Monday, November 21, 2011

A Fire, Fueled

What are you thankful for?

As a child, I couldn’t stand that question. Not that I wasn’t thankful for things. I was. Like puppies and swimming pools and then as a teenager my car and pager (that makes me sound old, doesn’t it?). But I didn’t like that question because no one ever had the decency to ask me in private. It was always in front of a tableful of people—adults—and for an introvert like me, well, it was just uncomfortable.

I’ve outgrown my awkward shyness, sort of, (okay, really, I’ve just learned how to pretend I’m not) and now as I think about what I’m thankful for in my writing career, I keep coming back to one thing. Rejection.

No, really.

Why? Well, because without it I would still be this shoddy writer who litters her conflictless plot with adjectives and dialogue tags and flat characters. Reading my first manuscript was about as painful as watching a worm inch across the sidewalk in the scorching sun and how could someone not reject it!

Of course, at the time, the rejections stung and I cried over them, got angry over them, moped over them, but we writers possess something extraordinary: Passion. (If I was clever, I’d relate this to Thanksgiving and call it a “hunger,” but whatever.)

What else would provoke us to get up at the wee hours of the morning to sit on a couch, staring at a computer screen until every bone and muscle in our bodies ache? What else would tempt us to expend hundreds of dollars on a day nervously pitching our stories to agents (haven’t done this one; introvert, remember?) Why would we want to subject ourselves and our work to such criticism?

Because that’s what fuels our fire.

It’s there, inside of all of you. An interminable hazy glow that grows brighter when inspiration hits you or you write a scene that makes you laugh, but for each of us one thing will fuel that fire like a douse of gasoline. For me, it’s rejection.

I am a fighter.

And I don’t mean I challenge an agent or editor who’s turned down my work (though my husband is convinced that would be quite entertaining). I mean I fight within myself. Fight to become better than “not good enough.” Fight to become great.

So what are you thankful for? What has fueled your fire?


  1. Grateful for the incredible support I’ve had along the way, especially from my mom who started buying spiral notebooks for me to fill up with my stories when I was in elementary school.

  2. This is so true. Rejections fire me up to do better. I could have started querying my book back in June, but I wanted to make sure my book was as kick ass as it could be, and studied everything I could, took every opportunity I could, just to make my ms stronger. I guess I'll see if it paid off when I start querying in the next month or two.