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Thoughts from the Top of the Wrong Heap

Okay, okay – there’s nothing particularly wrong with this heap. It’s just that I didn’t expect to still be here.

I’m the last “Featured Author” left from the original crew that kicked off NAF back in early 2010. The rest have moved on to the Land of Perpetual Cheesecake or on to other projects. I alone remain…but hey, we have 5 published alumni in two years! Great odds for sure. Better than I think most of us expected.

And yet, for the one(s) left behind after so long, the question of “Why not me?” is bitterly tempting. I can empathize with a song from a musical called The Garden where a small seed wonders why she hasn’t grown, although mine is but a taste. This isn’t a sudden occurrence or new thoughts. I have watched it happen slowly but surely and thought long and hard about what it all means to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. I’ve got it good here and I know it. Not to mention that I’m far from alone. Though the faces have changed, I’m still surrounded by wonderful, kind and talented creators. I have a safe environment to try new things and it’s okay if they don’t work. I draw encouragement and support from my friends here – readers as well as fellow writers. This place has been priceless, and I now have more and more opportunities to lead out and help the newbies.

Like I said, I know I have it good.

But I envisioned myself published years ago.

I have written, rewritten, trashed whole drafts, written and rewritten again. I have tripped through online and local critique groups and filled my digital trash bin with dozens of drafts of blurbs, query letters and synopsizes. Life seems an endless cycle of praises and slaughters. Just when you think you’re getting close, someone else comes along and redlines so much and then happily compliments you on a “nice start”.

After a while, sometimes… it stings. I don’t want to have a good “start”, I want to be seeing the end of the tunnel!

I know the fault is partly mine. Some could easily say I’m just not trying hard enough.

In the last couple years, I’ve only done a couple actual submissions.  Granted, turnaround can take a while, but Secrets of the Dragon Seal (aka Hall of Masters) has lingered on my desk for months at a time. Plus, although I’ve started many stories – long and short – most are partial drafts still waiting for completion.

What can I say? As a homeschooling Mother of five, and currently an extra 2-year-old to boot, actual writing time is sparse, highly contested and focusing can be iffy.

For the last month or more I think I’ve been edging on burn-out. I’ve picked at numerous projects while ideas for serious revisions simmer in my mind, calling me back to stories I’ve already sunk years into. I’m not afraid of doing what it takes. I’ve overhauled my books before and I can do it again if I need to. I’m not afraid of the work.

I’m afraid of spinning my wheels and never getting anywhere. Sometimes too much revision can do more harm than good. And yet I’m the type that knows all too well that there’s room for improvement. I’m still learning, still growing.

I read books where even though I enjoy the story, I can’t help but sigh and wonder how good it could have been if it had been tightened up a little bit longer. I think I fear that outcome even more than the endless revisions.

Some say “Go to a Conference!” or “Get some short stuff polished up” or dozens of other voices of advice. Unfortunately I can easily see value in all of it. I also see the costs. Not just money, but of time, resources and focus.

In the end, I accept that at the moment, God wants me here. I must believe it, or destroy myself from within with doubt. And so, as nice as cheesecake sounds, here I am, and here I’ll stay until God grants that the time is right. I will be patient and enjoy the place I’m at, for I know His timing is perfect and takes all into consideration.

However – I have no intention of sitting around waiting. I believe in the value of what I’m doing here. I believe in the value of my writing. Although there are lots of things that I can’t change or do right now, there is plenty that I can do.

I can cheer on those around me – no matter their “stage” in relation to me. I can help celebrate their successes. Unlike some seem to fear, it won’t detract from my own successes (no matter when or size). In fact, I find that celebrating with those around you only magnifies my ability to enjoy my own successes.

I can also resist the temptation to resent the other callings in my life that sometimes seem to crowd out my writing time. Perhaps even more valuable than purely refining craft, these things in my life help me to grow as a person and understanding of people. As I become the person God wants me to be, I believe He will help me re-envision my stories ever closer to their true potential.

I think the “becoming” step is hard and so often forgotten in our anxiousness to “do” or have. Perhaps my lingering here has far more to do with me than the quality of my work. For although God wants me to succeed in my dreams, I am far more precious to Him. So while I’m fighting to revise a book, He is refining a soul.

And a soul’s growth is eternal.

About Ren Black

Part-time novelist. Weekend artist. Full-time Mother. Ex-poet. Perfectionist by training. Compulsive researcher sporadically. Prone to fits of linguistic commentary Unorthodox Renegade occasionally. Sarcastic by habit... Dreamer Always... Consider Yourself Warned

10 comments on “Thoughts from the Top of the Wrong Heap

  1. Excellent thoughts here, Ren. Sounds like you have an excellent perspective on hanging in there. This publishing game is all about waiting, in every phase, and I believe it’s those who wait with grace who survive.

    The fact that you are writing anything while homeschooling 5 is miraculous in itself. I applaud you. Your time will come. And the cheesecake will be ready. 🙂

  2. Homeschooling 5?? It’s a wonder you have the mental energy to write anything! My hat is heartily off to you.

    Your time will free up. As the lady on the Like Mother, Like Daughter blog says, you’re still in the first decade. When you get to the second decade, things change. They get easier. I’m still in the first decade, myself, and looking forward to that second one. Although, by that point, I’ll probably switch to juvenile fiction to amuse the munchkins. There’s no feedback like the impertinent comments youngsters make when you’re reading aloud to them. 🙂

    • lol, I bet. I look forward to those coming years – though I have learned not to hold my breath either. I’ve had some suggest that I should put writing on hold for a while, but I just can’t. I’ve watched friends “retire” but still remain pretty busy. Besides, there’s so much to learn (not even the time it takes to actually write) and I’m so stubborn…

      So Kessie, how many do you have? And what are their ages? I’ve got a mix of 2 boys and 3 girls with the oldest being 8. Have you found any ways to sneak writing in?

  3. Very encouraging. I’m in a similar place where, as a teacher, I have precious little time to do anything else but deal with lesson plans. Sometimes I wonder why God put me in this job. However, His plans are always good! Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks. I glad you found encouragement in it. I know teachers are busy. It’s such an important thing and can take so much creative energy by itself. Good luck.

  4. Ah, Little Sister. You should have gone before me. I know that and I am so sorry. I love you and know you have bright things coming. ❤

    • What?? You kidding me! You run with it girl! You’ve more than earned your cheesecake and Ocilla will do well. I’ve been telling you for months to hie yourself to the Alumni so I could be the top dog! I’m thrilled that you finally got it.

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