A Kind Word

I’m going to start with a quick introduction (i.e. excuse). It’s been nearly a year since I’ve written anything on here. Last fall, I accepted a part-time job with the local school district. So between two part-time jobs, two full-time kids, a minimum of three novels being balanced at any given time, and trying to find some time for my own mental health, blogging kind of fell by the wayside. But I realized recently that I have something to say, so I’m hopping behind the keyboard again. Hope you enjoy!

We live in a day and age that many people seem to have forgotten the impact that a simple word of kindness can have on a person. It’s so easy to be mean online. To not think twice about what you say. To let your emotions run the keyboard and never think twice about it. Cyber bullying runs rampant, partially because it’s easier to be cruel and hurtful when you don’t have to see the pain your words have caused.

As a result, I think people have started to underestimate the power of words. Yes, they’re just words. A strand of sounds put together that amazingly make sense in our human brains. Even so, words can hurt. But they can also help. It really is amazing how much an off-the-cuff compliment given at the right time can affect a person’s life. In my case, a rejection email I received years ago is part of the reason I haven’t given up on writing.

I started writing long, long ago. Like a million years in dog years. Okay, so maybe I’m not quite that old. But some days it feels like it. My first “querying” experience came when I was a sophomore in college. I had written a novel. Looking back, it was a hot mess of everything that could have been wrong with a novel. It was full of cliches, purple prose, and the plot had more holes in it than a piece of moldy swiss cheese. (Don’t ask why it has to be moldy. I’m the one in charge here.) But I was proud of what I’d accomplished. I had completed a novel. (I didn’t realize at the time that completed also meant revising the ever loving…whatever out of it.)

So with the cursor flashing at THE END, I threw myself into the world of querying. A world that I now realize I knew NOTHING about. Full of naive excitement, I attended a small romance writers conference that was held about an hour from my house. Prior to the conference, I sent an email to the editor of the small press I was going to be pitching to, asking him if he’d be willing to take a look at the manuscript and give me some feedback on it. (This is a no-no, by the way. Like I said, I didn’t know better.)

To my surprise, he agreed, and had me send over a partial manuscript. When I met with him at the conference, he had a lot of really nice things to say, and actually asked me to send the full. I was convinced my moment had arrived. I was going to be published. And my life was going to be full of fancy book tours and chocolates and…Then came the rejection.

It landed in my email a few months later. He let me down gently, saying I needed to concentrate more on my setting (which was probably his way of toning down “What in the actual f*** did I just read?”) It stung, but it was the end of the email that truly stuck with me. He said that even though it hadn’t worked out, he strongly believed he would see my name on the bookshelf some day.

At the time, it didn’t mean that much to me. I was licking my wounds from my first real rejection. But over the years, those words have burned themselves into my brain. There have been many other projects. More rejections than I care to count. And plenty of times that it would have been easy to give up writing and walk away. After all, it’s a big mountain to climb, and just like Mount Everest, not everyone makes it to the top. But every time I considered calling it quits, I thought of those words. And they were enough to push me to hit send on the next query, or jump into the next set of revisions, or start on a new project because the last one just wasn’t quite right.

I don’t remember his name, or even the name of the press he was acquiring for. And I’m sure he doesn’t remember me or that email. It’s possible he said that in all of his rejections. But for me, it was the push that I needed to keep going.

Is it possible I would have pushed on anyway? Of course it is. I’m a Taurus. We’re known for being stubborn. But I’ll never forget those words, and one of these days, I will prove him right.

Moral of the story: Don’t lose faith in words. They have power. But like superheroes, with great power, comes great responsibility. Be kind with your words. Use them to inspire. To encourage. To lift up. Not to tear people down. Because we can all use to hear some kind words every now and then.

Advertisements

Eyes on the Prize

When I first started mountain biking, a friend of mine went out with me to help me learn the basics. The most important piece of advice he gave me was simple: “Look where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go.” Easy enough, right? With every swoop and turn, I felt a little more confident. I rode over ledges (a whopping four inches tall) that I wouldn’t have thought I could ride. I was feeling pretty damn good. (We’ll ignore the fact that the trail we were on was equivalent to a two-lane highway as far as mountain bikes are concerned.) We were almost to the end of the trail, and I was really getting in the groove. We came to a spot in the trail that dropped down into a creek bed before climbing up the other side. My friend went first, telling me he’d wait at the top.

I dropped into the wash. And then I saw it. A big rock on the side of the trail. It shouldn’t have been a problem. It was well out of the middle of the trail. But I couldn’t stop staring at it. “That’s a big rock,” I thought. “I don’t want to hit that.” Next thing I knew . . . BAM! I’d hit the rock and crashed in the bottom of the ravine. Luckily the crash was relatively minor, and I had to laugh. If I had kept my eyes on the trail, I probably would have been fine.

