Friday, June 11, 2010

Falling Down, Getting Back Up

My kids and I went to see the Karate Kid today. I liked it a lot, even better than the original. Now that I've spent so much of my life writing, however, I can normally notice the writing that goes into the movie I'm watching, see the complications pile on complications, watch the climax being stretched out by the writers so the audience gets the maximum anxiety and the maximum heave of relief at the ending. Knowing all this, of course, ruins it a bit. But guess who doesn't know all this? Daughter. So she was totally affected by the movie.

She walked out floating on air, talking about the life lesson of the movie, that when you fall down you can get up again - changing your life and the outcomes - and did I feel the same way? I thought about my life and how much I've fought back from, how much I have certainly applied that principle to my life. Then I thought about my writing.

My book, in manuscript form, just got turned down by an agent. I've had a long history with my book, including time during which it was represented previously but which representation I severed. I recently did a pretty big rewrite. I thought that it might be a good time to journey again into the publishing world, to send it out to one special agent. Not a whole bunch of agents; I didn't want to paper the world with queries. I thought, I'll just try it and see what happens.

She asked for the manuscript to read. And then a month went by. And then I got the turn down, a very lovely, personal note explaining exactly why she wasn't in love with the project enough to represent it.

And so what was I thinking while I was watching the Karate Kid?

I was looking at the scenes of China and I was thinking that I am fifty damn years old and I haven't been to China. Not that I ever wanted to go, but still, that's what I was thinking.

I was thinking that maybe it's time for me to give up writing and go teach at a community college again.

I was thinking that when I least expect it, a new rock bottom shows up to teach me some kind of lesson but I'm not always smart enough to figure out what the lesson is. Does this mean "try harder" or does it mean "work on something else?" Or does it mean "patience?"

And finally - totally ruining my enjoyment of the movie - I was thinking that I'm going to have to pack my book away - the book I have loved, the book that is like my heart beating in my chest - and work on something else. Or not work on something else.

But that's not what I said to my daughter. I said, "I totally believe you can do that."

Have you seen the new Karate Kid? Did you like this message about picking yourself back up again? Do you believe it? Do you believe that sometimes you just have to give up and move on to something else? 

34 comments:

  1. Wowzah on the new look!

    I kept thinking, as I was reading your post, that I don't know what your book is like or about, but I have loved your writing from the first post I read. And I thought that even if you go teach, you shouldn't stop writing. I am guessing that writing is something you do because it brings you joy or fills you up. Maybe this book will get published some day or maybe not. But I don't think your book is ready to be let go. What would happen next if this was a movie script? One with a happy ending.

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  2. Only one agent? Are you kidding? You have to query widely, and don't worry, it's mostly all via email, so you won't litter the planet with paper *grin*. Seriously, here's the link to my getting my agent. My two cents? Don't give up.
    http://debralschubert.blogspot.com/2009/11/did-i-mention-ive-got.html

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  3. Linda first of all I'm glad to hear you did dust down your manuscript and sent your rewrite to an agent. But one swallow does not a summer make and one agent rejection is not the end of the story here, unless you want it to be. Only you can answer that question, but if you are not ready to give up on your book, then don't. How about thinking of it this way - if it were your daughter and she got this rejection from one agent what would you say to her? Then say those things to yourself. Do what you want to do, don't settle.

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  4. MY god, this is a beautiful and heartfelt post. So much so that I just read it to my husband, who has been trying to get his book published for a few years. Upon my reading your last line, he said, "Boy, I can really relate to that." He's 61, trying to find a "real job" after 10 years with his own business as a railroad consultant that thrived initially but has gradually decrescendoed in the face of the recession, financial crisis, general economic uncertainty of our country and all therein.

    He didn't say this, but I expect that your description "...the book that is like my heart beating in my chest" tightened the flesh surrounding his neck.

    This post felt very personal and honest, and I thank you for sharing it.

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  5. I can feel your passion beating in you chest. You, my friend, don't have a choice. You are a writer and write you must.

    Your number fan,

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  6. the was meant to say

    Your number one fan.

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  7. hey linda...one rejection (I have heard) is mandatory. 20 is typical...polish it up, shop it around, but don't give up on it.

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  8. I would keep trying.Sounds like you have the passion - I can see your talent - you've worked hard - and, yes, many, many rejections may be yours before you find that special person who GETS your vision and sees fit to publish. Hang in there.

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  9. Karen, thanks on the template! Blogger suddenly loosened the reigns on letting us design our own blogs and this was a lot of fun!

    Thanks for what you said about the writing. I'm obviously have a midlife crisis of some type since I'm a mini-wreck. In a movie, you're right, this would be another complication before success! Sigh.

