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You Are Not Alone

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The following post is actually a blast from the past. On occasion, I look back and see how far I’ve come on this writing journey. Recently, I dug up this post—my first on the Ruby blog, and probably my first blog post ever—which I originally posted waaaaay back on October 6, 2009. That was before I was published, when I was still shopping my Golden Heart manuscript (which was published by Carina Press in September 2011.) I was shiny and new in so many ways, and have learned much on this journey, but I think the message of succeeding through perseverance and finding a supportive community is still relevant.

(And, as an update, I served 4 years as President of my local chapter and don’t regret a moment. During that time I sold three books. My two terms ended eight months ago, but during those years, I grew so much, and made lasting connections I treasure.)

*****

“Lions and tigers and bears!  Oh my!”  No doubt about it, the craft of writing and the world of publishing can be a scary business.  But…

You are not alone.

I can’t tell you how many times I have to remind myself of this.  Daily?  Actually, some days it’s hourly.  Yes, my friends, we’ve chosen a career fraught with rejection, self-doubt, downswings, and loneliness.  But as I travel farther down this yellow brick path – sometimes skipping happily along, and sometimes dragging my feet with every step – I’m meeting all kinds of people.  Their paths may be different, but they intersect or even – at times – run identical to my own.

I am not alone.

I discovered this when I became more involved in my local chapter, setting up a plotting group in my home so that I could get to know people on a more personal level and making friends that I know will always be there for me when I stumble.  I rediscovered this when I finaled in the Golden Heart and found a whole group of sisters I never knew I had.

So what do you do to counteract those down periods when you’ve received a rejection, are immersed – or drowning – in self-doubt, or just feeling isolated?  Just as Dorothy had her traveling companions on her journey, we have friends, critique partners, and organizations to help us out on ours.  So…. What would Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion say about the challenges along our path?

Scarecrow, my brainy friend, scratches his head and looks at the odds.  “There are a lot of writers out there.  But you won’t succeed if you don’t continue to submit.  Persistence is the key.”

“Yes, but how long must I persist?” I ask.  (Okay, it was more of a whine, but still…)

“As long as it takes,” he says simply, that drawn-on smile never faltering.  “You never know when your manuscript will land on the RIGHT desk at the RIGHT time.  In the meantime, keep developing your craft, editing your work, and sending it out.  And listen to your writing friends when they say, ‘Don’t give up!’”

Tin Man, my sensitive friend, smiles at me softly with a sympathetic tilt of his head.  “You have a lot to give as a writer.  It’s a calling, otherwise you’d be able to set it down and walk away.  Besides, you’re writing the book of your heart, right?”

“Psshaw,” I say, jaded.  “That was four manuscripts ago.  Now I’m searching for the book of my dream editor’s heart.”

“But there’s no way of knowing what that will be,” Tin Man points out, taking my hand as we continue down the yellow brick path.  “Don’t lose the love for your craft.  If you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, why do it?  And,” he adds, “I suggest you join a writers group, where you can give back to others.  There’s joy in that, and the passion of others is addictive.”

Tin Man was right.  It was in joining my local chapter, and stepping forward to be their president when they needed one, that I found deeper and lasting friendships and found a common passion.  I rediscovered the “heart” of romance writing.  And I started to enjoy my craft again.

“Cowardly Lion, I know you feel my pain,” I say to the next friend along my path.  “Every time I lick that envelope to send away a submission, my heart quakes.  Can I stand the rejection this time?”

He straightens to his full, furry height, hands on his hips and stares me down.  “You know the answer to that.  If you are rejected, you will survive.  You always do.  Be brave.”  He leans down and grins.  “Chocolate helps.  And friends do, too.”

And finally, there’s Toto.  Can’t forget him.  I carry him with me everywhere in my little basket, my constant reminder of the quiet love and comfort that’s waiting for me at home.  Not everyone has a Toto to turn to when times are scary and confusing.  When the people who should love and support you the most step on your dreams, who do you turn to?  It’s my hope that you’ll find a group of like-minded people – writers, critique partners, Ruby Sisters – or that you start one of your own.  Trust me, there are others out there like you, sometimes lost in Kansas, twisting in the wind and just looking for home.

You are not alone.

If you find yourself feeling alone, join your local RWA group (or if you already belong, volunteer for a position to become more active and get to know your fellow chapter mates).  Or, offer to help judge a writing contest.  Cruise the internet for writer resources or loops you can join.  Or, just take your writing with you and get out of your lonely surroundings and into a bustling coffee shop or library, where you can see that other people exist.

One of the best things I ever did was say “yes” when my local chapter asked me to be their next president.  Was I worried about the additional workload and the fact that I’d never (ever!) served on a board before, let alone as president?  Heck, yeah.  At the same time, I’d volunteered to help my online chapter with their annual contest.  I didn’t know what I was in for there, either.  But saying “yes” opened so many doors for me.  I’ve met so many amazing writers, discovered several new resources, and discovered I am not alone.  (And, if you happen to believe in karma, I must say that my career has grown by leaps and bounds this year – my first request for a full from an agent led to signing with that agent, and was followed soon after by a Golden Heart nomination and win.  I’ve been very blessed, and can’t help but wonder if what I put out into the universe is coming back to me in some way.)

