This past year I finished writing a novel. Back when I was working on the first draft, a fox somehow got into the second chapter. I hadn’t planned it. He appeared for only a few fleeting paragraphs before darting off.
I wasn’t sure why he was in the story, but I decided to keep him. And I ended up writing him another appearance in the final act.
Fast forward many months later and many drafts later. I was debating whether I wanted to eventually self publish the novel or first try to get it traditionally published. But was it even ready to send out to literary agents?
There were several scenes I was considering rewriting but putting off because I’d already been editing for months and also because I wanted to discuss them with a professional editor.
A friend said to me, “Stop dragging your feet. You can continue to edit it even while you’re sending it out.” But I still wasn’t sure. I prayed about it, and then continued debating the question while drawing foxes in my sketchbook.
Several days later I was sitting at my desk in my home office in front of the two windows that look out on the backyard when I saw a streak of red dash out of the woods and dart across the lawn. It was a fox! The first I’d ever seen while living in this house.
Of course, it was probably a coincidence, but to me it felt like a nudge to stop procrastinating, a reminder to try and get my writing out to the world so it could come alive for readers. It was just what I needed to encourage me to put aside my uncertainty and fear of rejection and start sending off my first query letters this past month.
The writer Steven Pressfield once wrote, “Resistance knows that the longer we noodle around ‘getting ready,’ the more time and opportunity we’ll have to sabotage ourselves. Resistance loves it when we hesitate, when we over-prepare. The answer: plunge in.”
By putting off sending out my work, I was sabotaging myself in a way. I probably would never feel that the manuscript was ready to send out. I had to stop hesitating and take action.
Over the past few days, I’ve already received my first rejection letter. But I’ve realized that this is also just another part of the writing process.
There’s a wonderful quote from Barbara Kingsolver: “This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.”
Sylvia Plath’s words are another encouragement: “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”
I wanted to write this post for anyone who’s been dragging their feet about sending their writing or their art out into the world. Honestly, you don’t need to wait for some weird sign like a fox running across your lawn. If you’ve spent a lot of time editing it, it’s probably ready, and you can always keep editing based on feedback you receive later. I’m continuing to edit my novel and also tweaking my query letter with each one I send out.
So just take the leap and see what happens. And then start working on your next piece.
Here is a quote from Louisa May Alcott that I shared in my last post about the letters of famous authors — I thought it was particularly apt to share again to close this post:
“There is no easy road to successful authorship; it has to be earned by long & patient labor, many disappointments, uncertainties & trials. Success is often a lucky accident, coming to those who may not deserve it, while others who do have to wait & hope till they have earned it. This is the best sort & the most enduring.”
Do you have a piece of writing that you’ve been procrastinating over submitting or self-publishing? Will you take the leap today? Let me know in the comments. 🙂