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  10. Debra, I queried much more widely before with my book and its been represented before. I had an agent with whom I severed almost two years ago.

    I've just done a lot of learning and rewriting since then, along with building my "platform" so that publishers the next time around wouldn't be looking at a memoir from "no one from nowhere" and pass on it. So, no, it wasn't my first time out with it.

    Thanks for your link! I appreciate it!

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  11. Aging Mommy - It's a great litmus test, to see what we'd say to our kid if they had the same lament! And if I was my own child I would say keep at it! Thank you!

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  12. Leslie, thank you for your lovely comment and thanks for telling me that it meant something to your husband. It's hard to care this much about something. I read these books written by successful writers and they say that many times they had to put away the first few books they wrote, that it was actually the 4th or 5th book they wrote that was their first one published. And I think, um, put away my beating heart?

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  13. Linda ~ all I know to say to you is this... if you love writing you absolutely cannot quit. You said that you made some significant changes to this book, but only sent it out to one agent. It sounds like it is time to blanket everyone with querys (sp?). I, too, have heard the stories that oftentimes that you have to write four, five, six books before "the one" gets published. However, once "the one" gets published, oftentimes they come back and look at the other stuff you have written because NOW it is marketable. Publishing is crazy. So, worst case scenario: you send out all of your querys and nada. You are still a wonderful writer with lots of ideas. Write another book and go again. Don't pitch this book (your beating heart). Someday, THE BOOK will come across the right desk and voila. And then that person will say, "Well, what else have you got?" At that time, you can say, "You just aren't going to believe it." And a star is born. When that happens, will you put in a good word for me? I need all of the help I can get. Oh, and if you need a cure for hiccups drop by my blog. I wrote a fascinating post on that today.

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  14. Hi Linda, I think I have some sense of your journey and your feelings in the context of the kindly written rejection. I learned a lot about rejection in Hollywood where you can die of encouragement. My parenting book garnered a good agent but even with her wonderful representation and a strong proposal on top of the book, the consensus from publishing houses was that my lack of platform was the problem. Good books are not enough to get published—but you are building your platform and it seems like you're on a trajectory to break through.

    I'm leaning toward self-publishing, which I know is not as "prestigious," but I'm curious to see how that goes—I have a feeling you'd have more than a few takers for your book if you could just get it out there by hook or by crook (I know I'd like to read it).

    Still, I've had enough deflating conversations with agents, producers, publishing executives that I know when I just need to lie on the floor and breathe. I hate that feeling of deflation after so much hope and work and believing that we've paid our dues. If nothing else I hope our community can offer each other the right sort of encouragement, including the validation that like so much else in life, publishing is increasingly about fame rather than literary merit.

    As other comments affirm, writers write and you are a writer; it's nice to be able to share our work, but the process of the writing really is the reason in and of itself—that voice and inner engine that we cannot help but honor (even if it brings pain).

    Individuation is about reconciling the soul world (where real writing comes from) with the "real" world in all it's loud, measuring, bottom-line infuriating shallowness. I'm just days away from fifty myself and yet I feel like maybe we're just getting started.

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  15. You are right... I will be here, dear internet friend. Hugs.

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  16. Hi Linda. I just want you to know I gave you a well deserved award for being one of my top four favorite blogs! I really love reading what you have to say... Check out my blog for the compliments!

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  17. Hi Linda, I was introduced to your blog today (thanks Ellen). Have gone through some recent posts and definitely a good read. Going to go read a few more but first your questions.

    I have not seen the new Karate Kid but definitely want to. Picking yourself back up again seems to be what you should do when faced with set back. Yes in general I believe it. But certainly you have to know when to move on. Sometimes the cost, whether it is money, sweat, sanity, time, is too great to accept by continuing to battle on.

    Deciding to stop and go another direction is not usually a decision that can be made on such black & white criteria. How do you put a value on the passion you have for the pursuit in question? I don't know the answer to that. Hopefully talking it through with family, friends, mentors, can help sort out difficult questions such as that.

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  18. I wrote a LONG comment that just got swallowed by the blogosphere, dammit.

    Fifty sucks. Parenting is exhausting. Teenagers are unrelenting. Rejection is miserable. Especially when you've worked for years, with all your hopes and dare-not-hopes.

    I get this. I really get this.

    Breathe. Rest. Find someone to read the work whose opinion you trust. And when you're ready, cast that wide net. At this point, it may simply be about stamina, support, patience, and a little bit of luck.

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  19. Linda,

    This book is an intricate part of you. You cannot give up if you are not ready to. Some of the best lessons come from rejection and disappointment.

    My suggestion, for all it's worth, it to try again. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, friend.

