The Art of Endurant Defiance

I’ve written three novels.

I’m really proud of all of them. And not just in the ‘you have to be proud of me, you’re my mom’ way, either. I think they’re good. I’d read them, even if I didn’t write them.

I have read them, dozens and dozens of times. And every time, I think–Oh, my God, these are really good.

They’ve also been rejected by just about every literary agent known to writer kind.

The latest novel, which feels like I carved it out of my own flesh, has been rejected a dozen times. And I find hope in those rejections. Half a dozen were from agents who requested part or all of my novel to read and then took the time to read and respond to my actual book rather than sending me a form rejection based on my query letter alone. That’s a giant step forward. Really.

And I’m not always rejected. I’ve had two novellas published. I have something exciting in a holding pattern (ooh, trust me, if that one happens, you’ll probably hear me squealing without needing the internets.)

A small publisher read one of my novels recently and liked it, but had a massive rewrite request. Massive. She said she’d understand if I didn’t want to do it, as she was sure a larger publisher would jump at the chance to buy my book. She loved it that much, but sorry, can’t offer a contract yet.

Anyway–this is not a sob story.

This is a story about things like perseverance and endurance. Not only doing hard things, even when there is no real concrete sign that you will ever be successful, but doing them when you are the only person alive who really believes you can. It’s about putting one foot in front of the other and one word down and then the next and learning as you go so that you keep improving.

It’s about being defiant. Webster’s says defiant means a willingness to contend or fight.

I haven’t thought of myself as an athlete for a really long time. Decades. When I ran yesterday–for two minutes broken up in 15 second segments–I thought about how when I was a teenager and my world was falling apart, I used to put on my sneakers in the middle of the night and go out and run.  I floated through the night then. Today I plodded and it felt like my legs were encased in concrete–but I did it. One foot, then the next and the next.

And why? I’m the only one who says I’m an athlete right now. I have to say it in a certain way, too. With my chin lifted and a look in my eye that defies argument. That’s right, I’m an athlete. I’m training for a 5K.

Hell. I’m training for an Ironman.

And guess what? No one but me gets to decide if that’s true or not.

Just like I would defy anyone to suggest that sitting my ass in my chair everyday and writing in the face of rejection and uncertain success doesn’t make me a writer.

It isn’t the end that makes you who you are. And it isn’t the end where you make your stand.

It’s the beginning. And then, most of all, it’s the middle. It’s every defiant  step  that takes you from here to there.

It’s knowing you might not succeed, and doing it anyway.

And, most definitely, it is choosing everyday to endure and persevere and believe, even in the unbelievable. Even when you’re afraid ‘people’ (oh, those people . . . ) are laughing at you behind your back for pretending to be something you’re not.

Those people don’t know what you have inside of you.

How will you be defiant today?



Filed under body, mind, spirit

2 responses to “The Art of Endurant Defiance

  1. I just have to briefly share the words of George Chesboro that inspired me during an 8-year out of print stretch after I’d had 1.5 novels published (.5 was only in German, which I do not speak–long, weird publishing story deleted). Speaking at Bouchercon, Chesboro said that the ONE factor that made the difference between success and failure as a novelist was not talent (which is fairly common) but the ability to persist in the face of total rejection and failure for years at a time. In other words a kind of neurotic obsession. I cannot tell you how encouraged I was by this. I wanted to wave my hand and yell, “I can do that. I am already doing that.”

    Is there a happy ending to my story? Um, kinda. I went on to have five more novels published, four with major publishers and a fifth and upcoming sixth with a very small press. If you’ve got the “Neurotic Right Stuff” why not hang in there? We mainly do it because we have to tell these stories.

    Write on!

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Lynne. And those words.

      I think they’re very true. One of the saddest things to me is that in the six years that I’ve been writing fiction seriously, I’ve had a few really talented friends just give up because they can’t stand the rejection.

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