Over the last few weeks, I’ve been querying my novel to agents and reflecting on how I got to this point in my writing. The querying process feels a bit like yelling into the void. You send a bunch of emails to agents, knowing that they’re landing in over-stuffed inboxes. As you wait (and wait and then wait some more), that self-doubt starts to creep in. Maybe my book isn’t that great? Maybe I need to redo my query letter? Then all of a sudden someone from the void answers and wants to read the manuscript. Hope rushes in again. Anything is possible! It’s such a whirlwind of emotions. You go from despair to heart-racing excitement in the flash of an email notification.
During my (short) time as a writer, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to keep my writing “dreams” in check. I hate to call them “dreams,” but that is what they were. I think every writer has dreamed about getting their book published and then building a real career as a writer, maybe even writing a best-seller. It feels silly and cliche to voice those dreams, but I’ve certainly thought a lot about them. I think it’s hard to talk about writing dreams because the threat of failure is so real and the chance of success is so slim. Nobody wants to be the failed writer that has to tell everybody that the writing thing didn’t work out a few years down the line. I have gotten much more open about my writing over the years, but in many ways, it’s easier when I keep my writing dreams tucked safely away inside of myself.
But then those moments of hope come–you get a positive critique, you win an award, an agent wants to look at your manuscript–and the dreams explode out of their hiding spot in a heady rush. Self-doubt is pushed away for a few moments. There’s an actual chance that everything could happen for you.
I am working on finding a middle ground and finding the right place for my writing dreams to live. I don’t want to build up these moments of hope so high that it’s a steep fall when they don’t work out or they don’t lead where I thought they would. At the same time, I don’t want to push them down so deep that I disregard my writing dreams as immature fluff that could never happen to me. It’s tough to find the balance between doubt and belief, real-life and dreams.
What’s helped me is to think about the concrete things that I’ve done to work towards my writing dreams. I’m not just scratching down a few words in a Moleskine notebook and believing that it’s the stuff of literary legends. I’ve worked hard to hone my craft. Lots of people have invested in me, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning from other writers. I’ve written a book. period. full-stop. I’ve spent years revising the book. I’ve had multiple people read the book, who have assured me that I’m not delusional (at least when it comes to my writing!). Do I still have tons to learn? Yes, yes and yes. Is my book perfect? Certainly not. But, my writing dreams have substance. Hard work lives behind them. They aren’t really dreams anymore, they’re goals.
Let your dreams turn into goals. Think about real actions that can bring those dreams into reality. Want to get a book published? Start by writing a few paragraphs. What to get an agent? Start by taking that query writing workshop. These small actions might not feel like much, but one day, when the self-doubt sets in, you’ll have something to push back with and that could very well be an entire novel! Finally, one day you’ll experience one of those glorious moments of hope and realize that you’ve earned it.