    LOVE the new look, BTW!

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  20. I JUST discovered your blog tonight and thought it was a ironic post to read ... I may write this EXACT post myself someday! My most recent post on my blog is about writing... I say keep going girl!
    I can't wait to see this movie.
    I'm your newest follower.
    Kristin

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  21. Terry, thank you for being such a good friend! Book or no, I'm truly lucky in my friendships.

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  22. I love your new look!

    Hey, I'm with the other ladies. DO NOT give up on your book. I am a newbie in this writing world and can tell you that most people are rejected on their first try, even the most well known authors (like Mary Higgins Clark) have had their share of rejections.

    It doesn't make it any easier. As I am trying to write the story that is ensconced inside my brain, I am realizing just how much of a job it is to write a novel. There are many times that I think about quitting and almost convince myself until I get another e-mail from my critique group. They really hold my dreams together.

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  23. Chris, I'm going to think of all your weight pep talks and apply them to this. Remember your "no retreat" video from the Kollel? I'll just have to think about how to allow no retreat on the book...

    Sherri, Thanks for the words of encouragement!

    Robin, thanks for your comment. It's true; it just might be the other book I've worked on that might be the one that pulls Seven Sisters along. Who knows? And lending a helping hand to a friend? (Not that I may ever be much help!) But of course!

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  24. Bruce, it does sound like we're twins again! Well, except that I've been 50 for 3 months! But I've seriously considered co-publishing with Poetica, where I'm the blog editor, just to get my book out there and especially because the publishing industry is changing so much, similar to what happened to the music industry a few years ago.

    I've been working on the "platform" thing myself and getting my work out into the world (instead of just in a writers' group or my writer's journal) but I guess I need more. Always more...

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  25. Ellen, thank you for that lovely award. Please know how much I appreciate it!

    Patrick, I keep repeating to myself "fall down, get up again" - yes, of course. That's what I always do. I just don't know if I'm missing the message that it's time to let this go, move onto something else (even though it's my beating heart!) and come back to it later. Hard questions.

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  26. Well, I'm late on this one.. it seems everyone has already given you great advice. I wanted to say that I love the new look of the blog and I agree that you are talented and I don't think you should give up on your dream if it truly is your dream. If you feel you need to let it go, then by all means, do. But I don't think you want that. You will always be a writer, no matter what else you do. I quit writing for quite a long time and it snuck up on me and slowly squirmed it's way back into my world. I was denying a part of myself and it demanded my attention. I think you would have the same problem.

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  27. Sometimes it's about doing something different and sometimes it's about doing something 'differently'. I'm sure your book is wonderful, it sounds like you've poured your heart and soul into it, I can totally relate as an Author/writer.

    You might want to try self-publishing. My husband is the author of 18 books and he has done both self-publishing and used book publishers. He makes more money by self publishing and doesn't have to wait around for their 'approval'.

    Walt Disney declared bankruptcy 3 times before becoming a 'success'. Maybe it just needs more time and a new plan of attack. :)

    Warmly,
    Karla

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  28. Linda, Thomas Edsion invented the light bulb after 1,000 attmepts. He said, "I did not fail. I just learned 999 ways NOT to do it!"

    Don't give up your dream yet. Keep plugging away. I love your blog-you are a gifted writer.

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  29. I left you some love on my page. I hope you drop by to pick it up and pass it on!

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  30. Haven't seen the new one, but I still carry close the advice I took away from the first Karate Kid ... Wax on, wax off, and keep on perfecting it. It will be useful in ways you never imagined. In our case, write on, write off?? =>

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  31. I love your blog. Myriad reasons. saw the karate kid this weekend too and had the same feeling about china. There are so many place Ive not been yet---and then years are passing too swiftly.
    And the querying?
    Lordy.
    I queried my....glutes off with my fiction and finally got an agent and never sold the ms.

    Phone call tomorrow with a potential agent (NF this time) and the dance begins again.

    xo xo

    carla

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  32. Linda - Love the new look! Love your writing and know I would love your book. Set it aside for a bit and don't think about it. Then, get up and get going again. Success is, and I am sure I am loosely paraphrasing, falling down seven times but getting up eight. :)

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  33. Love the new design and colors. I have a greeting card on the fridg that I bought for myself at the Trader Joe's checkout counter that says "Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight." Amazing where life lessons can be picked up. That and some New Orleans w/chickory coffe and pumpkin loaf can make everything right with the world.

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  34. Jennifer, thanks for your kind words! You are a dear friend! If I could disconnect the menopausal me and her overreaction to everything and find "regular" Linda inside, maybe things could get back to normal. Where is my mojo again?

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