This is a completely mock-worthy anecdote I’m about to tell. Unless you’re a Star Trek fan, in which case it’s totally serious and inspirational.
Here we go.
Five years ago two things happened: I started querying my first YA novel and the Star Trek reboot came out. I know these two things don't seem related, but, believe me, I'm gonna make it work.
A little back story here, which I’ve discussed on my blog and elsewhere: I quit writing for several years because of, well, the usual stuff. Rejection and heartache and I just couldn’t take it anymore. But I came back to it after a great deal of soul-searching, and I made this simple promise to myself: I’m not going to give up this time.
So, back to that Star Trek movie. Here’s the tie-in. Me and the kiddies stopped for lunch during some tiresome slog up the I-95 corridor, and we got lunch at McDonald’s or Burger King, and in the kid's meal, came one of these Star Trek action figures.
|I still have this on my desk. Five years later.|
Yes, that’s Scotty the Engineer. And when you push the little button on his back he shouts, “I’m givin’ it all she’s got, Captain!”
I saw the movie, and I loved the movie, even though I was prepared to be all grumpy about it because I’m a Star Trek purist from way back.
May, 2009 is when I did the bulk of my querying on that first novel (that ultimately didn't sell), and I did that thing that people recommend. You know, I set up a dedicated email address just for queries and writing-related stuff. The upshot of this was that every time that I saw a (1) in my dedicated query/writing mailbox, I sort of pooped my pants a little. Actually, it went like this: see unread message, pants poop, hope, TERROR, more hope.
Naturally and predictably, I was like a hyperactive prairie dog, sticking my head up into my inbox every ten seconds all day, every day, sniffing for email.
I’m sure you feel me here.
It came to pass that by early June I luckily had several requests for my full manuscript plus a few requests for partials, and there were a slew of queries that were still hanging out there.
It was a hopeful, hopeful time and thus, I was extremely hopeful. Like this.
Welp, I don’t know what happened but somehow—and I still don’t know how I did this—my dedicated query/writing email address wasn’t dumping into my “master” inbox. But I didn't know it at the time so weeks and weeks went by, and I heard nothing back but I thought, well, that's the way it goes, right? These things take time. I figured I just had to be patient.
And though I would have much preferred to DIE ... instead I waited.
After about, oh, three weeks or a month, I finally thought, hmm, how strange. I hadn’t gotten any email at all at this query/writing address in awhile. Not even passes or whatever. It finally occurred to me that maybe something was up technologically so I went into the separate server where that mail was going, and there it all was. Two agents had passed on my full, another agent with my partial passed on that. All those queries -- passes. Everything that was outstanding was now instanding, and it was all bad news.
Every single one of my hopes was thoroughly dashed, and I didn’t even get it in dribs and drabs. Nope, it was just BOOM. BADNESS EXPLOSION.
Pretty much like this.
I think that moment ranks up there with the lowest of all the low ebbs of my writing career, and what made it worse was that I had only just gotten back on the horse, so to speak. After quitting writing, I’d started up again even after all I’d been through (ie., previous, epic loads of crushing disappointment). I was so, so fragile and hopeful and I'd finally worked up the courage to get back out there and this happens.
(Approximation of my world view at that particular moment.)
So there I was, sitting at my desk, and after I forced my way through all those rejections, pretty much with the taste of vomit still in my mouth, I don’t know why, but I reached over and picked up that Scotty the Engineer action figure. As I did, I accidentally depressed the button on the back, and it shouted, “I’m givin’ it all she’s got, Captain!”
And I laughed in that bleak, "all is lost" kind of way, but somehow I knew that I was going to be OK. I wasn’t going to give up. Even though it hurt like hell.
That’s the writing life. It’s never going to change so I knew I had to.
And I’m still givin’ it all she's got, Captain. Because there ain't no other way to write. It really is just that simple.