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It was a glorious day. I was basking in all the love and encouragement from blog readers. My inbox was filled with wonderful comments about my new website and redecorated blog. I was beginning to get positive reviews on The Preacher’s Bride. In fact I’d just read a write-up on Christianbook.com Fiction Blog that made my heart smile.

The writer’s life was looking pretty good. All that hard work was paying off. I could take a breather and enjoy the view from the top for a little while.

Just as I was getting comfortable with a fresh cup of coffee and clicking through the pages of my lovely new website for the hundredth time, I got an email from my editor at Bethany House. He wanted to arrange a phone call to discuss Book 2 which I’d turned in a month ago, and he said, “We’ll be talking about a pretty significant rewrite, but I’m confident it’s a rewrite you’ll be able to make shine.”

In a matter of a few seconds, I plummeted off the high peak I’d been standing upon. And I crash-landed into a deep cavern. Darkness swept away the bright joy I’d felt only moments earlier.

“Significant rewrite?” What did that mean?

Surely he was mistaken. Book 2 was my newest love. It was the best book I’d written yet (or so I’d thought!). I’d spent months working on it, sacrificing my time, pouring my heart into it. In fact, Book 2 made The Preacher’s Bride look somewhat dull. And now my precious Book 2 would need a significant rewrite? Why? What had gone wrong?

Crushed, I struggled to hold back the tears.

I’d gone from one incredibly high moment to one very low one. All in the same day.

My experience is fairly typical, isn’t it? Maybe the see-saw of emotions doesn’t happen the same day or even the same week. But we’ve all had those really high moments where we’re feeling on top of the world. Then something happens that topples us into the pit.

We might win a contest then fail to garner the attention of an agent. We get great feedback from one critique partner, but another can’t seem to find anything right. We have an agent ask to see more of our manuscript, but we don’t hear back from her for months. Perhaps an editor takes our book to committee, but then nothing happens.

We crave the praise, want the validation we’re doing something right. In fact, we even need that encouragement to spur us forward on the difficult writer’s journey. In some ways, the illumination from the positive is what gives us the light we need to walk through the dark cave of the negative times.

My wise mother recently gave me some advice. She told me that there will always be really high praise and then also the really negative. It’s best to discard both and take what’s in the middle. The really highs and the really lows are often the exaggerations, the extremes, the ones that will either flatter us too much or bring unnecessary discouragement.

And I think the same is true of our mountain top experiences and low valleys. We should guard against the extremes. It’s easy for us to let our hopes soar too high or to let the negatives push us down too far.

Here are just a few things I’m telling myself as I try to navigate the highs and lows of the writer’s life:

*Remember the path leads through both valleys and peaks. I can’t get to the next peak without going through the valley first. Isn’t that true of writing and life?

*Stand up straight and keep walking. When I’m in the valley I can look back at the past peak to remind myself of where I’ve been to give me incentive. But ultimately, I have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward, even if the next high point isn’t in sight yet.

*Share the journey with a few who understand. Not everyone is going to be able to come along side us, but hopefully we can find friends we can trust, those willing to hear our greatest fears and highest joys, those who encourage us, but also help us stay grounded.

How’s your writing journey been lately? Have you had to weather the extreme highs and the discouraging lows? What helps you navigate through them?

*And the winner of last week’s new website party contest is: Susan J. Reinhardt! Congratulations, Susan! Thanks to EVERYONE for the delicioius treats and gifts you brought to the party! You were all SO kind! And a big thank you to my sweet daughter who wrote out names, put them in a bowl, and drew the winner.

60 comments:

  1. Congrats on the website and new look blog. Looks great!

    I think you are right about it being normal. I know I can be high one minute and thinking I am doing very well with my writing and the next I feel like I should quit!

    I think both really negative and really positive feedback can teach us things about ourself. I think it is important to take both and then evaluate what is the truth within them. The truth isn't always the middle. Sometime the negative feedback I have received, even very negative, has been spot on. and sometimes the really positive has. So both can be true at times and I would hate to miss an opportunity for growth.

    Thanks for your blog and your words. Very wise. Great post :)

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  2. Sigh. Jody, you are SO right.
    Been there, done that.

    What a blessing to have your momma share wisdom doled out with a serving of empathy.

    Like all rewarding pursuits, writing hurts. Writing costs. Yet there's nothing like knowing it is His path for you, and with His help, you'll lay the manuscripts at His feet.

    Blessings, dear one!

