.
In addition, there were notes on the hundreds of novels and the college textbooks I’ve edited or copy-edited over the years – some of which went on to win awards of various types. And that doesn’t include the more than 200 documents I’ve worked on as a technical writer nor my own novels, two of which have won awards. Then there was my local RWA newsletter, for which I was the editor and that I slaved over each month as I attempted to present a valuable resource for the group-and that also won awards on the national level.
I looked at my past writing and realized how far I have come since those first weak attempts. I’ve grown and learned and applied those skills to my work and it shows. I can hold my head up and know that my writing has improved immensely over what it once was.
I looked at that pile of accomplishments and compared it to my much smaller heap of rejections and came to a realization: Yes, I’m sad that my novels haven’t been picked up by a major publisher, but I’ve been published – many times. And I know that someday all my work will pay off. But if it doesn’t, I still have something to be proud of. I’ve accomplished an awful lot and most of it while working full or part-time and raising a large family.
So go away, depressing thoughts. I’ve writing to do.