I’m going to tell you a secret.
When I got my agent back in January, I got this idea in my head. Not an idea that I really put into words to anyone except my husband. But an idea that ended up eating away at me all the same. Want to hear it?
BOOK DEAL BY FALL.
That’s what I thought to myself. After all, hadn’t I proven that I was a “good writer?” I’d scored the amazing agent, she loved my manuscript, I was going to rock revisions. It was all going to be perfect from here on out.
In the last seven months since then I’ve written and perfected a picture book, written and nearly finished revising a verse novel, drafted half of another book, read craft books, attended a writing conference, learned a ton, and become a Pitch Wars mentor.
But it’s fall now…and I haven’t sold that book yet.
And sometimes that little voice in my head that said, “Book deal by fall!” is now saying, “You’re a failure.”
But can you see how ridiculous that is?
I know I’m not alone in this. I’ve heard other people say things like, “I really wanted an agent by the time I turned thirty .” Or, “I had a goal to have a book deal within a year of Pitch Wars.” Or, “I’ve been writing for ten years and I really thought I’d be farther by now.”
It’s hard isn’t it? To work in this industry where we set goals and timelines for our projects, (write a novel in a month, finish revising by summer, beta read in a week.) but can’t do the same for the results of our work. The hard truth of publishing is that you can work and work and work but you have no control over how that work will be received.
You can’t force an agent to take you on, you can’t make an editor buy your book, and you can’t spend an hour every night making sure you only get good reviews.
There is no timeline for success. No date that if you don’t hit your goals by, you become a failure or a disappointment. Not the Pitch Wars mentee reveal date.
Not turning thirty or fifty or seventy. Not even dying. Because what you are doing right now? Creating and putting yourself out there and getting back up after you get knocked down. Learning, improving, trying again. It’s so much more than so many people ever do in their lifetime.
To pursue a dream so out of your control. And pursue it with passion and persistence. To open your heart and be vulnerable. How many people go a whole lifetime never experiencing that?
There is no deadline for success. You are not a failure or a disappointment. You are traversing a hard road. You are living a life where chasing dreams is not just something talked about in poems.
Writing requires being open and vulnerable. It requires you to pour your heart into something and then put it in front of the world to be ripped apart. It takes bravery and courage. It requires empathy and compassion. In short, it makes you a better human being. You’ve been writing for another year and feel like you have nothing to show for it? I beg to differ. Chances are you are now a better person than you were a year ago. Because that is what writing does. It changes us. It pulls us out of our comfort zone and challenges us. That may not be something you can put in your bio, but it matters.
So let go of expectations that you have no control over. By all means hope. Hope with all you have. But put away the measuring stick and the hourglass and step into that ocean of vulnerability and openness that comes with living a creative life and enjoy the swim.