When The Hits Come
If a new song soars to the top of the bestseller charts, we call it a "hit." It's not the type of hit that I'm writing about in this entry on The Writing Life.
Currently football season is in full swing. When they snap the ball, the defensive linemen attempt to sack the quarterback and prevent him from passing the football. If they break through the offense and tackle the quarterback, with the intensity of the game in professional football, this quarterback will take a "hit." Then everyone waits to see if the quarterback can summon the strength and will power to stand back up and continue playing the game. Yes, he has been shaken but did it knock him out of the game?
While it isn't physical, the same sort of hits happen in the writing world. You have a connection with a particular editor and get an assignment, then something goes wrong some place. Maybe the person you are interviewing doesn't give you enough time. Or maybe you didn't put enough creativity and energy into the writing from the subjective editor's view. Or a dozen other things block the successful completion of that magazine article. Instead of payment and a printed article, you are sent a kill fee or you receive absolutely no compensation from it. You take an emotional hit.
Or you hold a book contract with a publisher. During the process of this contract, the publisher has a change of editors and others in charge of your project. This new group of editors don't like your book proposal or your book idea. It simply doesn't fit the new plans of the publishing house so they cancel your book. You get another hit.
The publishing world is full of these types of experiences. I was reflecting on some of the ones that I've had during the past few months. As I listen to other authors, editors and literary agents, I've understood that no one is immune from taking a hit.
Your hit may not relate directly to your writing life but it may be something else which affects your writing. For example, you have an ill spouse or an elderly parent who requires your undivided attention and takes away time from a writing project. There are many different variables that I could change in these hits but they come into our lives. You know your own hits.
Here's the critical question when you are hit: Do you have the strength and will power to continue ahead with your dreams? Or do they carry you off the field and you quit your involvement in the world of publishing? It's a choice to leave and some people determine they can't face the rejection or can't handle the uncertainty or whatever other reason. I've seen a number of literary agents, authors and editors pack it up and leave the business when they have been hit.
My encouragement to you is on several fronts. First, before you have a hit, determine that you will keep on in the publishing community. This decision will carry you ahead no matter what comes into your life. Second, make the daily determination to continue growing in your craft and learning about the business of publishing. Each element is important for your own personal growth. You need to keep growing in the craft of writing and you need to continue to understand the business aspects of publishing.
No one said that it would be easy or simple or without difficulty. Over twenty-two years ago, I had a small son who was in the hospital and fighting for his life. Our emotional pain as a family was at a very high level. I had written a query for a magazine article on listening through the Bible. If you listen to the Bible for 20 minutes a day, you can cover the entire text of the Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation in four months. Numerous publications rejected my query on this idea.
Then out of the blue, I received a call from a publication which had rejected my query. They had a new managing editor who was sorting through old queries. My idea caught her attention so she picked up the phone and asked me if I could write the article for their January issue. I explained that my youngest son was in the hospital but I would meet her deadline. Listening Through the Bible has been one of my most popular evergreen reprints.
Finally if you get a chance, check out my interview which was posted on HowToTellAGreatStory.com. It's another opportunity to learn and grow--and get prepared for those future hits.