Write Like Nobody's Reading
I finished my book proposal for The Skeleton Club in January and sent it to a handful of literary agents. A week later, I gave birth to my son. I'd wanted to get the book proposal done before the baby came; I knew I wouldn't have time to work on it with a newborn and a toddler in the house.
But that wasn't the only reason I wanted to finish the book proposal. I also secretly hoped to spend my maternity leave fielding emails from agents, weighing their feedback and comparing contracts. I knew I had a hard couple of months ahead of me, with sleep deprivation and sibling rivalries to exacerbate my already anxious temperament.
Maybe, I thought, some good news will bring a spot of light to an otherwise dark winter.
I expected rejections. I didn't expect the long, deafening silence that followed. While nursing the baby, patting the baby, rocking the baby to sleep, I kept checking my email for a response that never came.
Rejection never feels good. But silence feels even worse. It's hard not to assume that your work has been deemed unworthy of acknowledgement; so inferior it didn't even warrant a reply.
"Don't give up," my husband said.
And I don't intend to. But it's hard not to get discouraged.
History contains many examples of artists, writers and other creatives who faced rejection. Beatrix Potter self-published "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" after five years of rejections. Herman Melville's novel "Moby Dick" was an initial flop. Van Gogh sold a single painting in his lifetime.
These examples are encouraging because they end with success. But countless more creatives work their entire lives and never achieve a small fraction of this fame.
And that? That's depressing. Not because we're money-hungry hustlers or attention-starved narcissists. It's because sharing our creative work with a receptive audience affirms our passion and brings us joy.
So. I still have lots of work to do on "The Skeleton Club." I might revise my cover letter. Revisit the overview section. And that's OK. Because as this video so eloquently reminded me, the work itself makes me happy. The capturing of words on paper, the careful study of beautiful prose--these things deepen my appreciation for the world. They bring me satisfaction in a way nothing else can.
Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in "Letters to a Young Poet:"
“In the deepest hour of the night, confess to yourself that you would die if you were forbidden to write. And look deep into your heart where it spreads its roots, the answer, and ask yourself, must I write?”
Yes, indeed. And I trust that one day my words will reach their perfect audience.