During my childhood, my mother would dabble on and off with writing this one manuscript. It took her ten years to write it (she had six kids to raise and support) and probably another year or so to edit it. I was one of her beta readers and I loved the manuscript as I saw the changes over the years. Not all of them, did I agree with, but most of the time it improved the book.
The time came when she finally decided she was ready to query an agent. By now I was in my early thirties and the book had sat untouched for several years. She wrote her letter, sent it by email, and received a rejection rather quickly. I encouraged her to continue to query other agents, but she said she was done.
And that was it.
Her manuscript sat idle for another couple of years until my younger brother convinced her to publish it online. My mother called me and we discussed it and I encouraged her to update it first. Now that I was studying the art of writing I realized there were a few things that needed to change, but I could tell she was disappointed with my advice and my brother kept urging her to publish it. As far as I know it still is sitting idle with no plan for the future.
Because of the self publishing craze, my mother and brother have both encouraged me to self publish my last two manuscripts and I’ve disappointed them with my response. I’m not against it, but I feel I still have lessons to learn with my writing and I don’t think I will learn what I need to without going the traditional route. Who knows, I might change my mind down the road, but right now that is how I feel.
The other day, my mother (who has decided to start writing again) sent me this excerpt from Louise DeSalvo’s book, Writing as a Way of Healing. “I didn’t know that for writers there is an apprenticeship period and that the sooner we begin, the better. Virginia Woolf started taking herself seriously as a writer when she was fifteen, though other writers, like Harriet Doerr, author of the novel Stones for Ibarra, or like the poet Amy Clampitt didn’t begin writing or publishing until they were elders.”
“If we commit ourselves to engaging in the process of writing, our work will evolve and mature. Becoming competent takes time, and we all have within ourselves the capacity to do it. Yet instead of being helped to achieve this healing insight, I was taught that, in the words of one of my English teachers, when it comes to be a writer,
“you either have it or you don’t”.
“That simply isn’t so.”
After she sent this to me, I wondered how many aspiring authors were like my mother and believed that they didn’t have it. Probably more than I realize. I know as writers, it is easy to become discouraged, but I hope most of us agree with Laura DeSalvo’s advice. In my opinion, true failure is giving up.
What do you think?