How much pain are you willing to suffer to get published traditionally?
I’ve been thinking a lot about pain lately, mainly because I’ve been in a lot of pain. I had a root canal a couple of weeks ago. The procedure itself went smoothly. After three shots of pain-killer, I didn’t feel a thing while the endodontist finished killing my tooth with long, needle-like instruments that looked like they came straight from medieval torture chambers.
In fact, I didn’t really feel all that much pain until a couple of days later. Then an infection set in, which is apparently common in about twenty percent of root canal patients (according to the receptionist at the office!). For days, my tooth was sensitive to the barest touch, my gums were raw, and my jaw ached.
I was miserable, especially whenever the Ibuprofen began to wear off. I ate a lot of soup, oatmeal, and of course brownie batter. And waited impatiently for the antibiotic to finally kick in.
Throughout the experience, I tried to remind myself, the pain would eventually get better and that I’d no longer have to worry about that pesky tooth that had been bothering me for so long. But let’s face it, when we’re in pain, nothing seems to help.
Sometimes the only thing we can do is hang on and just endure it.
We’re a part of a modern culture that has a low threshold for pain. We like to avoid any form of physical or emotional hardship or difficulty. In fact, we often go out of our way to circumvent painful experiences.
When it comes to traditional publication, at times, it may feel like the journey is filled with one root canal and subsequent infection after another. We know what’s coming—the long waits, the rejections, the stinging feedback. We’ve heard others talk about it, we brace ourselves for it, but then when it comes we’re unprepared for how much it really hurts.
I’m always saddened when I hear about a writer who gives up the quest for traditional publication because of the pain and the heartache they experience. It’s one thing to stop writing or to self-publish after carefully weighing the pros and cons, after deliberating what’s best for your particular manuscript and situation. But it’s another to get discouraged because of the hardships and just throw in the towel.
If you’ve decided that traditional publication is the right road for you, then here are three things to keep in mind regarding PAIN:
1. Remember PAIN is part of the process.
Most traditionally published authors experienced incredible pain to get where they’re at, years of writing, scores of rejections, tough criticism, and long waits. All of us would like to think we can beat the odds, that somehow we can bypass the filtering system (agents and editors) that eventually allows the cream to rise to the top.
But the vast majority of us (myself included), have to undergo the long, painful squeeze through the sieve.
2. Avoid letting PAIN fester into bitterness.
Sure we can complain about how dredge makes it through the filter and now sits on the shelf. We can grumble about how unfair the process appears and call the process a lottery in luck. We can even derail agents and editors as close-minded.
But the fact is, commercially viable, well-crafted stories are still in demand. Agents and publishers are still looking for talented writers. If you’ve worked hard to become the cream, you will eventually rise to the top and will get scooped up.
If we stay humble about our abilities and realistic about the process, then we’ll be less likely to let our pain fester into bitterness.
3. Realize PAIN helps us get better.
We can let the pain make us bitter, or we can let it push us to be better.
Olympic athletes, movie stars, famous musicians—all had to work hard to get to the top. No doubt they spent years and years perfecting their skills in order to finally get to a successful point. They’d be offended if we told them they only got where they’re at because of luck.
The fact is, the pain of hard work is still the main ingredient in becoming successful for any profession, including becoming a published author.
What pains have you faced in your quest for traditional publication? Are you willing to keep suffering to rise to the top? Are you letting the pain push you to become better? Or are you tempted to give up?