Karen Hoffman

For me, writing was a secret.

As long as no one knew about it, then the dream could remain pure and untouched by the evils of doubt, or worse rejection.

The second I let it slip that I had written a book, I would be flooded with the inevitable questions of, “When are you going to publish that book?” or “Whatever happened to that book you were going to write?” Revealing the secret brought forth too much pressure.

If the book failed, I was just another person who wrote a story that wasn’t good enough to be read. I might as well tattoo unpublished across my forehead to avoid the painful questions.

The thing about having a dream burning inside you, is that ultimately you reach a point where you either have to let the dream die, or ignite the fuse.

I wanted that dream to become a reality. In order for that to happen, I had to bite the bullet. This book was not going to publish itself. So after five years of protecting my secret identity of an aspiring writer, I decided to unmask myself.

I thought I was prepared for rejection, I thought that when the robotic refusals began flooding my inbox that I’d shrug it off and confirm that this was part of the process. The first rejection stumbled in three hours after I had clicked send. I cried.

I lost count how many queries I had sent once I hit the fifty mark. I received about thirty-three answers of polite form rejection. “Dear Author” is my least favorite way to be addressed. Worse than the form rejections is the flat out silence. It’s infuriating, insulting, and quite maddening.

Half way through my journey, it occurred to me that given the response time, the likelihood of my pages actually being read were slim to none. That’s when I realized that every drop of art had been squeezed out of this “project”. That’s what the agents referred to my one hundred and twenty thousand some odd words. Not a triumph or a masterpiece. A project.

Revelation opened its doors and showed me that I am but one of countless thousands trying to find a voice in this battle to create and be heard. I am not the writer I had romanticized. I imagined a lovely life of quills, and philosophy. That is not the reality of writing.

Writing is work. It is dedication. It is rewriting, and perfecting. It is ensnaring the senses and mastering illusion. It is becoming an expert in every field you wish to launch your characters into.

Then, one day, five months after I had begun the process, I got a request for a full.

I didn’t scream or dance, as I had envisioned the moment. I stared at the email that came in through my iPhone and read it over and over. After forty-eight hours of perfecting and polishing, I sent my literary child to a stranger, and with it sparked my fantasies of publication. My hopes and dreams were sewn into those pages.

Five weeks later, it was rejected.

It only took three sentences to reject my work. Three impersonal messages, that made me feel like I wasn’t even flesh and bone. I was just a shadow.

I felt broken. Truly broken. Couldn’t get out of bed kind of broken.

As I lay there, shrouded in sadness, drowning in the rejection, I wondered if I was finished as a writer. After all, I had tried, no one could say that I hadn’t, and I had failed. Easier to walk away than face this hurt again.

But then, I thought of two very important things: My daughter and my dream.

What kind of role model would I be for her if I gave up after someone had said no to me? That was not the example that I wanted to set forth for her to follow.

I wanted her to believe in a world where hard work and perseverance is the foundation in which dreams can come true.

This was just one manuscript that was rejected. I carry that rejection with me like a battle scar. A reminder that I can overcome obstacles along the way. There are still other stories to be written, other tales to tell. Perhaps this was not the story that I had envisioned would find a cozy home on a bookstore shelf, but it was not a reason to quit. That’s not to say that it didn’t hurt. It did. It still does, but I am realizing that the book simply was not ready.

Smoothing out the wrinkles in my writing is no longer the daunting task it once was. Taking a step back from my work allows me to see my mistakes, and mend them. I have learned that you don’t get many chances in the publishing world, and I do not intend to waste any future opportunities that may come my way.

I have made some connections via twitter and am understanding the publication process more clearly now.

Agents and editors are not the demonic gatekeepers I painted them out to be, laughing as they crushed my hopes and dreams. They have motivated me by their rejection letters. They have allowed me to see my flaws, my faults, and perfect my novel to be the best that it could be.

I am on a journey. I am learning, and my eyes are open to the wonder around me. This is not the bleak time in my life that I thought it was. This is just the beginning.

After all, it’s always darkest before the dawn.

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