The Dark Days
Originally published February 28, 2019
In the days of social media, most of us have fallen into the habit of sharing life’s joyous or triumphant moments. Vacations, anniversaries, birthdays, accomplishments, time spent with friends and even our cute pets. It’s so easy to scroll through the various social media platforms and think that everyone has their lives together. And, that their lives are full of happiness and perhaps more joy than our own.
What is shared much less often, is reality. The truth about the hard days we all face, whether it be from broken hearts, shattered dreams, the monotony of everyday life, disappointments and regret. It’s easy to lock that part of life away, keeping it hidden from the rest of the world, because those moments make us vulnerable.
But, we all have them! Regardless of the smiling faces we see on social media, everyone has hidden pain and struggles they’re facing.
This has weighed heavily on my mind lately because so many good, positive things are happening in my life, with my writing, right now. I have been sharing so much about the ups and the view from the mountaintop I’m now on, but, I don’t know that others realize the valleys I went through to get to this view.
I value honesty and being real so I wanted to share a bit about what I refer to as The Dark Days of Writing.
I’ve alluded to some of my journey in earlier posts but want to go into more detail here. I know when I was in my dark days, envy would easily creep in when I saw positive things happening for those around me. I’d be happy for the person, on one hand, but would also question why not me?
I wrote my first novel about 12 years ago. Prior to that I had written several children’s books and articles that I tried to submit to magazines. I received rejection after rejection on those projects. Then, I poured my heart, soul and hope into my first novel. I had some positive things happen on that journey and believed with all of my heart that an agent or publisher would pick it up. But, they didn’t. Instead I got so many rejections that, to be honest, I stopped keeping track. Some were accompanied with words of encouragement about my writing but many were standard rejections. Each one broke my heart a little more and made me question whether or not writing was a path I was meant to pursue.
One mistake I made during that time was I didn’t start working on another project. I wanted something to happen with my first book before I invested time and energy into writing another. I know that was a bad decision but it was where I was at the time. So, I got a rejection and would send out another query. Another rejection, another query. And on and on it went for about a year. Each rejection provided fuel for the voice in my head to shout louder telling me how awful my writing was and that I would never be published.
Finally, I put that first book aside, stopped querying and poured all of my efforts and energies into my second book, Bits & Pieces. It was a completely different genre than my first novel. It had a unique premise and was full of suspense, twists and turns. I thought for sure, this was going to be the book that finally got me an agent or publisher.
So, I started the querying process over again. Guess what? I got rejection after rejection after rejection. This time, however, there were very few words of encouragement attached to the rejections, rather just a standard “sorry, this is not what I’m looking for” type of response. I queried for two long years and got rejected over and over again for two long years.
I fell into despair. I tried to write another book while I was querying but the words wouldn’t come. I had zero motivation to write because the voices of my Imposter Syndrome were shouting so loudly at me telling me that writing was a waste of my time; I’d never amount to anything as a writer; my writing was horrible. Those voices were so loud that I couldn’t put words on paper because I was terrified. Terrified of more disappointment, of building hope again and having it dashed, of letting myself and others down.
Every time I’d receive another rejection, it was like a knife straight through my heart. In the beginning of the querying process, I was able to counter my negative thinking with positive self-talk. I’d remind myself that every no was one step closer to my yes. That it only took one yes to achieve my dream. That even the best, most popular writers received rejections.
But, the positive self-talk only got me so far. I stopped even trying to tell myself it would be okay because I didn’t believe it would be. I honestly believed it would never happen for me and at some point, I think I kept querying because I’m a glutton for punishment. In the height of my despair, I wouldn’t even share with my closest family and friends about the rejections I received because I was convinced they would be even more disappointed in me than I was in myself. Or, even worse, that perhaps they already knew on some level that my writing sucked and I’d never get published. I felt like such a fraud.
I can’t tell you how many times I broke down in tears talking to my husband and saying I wanted to give up, that I’d been chasing a silly dream and it was time for me to get my head out of the clouds and face reality. He’d encourage me to keep writing, keep querying and keep trying, saying he believed in me. He said the right words but I couldn’t hear them or rather, I didn’t believe them. The rejections and Imposter Syndrome spoke so much louder.
To deepen my despair, I also had to stop working during this time because of my health. I felt like I had no purpose in life. It seemed like everyone around me had goals, dreams and a purpose. But, not me. I felt alone, scared, depressed and anxious all the time. My failures were constantly running on a loop in my mind. It was one of the darkest periods of my life.
As a last ditch effort, at the advice of a friend, I joined Twitter and found the Writing Community there. At first I didn’t make personal connections with others rather I just observed from the sidelines. Within a month of joining, I entered two different pitch contests and found my publisher, Ant Colony Press, through #adpit.
I share so much about the good things happening now with my writing and I absolutely love the view from this mountaintop I’m on. But, I want others to know, I remember the valley. I remember how lonely, dark and scary it feels. I remember the heart-wrenching despair and the soul-crushing doubts. I want other writers who feel like giving up to know that I see their pain and I know their struggle. Yes, things are going well for me right this minute, but I had to go through hell to get to this point. I want other writers who are currently in that hell, to know they’re not alone.
I am so thankful to everyone who celebrates with me as I continue on this journey. I appreciate the friendships and community I’ve made along the way. But, I never want to pretend that I got here without heartbreak, despair, grief, tears, and hopelessness. I want others to realize I had to fight so hard to get to this point. When I share a positive piece of my journey and make a comment like, “this is a dream come true”, or “I can’t believe this is happening”, please know those aren’t just words. They are 100% true. It feels like I’m living a dream. One that’s been a lifetime in the making.
For those of you in your dark days of writing, I see you. You’re not alone. I remember.