Tuesday, August 13

That Not-So-Dry Spell

That Not-So-Dry Spell


     I was thinking today about how fear can keep us from doing those things we love.  Some of us are afraid of rejections, while others are afraid of success.  Though the latter may sound odd to some folks, I happen to be one of those odd folks who have had the fear of success intimidate me enough to make me think twice about doing something.  I think part of that stems from the fact that we know that people who do well are often the targets of other people’s ridicule. 
Another form of fear that particularly affects artists (writers included), is the fear that they will suddenly lose all creative ability and become totally stale.  I refer to this as being “flat lined”, and I know the frustration of it all too well for I hit a five-year period when nothing of mine seemed to be coming together and nothing was published.  It felt like such a dry spell.  
I’d once read somewhere, “Just keep writing.”  So, I kept writing, even when it didn’t seem like it was amounting to much.   My agent at the time wasn’t able to get anything of mine picked up, which only confirmed that which I’d started to believe; my writing had hit the doldrums.  But, as painful as it was at times, and as monotonous as it had become, I kept going to my computer almost daily, working on those things which I’d started, or I started something new all together, and, still, nothing seemed to come alive.  I honestly felt like none of my work had much color, brightness or substance to it anymore.
As with everything in life, all things come to an end—both the good and the bad—and after a three-year go of it with my agent, it was time to part ways.  We did so amicably, and, I have to think, not without a little regret and sadness on both of our parts that maybe, in some way, we’d let each other down.  But, it was time, and I walked away with my tediously worked-on, sick-of-looking-at-you manuscripts, and tried to figure out where I should go from there.
Immediately, I started sending some of my work out, and soon thereafter heard from a wonderful editor with a large publishing house who wanted to see more of my work.  Needless to say, the material was in her “In Box” that night.  She called me a week later and told me she’d like to publish my first adult manuscript, and its sequel which I was in the midst of working on.  Of course, I was elated.  After we hung up, I sat back, stunned by the fact that I’d just received an offer for a two-book contract.  And then it dawned on me:  From all of those endless days at the computer, when I felt like my writing was about as interesting as a manual for a new refrigerator, I’d compiled quite a nice amount of work—work that was good.  Good enough to be published.  And it seemed to come together without my even realizing it.
Today, as my husband gave our Basset Hounds a bath in our yard in sultry near-ninety degree weather, I noticed our wilting Hydrangea bushes.  We’re in the midst of not just a scorching heat wave, but a dry spell, too.  And then I saw it:  Nestled among some of the brownish-green, parched Hydrangea branches were some very brightly colored clusters of flowers.  As a matter of fact, the more I looked, the more I saw.  My bush was alive and well, and blooming quite nicely, indeed.  Standing too close to it, everything seemed to be dried up and fading, but when I stood back and took a good look at the bush again, I could see how it was blossoming, and realized that this dry spell really wasn’t quite so dry after all … just like those five years of my work.

6 comments:

  1. Hi Janie. Your story is the best example I've heard of never giving up. If you had decided to quit writing when things weren't coming together, you would never have received that two book deal. You were smart enough to keep on writing, despite the set backs. Your story also tells us we're not always the best judges of our work. Sometimes what we think is crap is far better than we can see.

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jana. Right now I'm in that in-between place again. It's not comfortable, but it's just part of a writer's world.

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  2. A great post from a place we all seem to spend some time. I must admit to a little bitterness, though--I've killed every hydrangea I've ever planted.

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    1. Believe me, Liz, my husband keeps those plants alive. I'd kill 'em just by looking at 'em!

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  3. Love this reminder to change your perspective, Janie!

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    1. Thanks, Kristi. It's not always easy to follow my own advice, though. ;0

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