Changing How You Tell Your Own Story

Yesterday I typed “The End” on my third novel. I’ve been writing for nearly four years now and there’s still a thrill in finishing that first draft. But there’s also another feeling, a wonder and amazement. I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. I can’t believe I’m still on this journey.

And since tone is hard to get across sometimes, those sentences are uttered in a good and happy way.

Writers, this is an amazing journey we are on. How many people think about or talk about writing a book? How many people actually sit down and do it. Slave over it? Get their heart ripped out of their chest over and over again? Put themselves out in that arena and get knocked down? And then…sit down and WRITE. THE. NEXT. BOOK.

But look at that last paragraph. Nobody in their right mind with any experience would actually believe that this writing and publishing gig is easy. It’s heartstoppingly hard. First you deal with crippling doubt through the entire process, followed by the fact that rejections outnumber acceptances at least 8-1. Combined with all the waiting and hopes that get crushed time and time again, occasionally mixed in with a healthy dose of envy of those who seem to get to that next step on the journey faster or easier than you.

It’s easy to spend this writing journey wondering Why not me? When is it my turn? What is wrong with my writing? And having those thoughts spiral into…It’s never going to happen for me. I’m a terrible writer. I should just quit. Nobody cares.

So what can stop us from going into that spiral? Let’s face it, we’ll all face rejection, doubt, starting over, and the green monster.

The answer should be a simple one for us. You have to change the way you tell your story.

I try to look at this whole publishing journey as one amazing adventure. This isn’t just a fun hobby, this is far more intense. This is a long term career we are trying to pursue here. We are becoming intimate with an art form. We are pouring our heart into something. We are learning the inner workings of what it actually takes to get a book on the shelf. How many people actually know how that works? How many people experience that? We are living life in this beautiful, vulnerable, and thrilling state. With big dreams and big goals and big, open hearts.

And it’s a big goal. It’s a long term adventure. And you have to look at it that way to get through the hard days.

On those days when you get seven rejections in one day, you have to be able to take the long view and say, “This will make a great story one day when I do a school visit.”

When your dream agent rejects your full even though they loved it but just didn’t think they could sell it, you have to tell yourself, “This will make the tale of how I get my agent even more satisfying.”

When you have to shelve another book and start over, you have to change your thoughts from “this is hopeless” to “This will be an amusing footnote in my life story.”

And with every roadblock, every rejection, every struggle to reach the next milestone, you have to change from saying “I’ll never get there” to “This is not the end of the story.”

Every hard, terrible, anxiety filled day of your writing journey is just there to make the ending that much sweeter. Whether that ending is the fulfillment of all your dreams, or just the sweet satisfaction of making art that changes only you and realizing that’s enough, you are the one who tells that story. So change it from a short term melodrama, to a long-term adventure. Savor the ups AND the downs, that’s what makes it exciting. That’s what causes that thrill every time a possibility presents itself.

Embrace it.

Tell your story the way it should be told and change the way you look at it.

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6 thoughts on “Changing How You Tell Your Own Story

  1. I love that. I have been struggling pretty fierce lately, definitely in that “it will never happen for me” stage. My poor hubby got to be on the receiving end of a huge meltdown tonight and spent half an hour trying to convince me I’d be even less happy if I gave up writing forever. 😉 It is a crazy journey indeed…

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  2. I really like your idea of pushing the bad things into a ‘This’ll Be a Great Anecdote Later’ folder. Rejections hurt so much when you first get them, but if you don’t tug out the blade and throw it away, what should have been a sting will become a cut, deep and infected and painful, and impossible to ignore.

    I can’t promise to be chipper all the time, but I’ll certainly try. Let’s hope your positive attitude is catching! 🙂

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  3. When writers, actors and musicians talk about it being hard, they often refer to the rejections and lack of outer appreciation for what they do. But I think there are aspects of the writing itself that are hard, and harder to explain to those who don’t do it.
    It isn’t hard the way factory work or coal mining is. It’s emotionally draining, if you do it right. Oh, and then there’s the rejection thing…
    But– and that’s a BIG “BUT”– I don’t forget for a minute that i am fortunate to do what I really want to do.

    Liked by 1 person

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