I wrote a short story a few years ago that was a lot of fun to write and really went in unexpected directions. I got some good feedback from my beta readers and made corrections. I found a publication, uploaded the story and hit “send.” And then, forgot about it.
Meanwhile, life continued. I wrote books, I networked and met new people over many mugs of steaming coffee. I launched a business, wrote articles, blog posts, web content and more short stories. I mentored new writers and even spoke to new authors writing their first books about the broad stroke differences between traditional and self-publishing.
One day, I got an email from the would-be publisher about the story. They’d been passing the story around from editor to editor for two years and finally decided they weren’t going to publish it after all. The reason was that one of my characters—the stepmother—was just too predictably mean.
And you know what I thought? OMG, two years have passed since I sent this to you and you wrote me back! Only another writer can understand the significance of a publisher writing at all. What I came away with was, I had a good story in play for two years!
Instead of being bummed out, I felt elated. Why? Because now I can take another look at the story and try to reimagine that character.
You may wonder if this is a typical response to such an email. Well, probably not. I have had my share of rejections, and at first, they pretty much sting. But as you go on, you find that any response is better than none, and hearing nothing at all is pretty common. Learning to listen to (constructive) criticism helps you develop as a writer. I find that it carries over into other areas of my life too. While we all like to think we’re doing just fine, and that we’re all okay doing life our way, the truth is there are things we don’t see and things we could be doing better. Learning to look at a situation from another perspective just might drastically improve your life.
If I had been stuck on deaf, I wouldn’t have heard my mentor say to me one day, “You really need to do something with your writing.” Others had tried to tell me that before, but due to some really bad experiences with a certain college professor, I had stopped listening to people about my writing.
Because of my mentor, I began submitting work to various places including contests. Those early days I did a lot of nail-biting. What if they don’t like it? What if I don’t place? What if they hate it and black-ball me? What if it gets rejected?
But I had other thoughts too: If you don’t try you’ll never know what could have been. If you don’t send it out, it’s already “no.” If you do go for it, you will have taken one tiny brave step forward.
There was another time that a weird little story was running around in my head. At first I thought, I can’t write that. Then, I said, well, I’ll write it but no one has to see it. When I finished it, I published it myself. People did read it and I was pleased to know they enjoyed it.
Each forward step requires courage because you don’t really know how it’s going to turn out. You could save yourself from potential embarrassment by not sending out your work. Or… You might win a contest like I did!
You might send out a story and have it rejected, but picked up by another publisher—it happens all the time.
What does this mean for you?
Have you ever had someone encourage you in a way that profoundly affected your life? Sports, or academics or in life? Because of my mentor, my life is on another track I wouldn’t have guessed. I saw how with one sentence she changed my life. I will be forever grateful that she saw something in me, took a chance, and spoke up.
Have you ever had someone encourage you in a way that profoundly affected your life? Sports, or academics or in life? Because of my mentor, my life is on another track I wouldn’t have guessed. I saw how with one sentence she changed my life. I will be forever grateful that she saw something in me took a chance and spoke up.
Maybe you know someone has a gift, but they’re not using it because they’ve been beat down or shot down like I was in college. Maybe that person has been told they’re one thing, but it’s clear to you they’re really something else altogether. That was my situation. No one had been able to encourage my writing.
I still write for myself every now and again, but nothing satisfies my soul like helping literary dreams come true for others. Is there someone in your circle of influence that you can affect with your encouraging words? Tell us in the comments below if you’ve had a mentor or been a mentor. We’d love to hear your story!