    "If the Lord sends ye down a rocky path, may He provide sturdy shoes."
    Irish proverb

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  3. Sweet daughter is very beautiful. And I love your mother's take on praise and will use remember her words. It is true we have to stay grounded and it appears to me you are doing just that.

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  4. Just noticed your signature. Like it.

    I love the part about keep walking ahead. I think that's the trick--not letting anything keep us from moving forward with our goals and our God.

    Still a beautiful blog and I cannot wait to read your books.
    ~ Wendy

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  5. Any writer can empathize with the ups and downs. Enjoy the ups and and realize the downs aren't forever!

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  6. Love the new look and love this post. It is so true. I just had to experience a major rewrite as well, although mine was only for my critique partners, but it still hurt to hear it. So, I told myself you just have to do it if this is what's going to help you reach your goal of finding an agent and hopefully set the path for publication. The cool thing is that while rewriting, I loved it. In a way, I felt as though I was at the creative part again (some ways I was) and that made me excited. I recently finished this major rewrite and am feeling very proud of this new story. I'm about to send it off to my CPs this week (which I'm terrified to do). But, it is what it is! Good luck with everything!

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  7. I can definitely relate to this "We crave the praise, want the validation we’re doing something right. In fact, we even need that encouragement to spur us forward on the difficult writer’s journey..."

    Working on my second novel now, and I'm blogging about the process -- the journey -- and I spend far too much time checking my stats on Wordpress and am so excited when someone posts a comment. I'm seeking encouragement, praise ...when I should be writing!

    Thanks for sharing this. I know all writers reading it will relate!

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  8. Congrats to Susan! I know she will love it:)
    I've had a lot of those highs and lows lately but each low makes me want to try harder. I'd love a huge mountaintop experience one day;)) but I know it takes work. So proud of you and I know your rewrites will go well!

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  9. Well, look at it this way, Jody: if you're receiving positive reviews now on "The Preacher's Bride," that means that significant rewrites pay off, right? And the same will be true of novel #2, and others down the road.

    Your Mom's advice is wise. I would only add that your work is ultimately for the Lord, and He will give you rewards that your heart cannot even imagine right now. It may be delayed gratification...but it will be the best praise and validation of all.

    ~ Betsy

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  10. I just read your great interview with Write It Sideways and I wanted to tell you that between this post and your interview, you've given me the boost I needed today to carry on with this writing process. I've recently started working with an editor on a group blog. It's the first time I've had the services of an editor. One of the reasons I've taken on writing there is because I wanted practice working with an editor. After reading this, I know that it's good for me. Your experience underscores that I must be ready and willing to accept and work with the editing suggestions and demands. And to be glad for what makes me a better writer. I may not feel great about it at first, but it's all part of the process. Thank you for that!

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  11. I'm in a low at the moment. My WIP is giving me some troubles and I'm pining for the next stage. I've already made the decision to make writing a career, but I have to continually remind myself to slow down and enjoy the journey.

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  12. what a beautiful reminder for me as I begin this exciting/terrifying journey of writing my first novel. I appreciate your honesty.

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  13. I feel your pain. I recently spent four months doing a complete rewrite. But its for the better. Had to be done or the book would not move forward. Just have to make sure your coffee machine is in great working order LOL!

    Stephen Tremp

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  14. You’re right of course. The extremes never quite hold the truth but it seems we inevitable experience them anyway. Writing (or any art) is very bi-polar. Thanks for sharing your awesome highs and your heartbreaking lows.

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  15. I love this very honest post! And you should read mine today, because my writer has been going through a roller coaster, too.

    I am developing rituals with the writer inside me to help me through the rough spots.

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  16. You will make a great job of the rewrites, but I can see how you came crashing down. Shame.

    Your daughter is a cutie.

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  17. This is a beautiful post, Jody. Thanks for sharing your heart and your willingness to be transparent. I know I truly appreciate it!

    Now go get those rewrites, girl! Show 'em whose boss!

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  18. I'm in a similar boat too! I sold one book and then received a rejection right on its heels. Another book is about to be released (yay) and then another is going through painful edits (ouch). I know exactly what you're talking about.

    They really are extreme highs and lows. I love your mother's advice though. Aren't mothers wonderful?!

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  19. And here I thought all your worries were over once you got your first book published. Isn't everyone supposed to love everything else you put out? :)

    Seriously though, it sounds like you are handling this the same way you have handled everything else thus far - which is why you are published and will continue to be so. Thanks for reminding us of all these important things. Great post.

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  20. I look at life this way: failures temper our success so we don't become overconfident.

