At the moment, I’m in the middle of my fourth round of revisions, and I’ve been repeating these words to myself for the past five months.
You have the endurance. You have the ambition.
Six years ago I began writing a book. This wasn’t the first book I’d ever written. It was the second. The first one had taken me a year and a half to write. I didn’t do any revisions. Didn’t let a single soul read it. Nope. When it was finished, I sent it straight off to six agents. My dream agents.
At this point, my life had one purpose and one purpose only—to become a published writer. I knew it would happen. I had zero doubts in myself. My heart beat the truest and the steadiest in the words I wrote, and I believed this wild dream of mine would come true. It had to. Because it was more than a dream. It was a destiny.
Of course, in my absolute desire to get this result, I ignored all the advice that told me to wait, to revise, to put in more work, and I thereby cultivated a 100% rejection rate on the first novel I ever tried to get published.
This was quite a blow. But, still, my ambition and belief in self spurred me on, and a few months later, I started something new.
I’m still working on that book today.
Perhaps because I was so hasty with that first story, I’ve been extremely cautious and protective of this second one. I’ve taken my time. I’ve written other things on the side (about 400K-words-worth of other things on the side). I’ve given myself long months of absolutely no words. I’ve allowed the story percolate and coagulate into something solid. I’ve allowed myself to grow, to experience things, to play and be weird and make mistakes. Even though I started the book in 2011, I didn’t finish a first draft until July of 2014. After that, it took me a year to go through the first round of revisions and a couple more months to go through the second round. For the third round, I got into Pitch Wars. So then, there I was, allowing someone to read my book for the first time ever. My mentor, Summer Spence, gave me wonderful, beautiful ideas and cheered me on and pushed me and helped carry the weight of this story that had been burning so strongly inside me and only me for the past five and a half years.
After I finished my Pitch Wars revisions, I thought. This is it! I finally have a story I’m ready to share with agents. I’m finally ready to try this again.
Alas, sometimes we think we are ready, but we are not ready.
In January, I came to terms with the fact that my book needed one more round of revisions (at least) before I’d feel comfortable sending it out to agents. This would be my fourth round, I whined to myself. I can’t do a fourth round! I stared at my stupid book title and my stupid main character’s name and all the other stupid words I’d put together. I hated every single one of them.
My brain said, Nope. We’re not doing this. Absolutely not. I refuse to care about this book and I refuse to let you think about it.
I kept trying to spark my mind into revision mode, but my mind was having none of it. Instead, I started plotting a new story, completely different and beautiful in its own way. I wrote fifty pages of this very pretty, very seductive thing. But deep in my heart, I knew I couldn’t commit to it fully. I had to give the original WIP one more decent round of revisions.
In March, I opened up the Word doc that contained my story and stared at it.
You have the endurance. You have the ambition, I reminded myself. But still, I couldn’t drum up the motivation to do anything. I couldn’t even read it. So I put it away.
In April, I didn’t write a single word. I watched Dancing with the Stars. I read tons of YA novels and a few nonfiction books too. I played some shows with my band. All the while I’d think about my book sitting there, waiting for its next round of revisions, and I’d say to myself, You have the endurance. You have the ambition.
In May, I went to the beach. I went to a wedding and danced my heart out. I watched The Bachelorette for the first time ever with my best friend. I trained for a 5K. I started taking self-defense classes. I opened up my book. You have the endurance. You have the ambition. But I put it away again.
At the beginning of June, I watched season six of Pretty Little Liars in its entirety over the course of one weekend. Lying on my couch and drinking wine, staring at the ceiling, I listened to Six of Crows on audiobook. I learned how to play “Silver Springs” on my guitar. I opened up my book. You have the endurance. You have the ambition.
This time my stomach didn’t turn. This time I read the first sentence, then the first paragraph, then the first page, then the first chapter. I kept reading after that. I had some ideas and I wrote them down. I left notes for myself in the margin. This pigeon part is weird, Courtney. Take it out. And She doesn’t have to be so mean ALL the time. I wrote a brand-new outline. I got a little bit excited about the changes I wanted to make.
Now I’m in the thick of my fourth round—which when you think about it, isn’t even that bad—and every day that I manage to open up the doc, I tell myself, You have the endurance. You have the ambition.
If you’ve written a book, if you’re struggling, if you don’t know if you can stand the thought of writing one more word, I promise that you can. You have the endurance. You have the ambition. You wouldn’t have started such a gargantuan task in the first place if you didn’t. The books we’re working on now may never find an agent, may never find a publisher, may never find an audience, may never, may never, may never…
But stories are complex things that take work and time and patience. You have the endurance for this. You also have the ambition to see it through, no matter how many rounds of revisions it goes through. Your ambition will push you, will keep your fires lit, will drive you forward.
I will repeat it, as many times as you need to hear it. I will say it again and again until it’s real. Until it’s true. Until you believe it with everything. You have the endurance. You have the ambition.