Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thoughtful About . . . Stalled Dreams

A Favor by Edmund Blair Leighton
I've always liked August. It holds my birthday, after all, and has traditionally had lots of other fun things going on. But on the other hand, it's the end of summer. The start of school. For any household with kids, August signals a change in seasons, even though the heat of summer's still upon us.

This year, when the page in the calendar flipped, it kinda got to me. I looked down at the project that had been my primary goal, and I see that it's not all that far along. And that feeling of failure swamped me. That feeling of What have I been doing? How have I wasted my time?

Then I remember that I haven't been twiddling my thumbs. I've been editing a lot, which is great and necessary. I wrote a novella that I'm excited to get to use for promotion between the first two books of the Culper Ring Series. And I got a good chunk done on another project.

A project that got stalled, perhaps even nixed for good. Which thought still brings me a pang.

I'm a writer--I know rejection well. I've had to put aside countless projects over the years. But for some reason, this one still gets me down now and then. Primarily, I think, because it's intertwined with a couple other projects in my mind, which have also been stalled. Put on hold. Which they've been on so long that they've gone from "paused" to "stop."

I'm not sure I can really explain this echoey sigh that fills me when I think about these things lately. I can see where the way things have fallen out is without doubt for the best. I can see that the Lord has His plan in it and have to nod at the wisdom. 

But still there's just this sense of loss. Lost dreams. Lost time spent on them when I could have been working on the project that's a sure thing.

I have to trust there, though, too, don't I? Trust that that time spent was for a purpose too. That it wasn't wasted.

The funny thing is that I have no problem looking at the years spent on that pile of books in my computer that are unpublished and give them a thumb's up. Because I learned from them, because they made me who I am, because I still hope that some of them will have their day. So why can't I look at the month and a half spent on these projects the same way?

I'm really not sure, but it's something I've been giving to the Lord again and again. And again, and again, I have to remind myself that I haven't failed. That I'm doing just fine, thank you very much, on my primary project.

With mere weeks left in my "free" time this summer--or at least before the home school year starts--I can't help but number my days and try to figure out how to catch up with where I wanted to be. But the real task here isn't to write a chapter a day and edit two books for WhiteFire. The real task is to lay these stalled dreams on the alter and trust. Trust that lost dreams and lost time and lost motivation are all part of God's plan for me to find something better. To find His path for me. To find Him in new ways.

It's hard, when those echoey sighs billow through me. But then . . . trust always is.


  1. It is sad to see projects that you just wanted so much so suceed come toa halt. To realize that they may not work out. The ones you just really want to work. It can be so hard to trust in His purpose in everything.

  2. My b-day is in July and it tests to make me look at things, too. This year was hard bc like you said I feel so stalled. I thought things were going to be different and like you said I push a lot of that angst & frustration of other stalling areas in one- my writing. I something I've been trying to work on and has to be given up constantly. Especially since I know writing is one of the most wait-riddled careers.

    Did you ever struggle with the fact that you are going to have to write books that won't be published? You said above that you can give some half finshihed ones a thumbs up bc they've helped you but that's what gets me I want to be published so if I feel like something I'm writing isn't publishable I want to toss it. Does that make sense? It's hard to feel like your accomplishing something beneficial when you know it's going to sit in a file on your computer.

    1. Publishing is indeed wait-riddled!

      Honestly, when I first started writing, it didn't occur to me that things wouldn't get published. I knew it might take a while, but I just kept on writing while I was waiting to hear back on queries, so by the time one book had fizzled out, I was excited about the next. And in college, I really didn't even try very hard for publication--it was enough to write.

      There have definitely been times when I looked at that growing stack of completed MSS and wondered what, if anything, would ever find a home. And yeah, it's still disappointing to realize that I have over 20 completed books, but most of them aren't good enough to try to sell.

      But you know, if you were a runner, you wouldn't view the practice as wasted just because there were no trophies at the end, right? Those projects that we learn on are necessary. And even if we feel like tossing them, that doesn't mean they won't get their shot one day. I've revamped quite a few of my old, unpublishable manuscripts and turned those good-idea-but-poor-execution stories into sellable books. The writing might not have been worth salvaging, but the characters were, or the plot.

      Yes, sometimes it can be depressing to look at that file. But I've always been a write-more kind of person, always eager for the next project, so it hasn't bothered me as much as it has some of my friends who finish a project and then focus on selling it, LOL. My theory has always been that if A doesn't click with an editor, maybe B will.

    2. How many books did you write before you started submitting?
      Thats something I've been thinking about in terms of stalling/waiting. I'm editing mymfirst complete MS & its easy to want to query & be like "I'm a writer, I'm trying to sell a book" but I'm very green. It's hard to wait but I'm wondering if I took a much more calculated approach in having at least two complete & edited MS's and maybe some other marketing type things before I even step into trying to get an agent or book sold. It's much more calculated & would appear longer but I can't help but wonder if itd wiser & would save some heart ache?!

    3. That's a great question to be asking yourself, Tonya. I was 14 when I'd edited my first book and immediately sent out queries, certain I'd be published by 15. What I got was a lot of form rejections, a few very encouraging notes, and a crash course in the waiting game. ;-)

      Frankly, I wasn't ready. I just . . . wasn't. That was in the '90s, before online information abounded, when each submission had to be photocopied and snail-mailed. So it was expensive, and it took forever. And it amounted to nothing. Because I hadn't studied the craft--didn't know there WAS a craft, LOL--so had no clue there were fiction "rules." I just wrote.

      After all that, I waited a few years before seriously submitting anything else. I had probably four books under my belt when I sent out the next round of queries, and eight or nine finished by the time I was out of college and ready to pursue it seriously. But that was ME. In college, I wrote because it kept me sane, but I didn't have time to study the industry. Still, I had progressed naturally to the point that when I joined ACFW after college and learned all the rules, I had figured most of them out for myself. Then I was actually ready to submit.

      Which probably doesn't help you at all, LOL. But I think it comes down to this: if you're looking at your work that honestly and wanting to handle it professionally, then you've obviously got a good head on your shoulders when it comes to all this stuff. Trust your instincts. If your instincts say to lay out a timeline like that, then I think it's a great idea. You don't want to fall into the "someday" train of thought where you NEVER take the next step, but setting reasonable, rational goals like that seems wise. And speaking solely from my own experience, had I taken a more measured approach, it could have saved me some frustration!

    4. Thank you! I don't want to get to strict about a timeline but I do have some goals. In writing my first full book I was surprised how much work it was and how much I wanted to scream "I don't know what I'm doing" I figure if ibe written a few books before submitting I'll have a better sense of what I can accomplish in what timeframe in the way of edits etc

    5. Very good point. Knowing my own speed of doing things has been pretty handy when agents and editors question me about things. There have been several times when editors or agents have asked questions about how long certain things (writing/editing) take me, so it's really handy to have an answer. Especially when we're talking scheduling for a series, LOL.

  3. *gets me to look at things. Lol, autocrrect.

  4. I've so been there, Roseanna. This post touched me deeply. Not sure exactly why, but it did. Praying as you give those dreams and projects to the One who knows where they should be.

    1. Thanks, Joanne. I daresay everyone in this business had experienced a similar feeling. We've just got to keeping turning it over to Him... =)

  5. Thanks for this encouraging post. I've some stalled/lost dreams and projects as well. Am getting the same answer: trust the Trusworthy One.
    take care,