    Overconfidence isn't a good thing. Confidence, on the other hand, is a good thing.

    Trust me, it took me many, many years to reach this point in my life. I finally accepted the philosophy that 'things happen when they are meant to happen, and not when I want them to happen'. This was a devastating blow to my optimistic outlook on life. But, you know what? It's a bit easier to manage the extreme highs and lows of life by accepting this philosophy . . . at least for me.

    Yesterday I reworked the opening of my new WiP. I came up with a brilliant sentence, eliminated a brief chapter and replaced it with something better. I somehow undid all my work and didn't notice it until yesterday afternoon. Talk about depressing. I stared at the computer screen for a long time, way depressed, and then realized that maybe the reason I lost the work - outside of my own stupidity - was because I needed something different.

    Ah, the joys of the highs and lows of the writer's life. I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Sorry for the long response. : )

    S

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  21. Mine has been up and down these past several months.
    I love the peaks and valleys metaphor. Most of the experience of standing on those peaks is the satisfaction of climbing from the valley. If a helicopter dropped me on top it'd be pretty anti-climatic.

    Thanks for a thought provoking post from the heart!

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  22. Jody,

    Sorry to hear about the major rewrites. That must be tough to hear. :(

    From what I've heard from other writers, you need to grieve for a day or two, then with a little bit of objective perspective, jump in to the re-writes. It's okay to grieve!

    I've only had these up and down moments on a much smaller scale, but I can relate!

    You can do it, girl!

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  23. I like the advice of discarding both and taking what's in the middle. I have a problem of getting my hopes much too high and when it crashes, boy, is that a major flood of tears, lol. I've tried avoiding the high hopes thing, but it's part of who I am, being hopeful and optimistic. As long as I always dry my tears and keep on going, then I think it's okay!

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  24. Congratulations to Susan! And thanks, Jody, for a timely post.

    Some days it's hard to dredge up enthusiasm for the pursuit of what seems like an distant goal so I retreat to my cave and lose myself in writing. Then along comes a cheque for an article submitted so long ago I'd almost forgotten about it, and I am encouraged. At every stage there seem to be highs and lows. It helps to remember that it's a journey and the difficult extremes drop away as we move ahead.

    Major rewrites seem like such a hurdle but once you get started I'll bet you'll be pleased to see how your editor's suggestions make your wonderful story even better. Take heart. :)

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  25. Thanks for sharing this post. I think one of the most important things you mentioned was to share our journey with others who understand. They know what we're going through and they know the struggle to get there.

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  26. Dear Jody, thank you for sharing this, I do feel this way also in some ways. I finished my first e-book and just started its twin. It feels like with all the work put into the first one that I have yet to see the blossoms.. but I am still happy, I just feel I guess it is so easy to see a book and not be appreciated for the aching long hrs to make it. I am hoping once the twin shines thru then they will flourish together or that an unexpected door will open in perfect timing. I loved this incredibly soothing line you shared here today: thank you! thank you!

    Remember the path leads through both valleys and peaks.

    sounds majestic and strong, and vulnerable, but necessary! ;) perfect! I am still on! wrote the first chapter today for the next.

    luv Jenn

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  27. I like your mom!

    I'm on a high today with my new website and inspiration to push on my WIP. I take that back. There's one foot on the mountain and one foot in the valley.

    Ups and downs can happen to me in a matter of moments.

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  28. Congrats Susan!

    Hope the rewrites go quick and easy for you. I think the emotional roller coaster you experienced is indeed normal. :O)

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  29. Hi, Jody!

    I just got my first glimpse at your new website and blog today. I love it! Congratulations!

    I definitely understand why you zeroed in on "significant rewrite" but I thought the most important part of your editor's statement was when he expressed his confidence in your ability to make it shine.

    I think that's one thing we all have a habit of doing. Focus on the potential negative so that we almost miss a huge positive.

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  30. It's normal to feel so strongly about something we love...your mother's advise is indeed wise.

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  31. Wonderful post, Jody. I navigate through my highs and lows in a variety of ways: journaling, talking to my husband, praying, and networking with other writers.

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  32. I feel like I have ups and downs almost every day. I like to think it's making me a stronger person and helping me overcome the fears and trepidations that hold me back in all aspects of life.

    Hopefully those re-writes will be delightful surprises and the task won't be too arduous.

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  33. It's always so up and down. It can get really crazy. I love the advice to take what's in the middle. Wonderful post!

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  34. It's a roller-coaster life, isn't it?