While riding my bike today, I realized that this advice applies to more than just mountain biking. Last month, I submitted my work into a pitch contest. The results came out last night, and suffice to say, I didn’t make the cut. Am I disappointed? Definitely. The people involved in the contest all seem awesome, and I would have loved a chance to work with them more closely. But at the same time, I can’t keep staring at the rejection like I stared at that rock.

If you get on a mountain bike, you’re bound to crash. If you decide to put your work out there, rejection is bound to happen. And like crashes, rejection can hurt. But you can’t concentrate on the obstacle, because you’ll never make it where you’re going if you do. Keep your eye on your end goal, whether it be in school, in writing, or just life in general. And whatever you do, keep an eye out for that rock!!!

Need to get away?

Sometimes in life, we need to escape. Hit CTRL, ALT, DEL. Reboot. Whatever. But that’s not always easy. Life can make it difficult to hide from all of its problems, so we find our own ways to escape within the confines of daily life. Some people use music. Others turn to drugs and alcohol. Me? I write.

When I sat down to write my first novel-length piece, I had no intentions of writing a novel. It was just a story. A story about my future. A story that gave me hope. I was in middle school, and I was miserable. Now, to be fair, middle school is a rough time for most kids. Changing hormones, acne, trying to fit in . . . I don’t know a single person who wishes they could go back.

Middle school was extremely rough for me. I was bullied routinely. Because I cut my hair short. Because I listened to country music. Because I preferred soccer over makeup. It was non-stop noise, constantly buzzing in my ears, making me question everything about who I was, and who I was going to be. Add to that a healthy dose of family drama and a falling out with my best friend, and some days I was pretty sure the light at the end of the tunnel had been snuffed out.

Then I started to write Rosewater Creek. It was silly, really. A story about my life on a ranch on a horse ranch in Texas. All of my friends played lead roles. I had a jockey who eventually quit to take a job riding wildebeests, a sassy stablehand who was always yelling at me, and even a trashcan prophet.

Though the story was awful and will never see the light of day, it was not a waste of time. I didn’t write Rosewater Creek dreaming of fame and fortune (though I did ask a famous country singer to come star in the film adaptation my friends and I had planned. I’m still waiting to hear back on that request. I’m sure he’s just busy.) I wrote Rosewater Creek to remind myself that life could get better. That middle school wouldn’t last forever.

I don’t live in Texas. I don’t even own a horse. And I certainly didn’t raise a Kentucky Derby winner. My life isn’t anything like I pictured it to be during those bleak days, but that’s okay. Because by picturing that life . . . by writing it down, I gave myself hope. Enough hope to struggle through the daily grind that was middle school. And I came out the other side. A little bruised and battered, and definitely a different person than I was going in. But I made it.

Rosewater Creek isn’t my only novel that is destined to never see the bright lights of publication. I’ve written several novel-length pieces that are likely to reside in obscurity, but they’ve all served a purpose. One helped me realize that I wanted to pursue the dream of being a writer. Another helped me handle the ups and downs of an unexpected pregnancy. And every single word I wrote brought me closer to a reality where I can call myself a writer.

When you write, there will be naysayers. People who think you are wasting your time. And chances are, in their opinion, you will waste a lot of it. But you know what? It’s not a waste. Because if you’re anything like me, even if you never achieve your dream of being traditionally published, you love writing. And doing something you love can never be a waste of time.

Adopt a Writer

All across the world, millions of writers are struggling to put one word after the other. Many of those writers won’t make it past their first draft. Others will never make it past the editing process For those who manage to complete a novel, they are still faced with a world of uncertainty. When will they find an agent? Will they ever make a sale? How do I turn the damn computer on?

I’ve been asked if you ever get used to it. How could a human ever get used to the pain? The tweet of a writer receiving their first rejection. The status update of the writer who has just lost their entire novel due to hardware failure. Or the low moaning of someone who realizes the plot they’ve been slaving over for years has already been done . . . to death.

No. I can’t get used to this anymore than you can. But you can help. Yes you can!

For as little as a few supportive comments a month, you can support a writer. You can validate their latest plot. Breathe life into one of their characters. They may even name a character after you. All you have to do is let them know that you care. Take five minutes to comment on their blog. They’ll probably even write you a personalized comment back. Tell them that you believe in them. Even if you don’t. Read their stuff and share it.

Can you think of a better time to support the writer in your life? Don’t let them be dragged down by their own self-doubt. Find it in your heart to adopt a writer, and there’s only a small chance you’ll regret it.