Thursday, October 23, 2014

Finding the Courage to Hit Send!

You've spent months, maybe even years, working on your story. You've read, and reread, and reread its pages so many times that the characters seem real and the lines feel like they've actually been spoken. You love this story, and maybe you hate it a little too. I think all writers have this dream of seeing their book on the shelf every time they walk in Barnes and Noble... I know I do.

Maybe it goes further than that. Maybe you have an agent helping you along the journey, or you went to a conference like ACFW and bravely pitched this manuscript. Maybe you even received some requests for the proposal or the book! If that's you, then first of all, congratulations! And second of all, buckle up.

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The world if submissions can be daunting. And to be honest, the longer I write, the more daunting it becomes. I started my fiction journey as an academic writer with an MA in English. I was well used to receiving criticism and rejection. So while those first fiction rejections stung, I already had the life experience to pick myself up, dust myself off, and determine to learn more about the craft before the next story. I've now been writing fiction for about five years, and I can tell you, I've discovered that really good fiction is almost always autobiographical. No, I don't mean your real great aunt is the great aunt in the story, or that your character has to have an awful experience with braces like you did in high school. What I mean is that the way you see flowers alongside the road, the first time you had your heartbroken, and the way you felt the first time you set foot on the crowded streets of a big city are inevitably going to color and influence not only your writing voice, but also the characters' selves. A character may be your total opposite, but he or she will still inevitably carry the color of you in the story, because you are author, and you simply can't escape that in honest, heartfelt fiction.

In my opinion, this very concept is the reason why rejection can be so hard to swallow. As artists, we have to believe that the art we create and the heart it came from are two very separate things. This helps us to process rejection from editors, agents, and reviewers. But is it really true? Do any of us really believe that? Because, at the end of the day, if you're writing your heart story-- especially if you feel like God has giving you a calling to write it-- then that story is inherently bound to you in some way. To write a story out of your heart is to first write from your heart.

And so it only follows that sometimes we get scared. We want to avoid rejection, and so, we essentially freeze. Or maybe we drag our feet. We get so excited when we receive a proposal request at a conference, but four weeks later, when we're polishing the last few elements of our manuscript in the middle of the night wearing sweatpants and fuzzy socks, something happens. Fear begins to creep in.

Romans 8:15 is the key verse for my current book. It says, "The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, 'Abba, Father.'"

We do not have to keep company with a spirit of fear of apprehension. Fear says you are unworthy. Sonship and daughtership say you are your life is valuable, purposeful, and loved.

See, we don't have to look to acceptance or rejection for a sense of validation. It's hard-- don't I know it's hard!!-- not to perceive an editor or agent's comments as validation or refutation of your calling as a writer. But if God called you to write, keep your eyes focused on Him. Whether you receive a three book deal from your dream publisher, or you get another "not yet," at the end of the day, He is our anchor and our all-in-all. To become fearful and fretful and to entertain all the "what if's" is to take our eyes off of Him.

So, certainly take time to polish, polish, polish that manuscript. Put it away for a little while and then come back and polish more. Don't underestimate the power and importance of the editing process. Remember that once you submit a story, it's out there. There's no going back to make a few more changes to a character or subplot. Don't rush yourself or the manuscript.

But once you have put in the time and energy to make your manuscript the best it can be, be brave. Send it into the world. Yes, maybe it will get shot down. But on the other hand, maybe it will fly. And wouldn't you hate to miss that sight because your fears held you back?

Let's end this post with a prayer. I hope it encourages you to be brave, bold, and courageous, and send those stories out into the world for valuable feedback and perhaps even the chance to get into readers' hands.

Lord, thank You for this unique and beautiful calling to write. Thank You for the writing communities you've sown me into and those who have come alongside me in this journey so far. Would you send all the friends, mentors, agents, editors, and readers who will be part of my journey into my life, and help me be on the lookout for those divine appointments? Give me the discernment to know when a story is ready or is not ready, and the courage to hit "Send" when it's time. And most of all, fix my eyes on You throughout this process, as writing becomes a form of worship more than a popularity contest. We love you and thank You for all You're up to. Help us stay aware of your ways. Amen.


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


Casey said...

Romans 8:15. Thank you, Ash. I needed that verse this morning. :)

Excited to see where your courage in pushing send is going to take you!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Ashley, what a beautiful post my friend. And your prayer? Just what I needed. I'm not hitting Send yet on this story, but I'll probably be coming back to this post when I'm ready to.

Just beautiful!

Angie Dicken said...

Great post, Ash! I mean...sooooo good. I need to hear this over and over again. Love ya!

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Case! :) Don't you love that verse?

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you, Jeanne! And I think having the courage to WAIT to push send can be just as important has having the courage to make the jump! We're cheering you on!

Ashley Clark said...

Aw, thank you, Ang! I'm so glad it encouraged you! <3

Kelly Blackwell @ Heres My Take On It said...

Such an incredible post and one I needed today. I have realized how much I depend on people to validate what I do and I have also let fear freeze me. Your post inspired me and your prayer was just what I needed to! I am writing that one down. Thank you for sharing encouragement.

Sherry Ellis said...

It's very important to keep polishing. It takes time, but when you have an excellent product, it's worth all the work!

Emily Ann Putzke said...

Thank you for this! I needed it. =)