I Didn’t Get Angry, I Got Determined

It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed.
Theodore Roosevelt

I like this quote because there is so much truth in it. Many of us stop ourselves from even trying simply because we allow fear to stop us from pursuing our dreams. Some of us were even taught that dreams were unnecessary, frivolous, even. We were told to stop daydreaming, or else told that such and such was just a pipedream, as if the very act of dreaming was something to be ashamed of.

How can we possibly walk this planet without dreaming of the future? Is it even possible to go though our days without wishing, hoping or dreaming of something, anything?

When I first started writing seriously, I was afraid to even tell others that my dream was to be published. Would they think it was simply a waste of my time? Was I working toward some unattainable goal? Did I have what it took to write something that someone else would even want to publish?


From early on, I had a clear image of the kind of person who wrote books.
In my mind, a writer was highly educated, someone who had experienced many things in their lives, and had probably travelled extensively. I was a stay at home mom with a high school education. I didn’t fall into any of those other categories. So how could I even whisper my dream aloud? A few family members knew I was “trying” to write, and they probably felt a bit sorry for me(not that they’d ever say.) More than likely they thought it was a passing fancy; something that I would grow tired of eventually, and come back to reality.

But I didn’t come back to reality. I wrote and submitted my work to literary magazines and collected an armful of rejections in secret. I suffered through frustration each time I opened the mailbox and saw another envelope staring me in the face. I felt self-conscious in the beginning, wishing those manila envelopes didn’t have to come through the postal service. What if someone who knew me saw them and figured out my secret? I live in a pretty small community.

Still, I didn’t let it stop me. Oh there were days when I’d declare I was giving up, convinced that my work would never see print, but again I’d pick myself up as each time something compelled me to keep going.

Maybe I’m just stubborn (I’ve always preferred the word determination, myself.) Maybe, more than anything else, a writer needs determination if they wish to see their work published.

Even with determination you probably won’t get things right in the very beginning because all the determination will not make some publisher want to publish your work if it isn’t ready. What determination will do, though, is keep you writing until your work is ready. And once it is ready, that same determination will keep you submitting again and again. Of course you’ll struggle to find your own unique voice. Of course you’ll beat yourself up inside when it seems as though failure is staring you in the face yet again. Of course, self doubt will look over your shoulder all the while you work.

But wouldn’t you rather have all that, wouldn’t you rather not accomplish what you set out to do, wouldn’t you rather change your dream, than to never even try?

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28 Comments

  1. Have had some accomplishments and failures. When you try so hard, chronic disappointment affects us in many ways. I ran for office twice and never had a chance so a 26% of the vote each time is impressive. I was out there. I made the circuit. I took the hits. I made new friends. I learned. I got refined and polished. Some people spend their lives in the stands. They think they are participants. I was in the arena. Center ring. Just had a poem published and posted this week. A little matter. Of little consequence. But as a non pro writer I have been published several times now. Million rejection slips over 35 years. PS The several subsequent administrations enacted every program I suggested when I was running.

    Reply
    • Good for you Carl. So many people never even try, just talk about it. I don’t believe that people ever fail, they just learn something and move on. It is really what life is all about. Congrats on the poem being published!

      Reply
    • Perhaps, this “trying hard” sometimes leaves us too attached to the outcome, thus leading to chronic disappointment. Which leaves me asking the question: what is more important the goal or the getting there? Obviously, if your ideas for programs were used, your goals were still accomplished. How wonderful.

      You are definitely to be commended for running for office, Carl. That in itself is a huge, huge
      accomplishment, and much congrats on your recent publishing credit. No publishing credit is a “little” matter. It is something to be celebrated. Many people will try for publication, but not everyone will succeed.

      Reply
  2. Encouraging post, Laura. I smiled at your thought of others figuring out “your secret.”

    Reply
    • Oh yes, Patti. I wrote undercover for many, many years. It is difficult to share our dreams with others, especially in the beginning, when we lack confidence. My confidence has certainly grown over the years even though I have times when I’m once again questioning myself. Hate it when that happens.

      Reply
  3. syr ruus

     /  June 17, 2011

    “Did he smile his work to see?” William Blake (The Tyger) — a most meaningful quote about creation.– if you smile when you’re finished, it’s substantial and everything else is gravy, or perhaps whipped cream.

    Reply
    • Ah, William Blake… It is nice to smile once it is created and hopefully keep that smile for a long, long time. Gravy and whipping cream are always most welcome. Here’s hoping I get an extra large serving of both.. ;)

      Reply
  4. catchats

     /  June 17, 2011

    Great post as always, Laura. I love your honesty and down to earth manner. I have gone through those feelings you describe and still go through them. Self doubt and disappointment are my best friends at times. Just wrote my blog post on Mr. Ick (inner critic)
    http://catmuses.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/are-you-letting-mr-ick-take-control/ and how he loves to control me. Still working on banishing him completely. He just won’t budge from that couch sometimes!

    The main thing is to realize that rejection and indifference from those around us are all part of the writing life and to keep at it. As long as we love the writing, that’s the main thing, right?

    Reply
    • Checked out your blog – love it. Have subscribed. here is mine if interested http://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/ The cat picture is adorable.

      Reply
    • As Syr mentioned, Cathy, the rest is gravy and whipping cream. The writing, is/has to be our main objective. Expressing ourselves and being actively involved in creation of some sorts is part of the reason we are here on the planet.

