Have I Made My Million Mistakes Yet?

Let’s pretend you are going on a hike up a mountain. It’s very important to you to succeed. You know it’s going to be a difficult and steep climb, but you believe you are up to the task, and so you set off with confidence. The path is steep, but it’s only one mile to the top, and you know you can make it.

It turns out the path is much steeper than you thought, and overgrown with vines and blocked by fallen logs, but you keep going. Finally you think you must be almost there, but when you check your GPS you find that you are only at the halfway point. Still, that means only half a mile left to go, and there is plenty of daylight left.

If you thought the first half of the distance was difficult, you were wrong, because now it’s so much harder, and you’re no longer fresh. The sun is low in the sky when you again pause, thinking you are just about at the summit. Nope. You have again halved the distance, which means you only have one quarter of a mile to go. On level ground, this would be an easy five-minute walk.

You set off again even though you are weary and you now have to carve out each step with your pickaxe. You put your all into the effort to reach the summit, even as you realize you will be coming down in the dark. When you are at the end of your strength, you check your location again, only to find that you still have an eighth of a mile left.

You begin to think that the mountain is playing tricks on you. Every time you put forth effort to reach the summit, you get halfway from where you started off. If this trend continues, you will still be one-sixteenth of a mile from the top next time you stop. After that it will be one-thirty-second, and so on. You will be getting closer to the top, theoretically, but you will never actually reach it, because the distance can always be halved again, and at some point the distance from your destination will be so infinitesimally small that you no longer have any meaningful understanding of how far away it is—just that it is out of reach.

This is what it’s like to try and get published, if you’re an unknown and don’t have any connections in the industry, and if you are extraordinarily stupid and slow to learn, which seems to be the case with me. After ten years of effort, you know you’re a lot closer, but you begin to suspect that you will never, ever, be close enough. It is disheartening, to say the least. And of course, when it comes to publishing, there is no GPS to tell you how close you are. You never actually know. There is no way to find out. You hope and assume you are getting closer, but there is no proof and no reward for “almost” making it.

Furthermore, when you’re my age, you start to wonder if you’ve even got ten more years left in which to continue failing.

So yes, in case you haven’t guessed, I got rejected again this week. I’ve had my day of mourning. (I give myself one day to sob and moan, and one day only.) In this case, once I had achieved some level of equilibrium and reread the rejection, I felt that it was not as harsh as I feared at first. What made it hard was that the primary complaint about my manuscript was that I had failed at something I actually thought I was rather good at. *sigh*

However, I also got some great feedback and perceptive comments on my manuscript, which are thought-provoking and I believe will lead to improvements in the story before I send it out again. I am glad, if I had to get rejected, that it happened now when I still have two full months before my next writers conference. I’ve got time to do some revising and deciding which projects I should pitch.


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