You are not alone.  We are on this twisty, winding path together, and the emotions at the peaks and dips are universal.  Am I scared?  Yes. Thrilled?  Yes! Confused?  Oh, yeah, sometimes. But I’m still going forward, one step at a time, and I hope you are, too.

Are you feeling alone on your path?  Who (or what) have you encountered along the way that helps push you to take that next step when you need a gentle shove?  Tell me about your journey, and your traveling companions.

AnneMarieBeckerAnne Marie has always been fascinated by people—inside and out—which led to degrees in Biology, Chemistry, Psychology, and Counseling.  Her passion for understanding the human race is now satisfied by her roles as mother, wife, daughter, sister, and award-winning author of romantic suspense.
She writes to reclaim her sanity.
Anne Marie publishes the Mindhunters series with Carina Press and is currently hard at work on some new projects. Find ways to connect with her at www.AnneMarieBecker.com.

29 Responses to “You Are Not Alone”

  1. “Psshaw,” I say, jaded. “That was four manuscripts ago. Now I’m searching for the book of my dream editor’s heart.”

    Great post! THIS IS SO TRUE, Anne Marie. It’s one of the joys of indie publishing. I no longer have to write a story that fits into a niche. I made myself crazy trying to please acquiring editors for over ten years and was told by NY that they didn’t know how to market my work because SEXY and Home and Family don’t mix. I beg to differ. I have lots of readers who LOVE Sexy Home and Family stories.

    My advice to everyone is to write the book of your heart and reclaim the joy of writing.

  2. Another great post from the past. The message I heard was that the friendships you’ve made during your writer’s are journey priceless! I concur. My writer friends have held me up not only during times of literacy free fall, but also during the times life pulled the carpet out from under my feet. If I had never realized my dream of being published, I’d still be the richer in the most way because of this great community and my sisters.

  3. Kim Law says:

    I’m with Laurie…SEXY and home and family totally mix!!! :D

    Oh, but that’s not what this post is about is it? :) The post is about shoving people (or being shoved).

    Or I guess it’s about finding people along the path to walk along with :) I have to say that when I first started writing, even though I was a part of a local chapter, I felt so completely alone. For quite a while! I like your idea of opening your house for a plotting group. That’s great, and I’m sure it helped all of you in a number of ways. I have a local brainstorming group that just kind of formed after a few years of knowing each other, and yes, they are probably some of my hardest shovers (as I am with them). Along with my Rubies, of course. Rubies are always the best!

    I also tried an online chapter at one point, and joined another chapter a couple hours away. My theory was to spread myself around and see where I found people that clicked with me. Because though I have lots of writing friends, I find that those you really click with are the ones to help you most. And sometimes you have to look a while to find those people. I’m fortunate that I have a good handful of them now. It makes this path we all travel a lot more enjoyable along the way!

    • LOL – I definitely believe sexy can mix with home and family. And I like the idea of shopping around. I did that too. If someone’s going to shove (or drag) me down the publishing road, I’d like it to be someone I trust. ;)

  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    As y’all know it took me FOREVER to make my first sale — almost 3 decades between finishing the first novel and making that sale. During that time I had to help support the family and put kids through college so I had (and still have) a day job that is very competitive and fast paced.

    And let me say, when I screw up or suffer some kind of career set back in my day job there is not a single colleague who will console or encouraged me. Mostly colleagues run the other way when the crap flies. Colleagues have also been known to throw me under the bus. My day job is financially rewarding but emotionally crushing on a daily basis. Basically you need to have a big pair in order to survive.

    In sharp contrast, when I joined Washington Romance Writers in the late 1990s, I discovered an amazing group of people, some of whom became close friends, who never missed any opportunity to teach me, encouraged me, pick me up when I fell down, push me to greater things, and forgive me when I screwed up.

    This is not to say that publishing isn’t a tough business, or to deny that it’s a numbers game like any other corporate situation. But there is a different culture here. I don’t know if it’s because most romance authors are women or if it’s because so many romance authors are wise about matters of the heart.

    Whatever the reason, it just seems to me that although writing is a solitary activity, being a member of the Author Tribe is a comfort in ways I cannot fully express.

    • Maybe it’s because romance writers believe love is the most powerful force on earth, and that’s something to be shared, that we encourage each other so much? I don’t know but I love that about this career. I’m so glad you found support in that part of your life when it was lacking in the day job!

  5. Jenn! says:

    Wonderful post, Anne Marie, my witty friend. LOL! Love all the Oz references. And of course, I have to concur. Writing friends are muy importante. And persistence is always the key to Oz.

