I’ve been thinking quite a bit about how my writing is judged. Having agents tell me over and over, “No, thanks—I’m not interested” or “I really like your writing, but this project isn’t what I’m looking for right now;” takes its toll.
In short: I’m afraid. I’m afraid that I’m really not a gifted writer. I’m afraid that my writing is boring or my story is dull. I’m afraid that I have to depart from my true self to attract readers. I’m afraid I’ll never, ever achieve my dreams.
And at the same time I believe. I believe in my own writing and story. I believe in the support I get from my family. I believe in the encouragement offered by my friends and readers. I believe that it’s not just one kind of story that deemed valid or “publishable”. I believe that my persistence will overcome the rejections of my work. The process of getting a book commercially published forces growth and reliance—there’s just no other choice. It’s daunting and filled with rejection after rejection. I have had some success, but I still haven’t hit the “big one.”
I haven’t given up, but I am changing my perspective. I am no longer judging the worth of my writing because an agent signs on to represent me or because a publishing house decides to print my book. I’m judging my writing based on the most reliable judge: ME. While I still believe in the process of having my book edited and revised, I don’t believe anyone else gets to tell me if my writing is worthy. And I think we all have to do the same. We all have to believe in our own ingenuity, or own talent, our own skill, our own ability and our own gifts. Because if we believe it, so will others. Believing in our own strength to accomplish something is a risk, but it’s a risk we all should take. If we don’t take a risk, who will?
C.S Lewis is one of my favorite authors. In his book, Magician’s Nephew, the main character Digory, arrives in the magical Palace of Charn. He stands in the Hall of Images before a mysterious bell and a hammer, contemplating his next move after reading this inscription:
Make your choice, adventurous Stranger;
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.
Digory draws a deep breath and strikes the bell. And so should we.