    Whenever I get knocked off my perch, I'm reminded of a few things:

    1. I was more than likely thinking too highly of my little old self and needed a reality pill.

    2. I have so much to be thankful for, all the highs, the successes, the relationships, the progress, the joy and lessons that writing has brought to me.

    3. To take both the ups and downs with grace, learning along the way. Because the more things change in this writing life, the more they stay the same. :)

    Congrats on the new website, congrats on having a SECOND book with the publishing house, and congrats on working with a great team that has high standards and believes in you to meet and excel them.

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  35. Every valley has a beautiful mountain top peaking around the bend. It's hard to imagine what my life would be like without the valley's I've already crossed, I think it shaped me in more ways than the mountain tops.

    Great post!

    Your site looks awesome:)

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  36. Your momma is very wise, Jody, and you are lucky to have her. The emotional roller coaster is hard to ride and keep our equilibrium. I remember you writing about having to do major rewrites on The PReacher Bride as well, and then you were much happier with the end result. Just stay focused moment to moment on what's in front of you. You're doing great.
    Karen

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  37. Congrats to Susan! Sorry about the huge edits involved. I can imagine how discouraging that must feel. I wonder if it were me if I would long for the day my novel could mostly be left in tact the way I had intended, but then they do know what they're doing. Good luck with edits! I'll be cheering you on over at twitter.

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  38. One thing I heard long ago and I have never forgotten is that we are in a constant state of motion. We are either moving forward or backwards but we don't stop.

    So when we find ourselves on a peak, enjoy it but know you have to keep going and in doing so, will likely find a valley at some point. When we find that valley, we know that by moving forward, we will soon find our next peak. Writing certainly parallels life. Keep moving forward and know that you will ALWAYS be progressing and growing, becoming better along the way.

    Just when we think we know a lot, something in life happens to remind us that we have a lot more to learn.

    Great post!! I enjoyed the reflection and reminder!

    ~Karenof4

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  39. Hi Jody!! Highs and lows in writing are SO much a part of my life. I haven't had too many lows in the publishing world (yet) but at my "day job" I work for a website and some days, I turn in articles that get raving reviews and other days, I think I've hit a home run and my editor doesn't even think my work is worth posting on our site. It's so discouraging!! But you'll get there... I'm sure your second book will be FABULOUS.

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  40. Yup, the writers life is a roller coaster, lots of rapid and steep ups and downs. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

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  41. Hi JOdy. Been awhile. Good to read of some of your latest experiences. It is great how your work is progressing. And even this disappointment over Book 2's rewrite will be tomorrow's new joy. You performed consistently well over time, and that leads to success. Good job.

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  42. Good post. I agree, this is true not only for writing but in life.

    My husband and I were just discussing how without the lows in life, you don't have the high points. Your mother's advice is wonderful, too. What a blessing to have such a wise Mom. :)

    I am so looking forward to reading The Preacher's Bride! And Book Two as well; I am sure they will both be great.

    Blessings,
    Karen
    P.S. Love the new look.

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  43. LOVE this Jody. I think this is sage advice for LIFE in general, not just for writing.

    My writing life is non-existent at the moment while I spend my time with Annabelle, but your post reminded me about my past week.

    As you know, Annabelle had her surgery on Monday, and she did GREAT. That whole next day was a big high for me. After so much fear and worry (yes, I know I'm not supposed to do that!) it looked like God had heard all our prayers and she was doing GREAT! I remember telling Scott on Tuesday... I think we can do this. We're gonna make it.

    Then in the middle of the night, I got a call saying my daughter was failing and they were doing CPR and trying to revive her.

    Gut-wrenching pain doesn't even describe it. It was, by far, the lowest point of my life.

    The next few day were a blur of wins and frustrations, and today, she is doing MUCH better again. I feel like I'm starting to breathe again.

    I'm trusting her to God, but I also know that there might be trying times again. There is this struggle I have...I fear trusting God TOO much (how stupid is that!) and then being taken off guard if something bad happens, but I don't want to expect and live in fear either.

    I think our writing life, to a point, is like that too. We can try as we may, but we really have no control over many of the obstacles. We can hope, or we can be pessimistic, but ya know? Neither changes the outcome. Only God knows that, and all we know for sure is what is happening now. And all we have control over is how we react, and how we trust.

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  44. Brother, do I understand what you're saying. Seems since I started publishing I've experienced sky high joys and deep down lows.

    I also have had to rewrite a novel I thought was very well done and one of my best, but I'm so glad my editor had me rethink. I believe the book is much stronger now.

