Here’s a question for all my fellow writers:
When was the last time you thought about giving up?
Or how about this:
When was the last time you made an ultimatum with yourself? When was the last time you said that if you didn’t achieve X, you were going to throw in the towel?
Did you achieve X?
Because here’s something you’ve heard before: writing is hard.
I’ve been a writer, in some form or another, most of my life. Funny thing, though—I never really got that saying. Sure, it can be difficult at times to find the right words to express yourself with; frustrating to figure out the next step in your story. But mostly, if you’re passionate about it, writing is fun.
Then I did something I once thought (for reasons I’ve discussed in the past) unattainable: I finished a novel.
I submitted it to agents.
And that’s when I finally understood.
Writing is hard.
Hard to see the rejections. Hard to understand why no one else seems to share your passion for something you spent so long on. Hard to feel that self-doubt creep in; to watch powerlessly as you second-guess every instinct you have.
You begin to wonder if you’re any good. You begin to ask yourself how long are you going to keep trying before you realize this isn’t meant to be.
And that is when I gave myself an ultimatum.
Get a win. Something big; something that mattered. Get it soon.
Or I’m done.
Well, here’s a spoiler for you: I didn’t get my X—at least not yet, anyway.
But I learned something else, just a couple of weeks ago.
Something I’d like to share with you.
I got another rejection. There was nothing particularly unique to this one, but it hit me harder than all the others. Maybe it was just that proverbial straw and I the camel’s back. Whatever the reason, I found myself looking back at those four months of submitting my novel in despair. Maybe this was my answer. Maybe this was my sign that it was time to give up.
And that’s when it hit me.
When I looked back at those four months, all I could remember was rejection.
I hadn’t lived those months. I’d done things and experienced things, but all I’d really cared about was that one success. And because I never got it, I hadn’t been able to focus on anything else I was achieving.
I realized a few things in that moment. Firstly, I realized how unbelievably patient my wife had been with me. Looking back, I was able to see for the first time that I hadn’t been easy to live with for those four months.
And yet she supported me, without a word of complaint.
The other thing I realized—and the one I want to share with you—is that life is a journey. It’s not always a straight path to get to your goals, and there are surprises and there are twists and turns every step of the way.
But if you persevere; if you fight for it; if you truly believe in yourself; you’ll get there.
I believe that. I truly do. I don’t know when, but I believe that one day, I will achieve my goals.
But what I realized in that moment is that it will never happen if I let the journey destroy me first. If, instead of embracing the surprises and the twists and turns for the learning experience they are, I grow dejected and bitter over the fact that I’m not succeeding at the speed I want to.
I’ll be broken before I make it.
In short, I learned that I needed to stop giving myself ultimatums. There didn’t need to be an “or else” to my dreams.
I didn’t succeed to the extent I wanted today.
Possibly, I won’t tomorrow either.
But when I stop and look back, I realize I’m not standing still either.
Maybe that’s all I really need.
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.