by Julie Tollefson
Facebook recently reminded me that it’s been a little more than two years since I joined Writers Who Kill and made my first post. I wrote then about risk and reward and how I’ve grown more comfortable, little by little, with taking chances, at least when it comes to my writing.
The message is still relevant, now more than ever. Sometimes, the writing life feels like one step forward and two steps back. In the two years since I joined this blog, Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine bought one of my short stories. Another magazine rejected two more.
As I was thinking about the nature of publishing and the persistence it requires of a writer, I glanced through the acknowledgments of my book club’s January selection, Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. The novel is an epic, amazing tale that traces many generations through two branches of the same family, one in Ghana and the other in the United States. In her acknowledgments, Gyasi thanked a number of organizations and individuals for supporting her work on the novel over seven years. Seven!
It’s easy to become mired in the negatives—the rejections, the days when the words simply will not flow. Most of last year was not a great year in my writing life. My creativity took a serious hit from the one-two punch of the presidential election followed too closely by my son’s car accident one year ago today.
But I kept writing. Though most of my words fell flat and colorless on the page, I continued to revise and rework and rewrite until something shifted. By the end of the year, I felt like I’d emerged from many dark months of creative hibernation. I began to feel confidence in my writing again and finished a couple of short stories and a novel-length manuscript.
I believe 2018 will be even better, even more productive. I am, deep down, an optimist, and I believe that every turn through the submission-rejection-revision-acceptance cycle of publishing makes me stronger, as a writer and as a person. It’s part of what motivates me to keep writing every day, to continue to take chances, to persist when it would be easier to quit.
What motivates you when you face challenges and barriers to your goals?