She sat alone on the metal bench. Her body turned away from me slightly so that our eyes wouldn’t meet. I could tell she didn’t want to talk. Her brow was furrowed and her lips were formed into a tiny rose bud. She folded her arms as her gaze followed the horizon without noticing the sunset.
“Are you enjoying the conference?” I asked, attempting to open her up.
“It’s fine.” She remained closed.
The heat of the day had finally given way to a cooling breeze that lifted the corner of the top sheet of a ream of papers resting on her lap. She lifted the stack, patted it, then gently slid them into her canvas tote.
“What’s your story about?” I tried again.
Her eyes sank into the darkness where her manuscript had disappeared and it seemed as if she were considering whether to climb into that depth with it. Eventually, she dragged herself out to look up at me. “It’s a love story” she sighed, “but apparently they’ve all heard it before.”
Slowly she unraveled the tangled threads: the “they” to whom she referred were all of the agents, editors and publishers whose hands had passed over her precious work. For one reason or another it wasn’t what they were looking for.
“I’m done,” she said. “This is it for me.”
“Have you thought of trying a different approach? Maybe revising the story? Or taking a different path to publication?” I asked.
She remained closed. There was only one approach. Only one path. It was either going to happen this way or not at all…
My conversation with this determined, yet dejected author that day got me thinking. It has been said that tenacity and perseverance is the way to achieve goals, and there is certainly anecdotal evidence to prove this to be true, but could it also be true, that on this journey towards success, there’s also a place for compromise?
I think there is something to be said for flexibility and openness. Yes, we should absolutely have a vision of how our future success will look—write the vision, make it plain! Pursue and persevere! Keep your eye on the prize and don’t let anything take you off course! But…
if we persevere and pursue the vision without allowing any adjustments or compromise, might we actually cut ourselves off from the very dream we are pursuing?
I think tenacity cuts both ways. For example:
- Publishers may be looking for the next best seller, but they don’t always know what that looks like. They base their expectations on what has worked in the past, so they may turn away new proposals that don’t “fit” those expectations; it doesn’t mean the works they turn away are not good. It simply means they aren’t what they were expecting!
- Likewise, writers who have an expectation that success means acceptance from a major publishing company may also assume there is no other measure of their worth and no other means to accomplish their goal of getting published.
The result is both writers and publishers are looking for one thing and neither is open to looking for something new; so each is missing out on a blessing that awaits them.
Yet, blessings come in many forms! The Jews did not reject Jesus because they weren’t looking for him. They rejected him because he wasn’t who they were looking for. They needed to be open to the fact that their Savior had a different look than they were expecting.
Writers may have to pursue other means of publication in order to demonstrate their merit, and publishers may need to think again about what they assume will make a best seller.
If you’re not a writer, but you’re trying to pursue what feels like an impossible dream—don’t worry! There’s more than one way to succeed! You may just need to consider a new approach.
What are you looking for?
Do you need to adjust your expectation? Maybe what you’re looking for is right in front of you! Beauty and genius will never be confined, pre-packaged or pre-set by pre-determined algorithms.
Beauty and genius emerge from unexpected places, like the silky shadows cast across the horizon that my friend and I watched that evening as we sat on the metal bench at the writers’ conference while authors, agents and publishers passed by—they didn’t see her and she didn’t see them. They would only see each other if they were open to seeing something new!