    Take heart. This too will pass and you'll be glad your editor was looking out for you.

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  45. From reading your blog I can tell that you have accomplished a lot. Perhaps more than some writers ever will.

    Keep your head, and continue having faith.

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  46. Hmmm...I left a comment this morning, but I think it got eaten. Oh, well - I just told you how wonderful your post is today - you know, the usual! Ha ha. :-)

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  47. Hi, Jody! Your mom is one smart woman. And so are you. The one thing I always try to remember when I get feedback on my writing is something you always say. And that goes something like this, "The only way we can become the best writers we can be is to get the best (aka honest and sometimes brutal) feedback we can get." Okay, those might not be your words, but you know what I mean. Your editors believe in you and although you might be in a valley, you're going to come out stronger. That's how those valleys work, right? God uses the valleys to build us up! Hang in there!!

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  48. Jody..as writers we can understand your situation. Its an emotional roller coaster ride. But remember the lows are temporary, they will move away soon. But then, so are the highs. They soon give way to the lows. Its a part of our writing journey.

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  49. I've definitely had those highs and lows in writing and in life, but I know that God shepherds me through all of them, taking my hand and guiding me through each valley, and steadying me on each mountaintop. Well . . . mostly steadying me. Just last week at a church softball game, I jumped up and down whooping for joy at our win . . . so I'm not sure I want a completely middle road. I don't like the pain of the tough moments in writing or life, but I would never trade my blazing moments of joy for somewhere in the middle.

    I hope you feel God's hands holding you in the low valleys, and I know you write beautifully . . . so your rewrite will be golden!

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  50. Jody, I'm sorry for your frustration. Those of us that are unpublished sometimes think that the published live in a world where everything is perfect, and that's not true.

    I love your mom's advice enough that I plan to use it for myself AND my sons. I love the peaks and valleys analogy, and all we can do is our very best.

    This journey takes courage, that's for sure. I even blogged about it today, because sometimes finding that courage isn't easy.

    (your daughter is adorable, and her top matched the bowl...how cute is that?)

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  51. I've been out of town for a few days...catching up on blogs. Just want to say I LOVE the new look of your site. Professional, really eye-appealing. Nicely done.

    Hang in there on the roller coaster of writing -- you are amazing!

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  52. I love your mom. She's so wise and kind. Tell her I'm hugging her for sharing her heart with all of us.

    My roller-coaster went in the low side yesterday when I found out I didn't place in a contest I was counting heavily on. Then I got home and had a check for an article I'd sold.

    Jim Watkins says if we base our identity on being a writer, we'll live in disappointment; if we base it on being a child of God, we'll live in joy.

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  53. Yes, me too! High one minute, low the next. It's so hard! At least we're not lukewarm about our calling, though. If I didn't have highs or lows, I probably would be in the wrong career.

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  54. You have one wise Mama!

    Ernest Hemingway has similar thoughts. He said if you believe the really great reviews, you also have to believe the terrible reviews.

    The middle path is always best.

    As always, thanks for sharing your journey.

    And your website is beautiful!

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  55. I love your mom's advise. I pray God gives you wisdom and courage during all the re-writes.
    Blessings!

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  56. I had a pretty low week last week, so I'm totally grateful for your perspective! Your mom sounds like a wonderful lady. It was actually my mom who told me exactly what I needed to hear, too: You can't marvel at the mountain until you've been in the valley! :)

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  57. Jody, again I thank you for sharing your journey. You've become an important voice in the blogosphere for the "straight truth" and encouraging aspiring writers.

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  58. Jody, we can always count on this business serving us up a heaping of humble pie, just when we thought things were rolling along. We have to love the writing itself or we would never stand for the rollercoaster of a journey. Sometimes I still question it, but I almost always find myself trudging forward with hope.

    Faith in a God who truly loves us and wants the best for us is always a help as we go along, of course. He has a way of putting things into perspective, just like your wise mother did.

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  59. Hi Jody -

    Yahoo! Thank you for the contest. I've already emailed you.

    Ouch! I'm sorry to hear about your "significant rewrite." I know God will give you the ability and strength to get through this.

    Your Mom's advice is spot on. Tossing the extremes out will keep us on a more even footing.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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  60. Whenever you feel like someone just pulled the trampoline out from under you, and you can't bounce as high, remember the utter joy that surrounds you by sitting down to write and making time melt away. We are blessed to control those moments, and they are all-sustaining. Hopefully what "significant rewrites" means is an even shinier polish than I'm sure your story already has. Sending good wishes your way.

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