I remember my moment well.
It was September of 2013. I’d just given my first pitch to a literary agent at a conference. For weeks before the conference, I feverishly prepared for that pitch, watching YouTube videos, researching, and gleaning wisdom from others who have pitched before. I wrote and rewrote what I would say. I practiced a dozen times in front of my very-bored children. I walked into that room, nervous, but knowing I’d done absolutely everything I could do to make the pitch the best it could be. I’d packed an atomic bomb’s worth of emotional and mental energy into that moment.
But, bombs have a tendency to explode.
I gave my pitch, but I failed to impress the agent.
I told myself it was okay, that I’d find another way. But, after receiving nothing but rejections on my work for years, I began to spiral downward. I struck the ground hard. I went to my room and detonated. I was done. I couldn’t do this anymore.
I’ve lost count of how many writers and other artists I’ve spoken to who have experienced “that moment.” I’ve watched friends withdraw and become depressed, hopeless. I’ve seen it so many times, that I know what exactly what’s happening to them. The industry has worn them down. Their strength has given out under the constant crushing weight. Their dream to do this thing they love, feels dead.
Have you been there? Are you there right now?
That weekend in 2013, I quit for about two hours. When I got beyond the tears and gnashing of teeth, I realized that, in my quest to be published, I’d lost sight of my first love—writing. Would I still love writing even if my books never achieved publication? Absolutely. I took a little break from querying to heal and focus on my writing.
I started sending work out again, but at a slower pace. I realized that I’d been sprinting and this is a marathon industry. I also realized that I couldn’t hold so tightly to my narrow dreams. Perhaps I needed to broaden them and allow them to take shape within the realm of reality. I invested in positive friendships with other writers for much needed encouragement, shoulders to cry on, and the often needed kick in the pants to keep going.
Most writers have experienced moments where they want to quit. These feelings are normal. The question is, what will you do with that moment? Will you allow it to win? Or will you keep going?
Melinda Friesen, author of the dystopian One Bright Future series, writes novels for teens and short stories. She is an avid collector of rejection letters.