      Checking out your post. I got a bit behind when Miss Charlotte was visiting. Nap time is only so long..:)

      Reply
  5. Your success story lends courage to many. Thank you for a good pep talk. I think I’ll finish this reading binge I’ve started with my new Kindle and jump into my manuscript again. Blessings to you, Laura…

    Reply
    • Glad this “pep talk” helped, Carol Ann. If we feel the need to write than write we must. Forget about the end result and become a part of creation..

      Reply
  6. Another great post Laura that rings so true. Like you, I always felt I didn’t have enough education to write a book and have it published. Well I guess we proved ourselves wrong, and aren’t we glad we did.
    Winston Churchill said, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.”

    Reply
    • As different as we all so, we are the same in many, many ways. Thoughts and feelings are often universal. Great quote by Churchill, and so very true. Some people use the excuse that they don’t have a wide enough vocab to be a writer but, for me, some of the most beautifully written works have that element of simplicity to them.

      Reply
  7. After all these years, I’m still amazed at how alike writers are. I haven’t met one that didn’t feel the way you just described. Personally, I like the word stubborn. And apparently, if you believe my mother, I’m one stubborn little brat. LOL. Yes, it’s better to dream than to not.

    Great post, Laura.

    Reply
    • We secretly believe our doubts in our work are so unique, but you’re right. I’ve heard plenty of writers express self-doubt and even loathing for their work. Luckily, those feelings eventually dissolve.

      Maybe we all continue to dream….:)

      Reply
  8. Great post, Laura, and it couldn’t be MORE timely for me. As you know, I’m suffering from a lack of assertiveness and confidence in sparring, and today I spent most of my boxing class in the bathroom, crying, because I just couldn’t do anything right. I was all ready to give up and admit to my kru that I’m not cut out for it anymore, and that made me cry harder. I hate those moments when I’m my own worst enemy, and of course, I had those with my writing, too.

    Seeking an agent was particularly difficult. I got so many rejections (but a small number compared to others, so really, I had nothing to complain about) that I doubted whether I was a good writer at all. Developing a way to be validated internally rather than externally is key, I think. As a writer, it takes a long time for someone else to tell you you’re good (and by “someone else”, I mean a publisher or an agent, not a family member or friend), and even when you’re a famous bestseller, there were still be the poor reviews and the nasty comments. It takes a lot of inner strength to be a writer, putting one’s innermost feelings and thoughts on the page for everyone to see.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Holli, glad this post came at the right time for you. Rejection is always difficult no matter who you are. And yes, we need others to like our work if we want to have the chance to share what we’ve written with others. If you are one of the rare people out there who needs only to write and never to share what is written, than you would be the exception. I think most of us aren’t, though. Yes, we write for ourselves, to fulfill that need to create but, don’t we also hope others will have the chance to appreciate it as well?

      No matter how much we love what we do, most of us have those times when our belief in what we’re doing is shattered. But,for me, the more difficult thing would be to stop what I love to do altogether and never, ever write again. I might declare it to be so for a little while, but the truth of who I am lies inside me and I know I could never give up writing, no more than you would give up your passions of kick boxing and writing. You will pick yourself up as many times as you need to Holli and, for that, I’m very glad.. :)

      Reply
  9. There seem to be lots of words that fall into that same category — stubborn, assertive, persistent, determined, driven, to name a few. I need to strengthen my resolve and move ahead. I have finished manuscripts, but it’s more comfortable to keep writing rather than to push out and do something with what I’ve written. There’s a lot of truth in that Roosevelt quotation.

    Reply
    • Carol, I hope you do strengthen your resolve, dig those heels in, and work toward making your dream come true. Roosevelt didn’t get where he was just by chance.—“Stubborn, assertive, persistent, determined, driven”–I’m inclined to think he knew all those words by heart.. :)

      Reply
  10. Ericka

     /  June 19, 2011

    Keep on Daydreaming girl ! I love your dream words !

    Reply
    • Thanks, Ericka. Dreaming is always fun, reaching for the stars and even touching them with your fingertips a time or two. :)

      Reply
  11. alisondelory

     /  June 20, 2011

    An inspiring Monday morning read. Writing is really all about perseverance, isn’t it? So glad you saw your dream of being publishing come true.

    Reply
    • Hi Alison. So true. Writing IS about perseverance. We’re all anxious for publication, especially in the beginning. Giving up is a sure way of seeing our dreams dissolve into nothingness, and that is a very sad scenario.

      Reply
  12. When I first started trying to write for publication, I dreaded anybody finding out – I didn’t want to have to face the questions re when my book was coming out, etc. Non-writers don’t understand about banging your head against the writing/publication wall and the miserable odds against becoming published. Now, I’m always happy to have somebody, anybody, ask about my writing:) I still get disappointed by rejection, frequently, but I’m better at looking at it as a sign I need to keep working at my writing. Hope the black flies are leaving you alone!

    Reply
    • I’m curious as to why, in the beginning, we writers seem to feel that there is something shameful about wanting to be a writer. So many of us say this, though. When I can to the place where I was comfortable about being a writer, and didn’t mind talking about it, that was when I knew deep down that I was a writer.

      Reply
  13. Madison Woods

     /  June 20, 2011

    I never said I wanted to be a writer when I grew up… no one would have supported me in that. But how I wish I’d had the strength and tenacity of a dandelion then. I’d have pursued the path I loved all along instead of putting it off and putting it off… But I’m back on track now, and at least we can get our rejection (and sometimes acceptance) letters by email now :)

    Reply
    • Glad that you are back on track. Oh, the things we do learn as we grow older.

      I agree that email makes it so much more convenient these days. Acceptance by email is still pretty sweet. :)

      Reply

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