Friday, October 23, 2015

It Gets Better

Trauma. Heartbreak. Pain.
Joy. Forgiveness. Letting go.

When I started this blog back in 2009, I was preparing to move back to the States from England, and I was scared. I didn't want to come back—I was happy where I was. So I focused all my energy on a manuscript I was writing at the time, trying to forget all the change that was happening around me. I was writing what I thought could be a groundbreaking concept in the YA world. Something new. Fresh. Exhilarating. I had been a writer for a long time, but for the first time, I was writing with the intention to sell.

And I believed myself to be a good writer. Actually, I was. I was. But I had so much to learn yet. For one thing, my oh so new, oh so fresh concept of a kickass angel romance was hardly novel. Had I bothered to check sales announcements—if I'd even known Publisher's Marketplace existed—I would've seen all the recent angel book sales. (May I point you to my wild-eyed post about this belated discovery: Angels Are Falling WTF.) I was ignorant, of course, as all writers are when dipping their toes into publishing. And while I recognized my ignorance to a large degree, I really had no idea how little I knew, that I was virtually an infant. I suppose because I had studied creative writing, had developed such a large body of work up until that point, I believed that this would be enough. That this gave me some sort of profound wisdom, an edge in the world of publishing.

Try not to laugh.

I wouldn't say it made me foolish. Just an infant. Naïve. Okay, foolish.

But I figured it out eventually. As soon as you learn something, you learn how hard you didn't know it before. And this, over and over, I learned.

Eventually though, you get sort of wise. While you never get used to rejection, never ever never, you get so that the processes feel rote, almost natural. Things you used to complain about you come to shrug about—it is what it is. All the information you seek online starts to feel borrowed and reused. Agents and editors you've followed start reposting old blog posts, because how many ways can you keep saying the same things? You start to realize that a lot of new agents aren't really any more informed than you are and are less experienced. You come to realize that you're no longer learning about the process, but teaching others. You get so that going to a writers conference is more about seeing old friends (and if you're very lucky, making new contacts) than learning something new, and after a while, even that gets tiresome, because everyone is tired, jokes are recycled, and the same publishing issues remain, as always, an issue.

You get to a point where it feels like you're starting to stagnate in this business, where it seems growth has come to a screeching halt, and where publishing, despite the constant flux of the market, seems to never actually evolve.

In the midst of this wisdom acquisition and stagnation, however, I stopped writing. After a series of . . . losses (trauma? shit?), I—I don't know, I suffered, I guess. And lost even my writing, the one thing that had once sustained me in the worst of times. Take the world from me, but in losing my writing, I had lost the ability to comfort myself, and all that I had written seemed worthless and wasted without the ability to move forward. For a while, I was angry. Really angry. At the world, at myself, at everything that hurt. All this knowledge I had, this experience I'd accumulated, hours and hours spent writing, editing, querying, submitting, conferencing, social media-ing, schmoozing, worrying—and after years, it had all amounted to nothing. I slipped away from publishing, from social media, from myself.

But one day, I just started writing again. A sentence here. A month later, another. A paragraph or two here and there. And then one day, I'd completed a chapter. And so it goes. I am not the writer I once was, not nearly as fast or as prolific. But I am remarkably better. Much, much better.

And I say this without any intended boastfulness. It is what it is. Even in the midst of stagnation, we can grow inwardly. In the midst of great loss, we can and do evolve. My world view and my understanding of humanity has slowly transformed, growing, and somehow in this—in grief, in grasping for joy—my grasp of language has grown stronger. And as I return to writing, slowly, steadily, achingly, I begin to understand how much better I am than I was, and how much better I can be.

Publishing may not really evolve. But . . . life does.

And you. You evolve.

Trauma. Heartbreak. Pain.
Joy. Forgiveness. Letting go.

These things change you. Afterward, you will never be who you were. And neither will your writing. You both get better, stronger.