  6. Anne Marie, this is such a great post. I’m pretty sure without the support and advice of other romance writers, I never would have made it very far in this business. I made so many mistakes when I first started writing (and I still do), but there was always someone willing to pass along helpful hints. From contest judges to critique partners to editors and agents, so many people have taken time out of their busy schedules to scribble a few notes on my work. It meant so much to me at the time, and it helped me grow as a writer (and I hope as a person). I want to be like those I’ve encountered along the way…I want to give back in whatever way I can.

    We’re not alone. We belong. No matter how far away we might live, we can reach out and find other writers–and become part of a huge network of giving, intelligent people. Thanks again, Anne Marie, for the reminder!

    • Well said, Tina. I’m grateful that, in today’s world, we can reach across the miles and support each other so easily. I also believe in giving back. The most rewarding moments in my life came from volunteering to help others. Thanks for stopping by today! :)

  7. Tamara Hogan says:

    –> You are not alone.

    Great post, Anne Marie. Isn’t it interesting how, over time and as we gain some experience, the truth of this four-word phrase becomes increasingly evident? As we put ourselves and our work out there, we find people who’ve shared our experiences and who become our support networks.

    I think one of the many awesome things about this time in publishing is that more and more writers are banding together and sharing both information and experiences, without necessarily involving a publisher middleman. Instead of feeling small, stupid and alone, writers can reach reach out to others and say, flat-out, “I don’t get this. Can someone help?” “Is this a low-ball offer?” And people DO. And you learn who your trusted advisors are.

    I’d like to take this opportunity to make a huge shout-out to Marie Force and Courtney Milan, who share information, data, and experiences so selflessly.

    It’s a fabulous time to be a writer, because there are so many ways to get our words out into the world, and to build a career on our own timelines and terms. Whether following the traditional publication path, the indie path, or a hybrid approach, writers are more empowered in their careers than ever. This is too awesome for words.

  8. Shea Berkley says:

    I love the “you are not alone” theme of this blog. It’s something we need to shout because so many of us feel the crush of a writer’s life. It’s a very lonely job, so it’s important that we make time to connect with others. Thanks for the reminder, Anne Marie!

    • My pleasure, Shea. I had to remind myself again recently that I’m not alone. Got buried in edits and life stuff and forgot to take a deep breath and look around and realize that others are in the same boat. I’m not alone. :)

  9. June Love says:

    Anne Marie, your post gave me chills, and it even made my eyelids blink back a few burning tears. Okay, maybe my husband set the hotel room A/C to frigid, but burning tears are all on you and your post.

    Alone? I used to think so.

    I’m fortunate to have learned about my local chapter after finishing my first book. They welcomed me into their small group with an offering of help, guidance, and opportunity. Of course, I was new blood, so yes, I’ve served every position on the board. Did I say “small” group? It was both a learning and growing experience.

    I’m most thankful for the encouragement and prodding of some dear chapter mates who encouraged me to enter the GH. Being a 2009 finalist landed into another group. One I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. The Rubies are great listeners, awesome teachers, and best of friends.

    Alone? No. Never again. :-)

    Thank you, Anne Marie, for this post. It was a reminder to me to be thankful for all that I do have.

    • June, sending big hugs..and maybe a warm blanket? :) Your local chapter sounds like mine, which is why I served 4 years as president with no previous board experience. I learned so, so much – about writing, running a group, and about each of my chapter-mates. The last item was the most rewarding. I love, love, love seeing each of my friends on their journeys, and living vicariously through them, just as much as my own successes.

  10. Rita Henuber says:

    “As long as it takes” is my quote of the day.
    Thanks for reposting.

  11. Elisa Beatty says:

    Lovely to see this post again, Anne Marie–especially since you’ve come so far since then!

    I’ve heard numerous people tell similar stories about agreeing to serve on their chapter’s board and then breaking through into publishing. There’s something about giving of yourself and connecting with people that can take you to the next level. Always good to reach out!

    • Whether it’s good karma, or whatever, I agree! In fact, the new president of my local chapter just got a publishing contract. Of course, talent has something to do with it, but putting yourself out there does, too, I think. :)

  12. Kate Parker says:

    Yep, one foot in front of the other. Look how far that philosophy has taken you in the last four years. Great to see this one again, Anne Marie.

  13. Gwyn says:

    I’m looking at this, realizing how far we’ve come as a sisterhood, and blinking back tears. I can’t count the number of times my Rubies or other writing friends have lifted me when I stumbled. It’s a blessing beyond price, more precious than rubies, perhaps, but not more precious than MY Rubies.

  14. Thank you for re-posting this, Anne Marie. There was a time earlier this year where I *did* think I was all alone in a troublesome situation. When I finally was able to talk about it but the Ruby Sisters reached out from halfway across the globe and lifted me up. I’ll never forget the generosity and kind words. Thanks, Rubies!

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