Claudia Osmond ~ Reader, Writer, and Ruminator

Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

Not a Long Story Made Short: The Story Behind the Story

In ruminating, writing on February 2, 2013 at 11:43 am

In honor of the upcoming launch of my new website, I’d like to share my “Story Behind the Story” web segment with you. It’s my publication story … and beyond.

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Just so you know, this is not a long story made short. It’s a long story that still has no ending.

Somewhere around 1999, I got inspired. I wish I could tell you I had a vision or an amazing dream that brought about that inspiration. But if I’m going to be honest with you I must tell you that my inspiration simply came from this deeply profound thought: “Heck! I want to write a book!”

So I sat down at the old desktop in the basement and pounded away at the keyboard until I had a chapter finished. It was called “Indoor Recess” (the chapter is now called “Blind Eyes”) and it was bad! Really bad! Of course, at the time I thought it was pretty brilliant.

Publication never even crossed my mind so I just took my time with the story which, besides that first chapter, was written in my closet. (I kid you not. It was a pretty dazzling set-up, actually.) Thinking back, it was a good thing I wasn’t considering publication at the time – I’d have gotten nothing but rejection notices if I’d tried submitting that early stuff! And trust me, I got enough rejections after I’d polished the manuscript to what I had thought was a high-gloss shine!

It wasn’t until a friend of mine started badgering me about finishing up the book and trying to submit it to publishers that I even considered taking it out of the closet to introduce it to the light of day. But, being the serious procrastinator I am, I just smiled and said, “Yeah, yeah. I’ll get it done. No worries.”

Six years later…

The badgering persisted. So, I finally caved, got the manuscript done, and then spent about six months researching my face off about how to get a publisher to even glance at a manuscript written by an unrepresented no-namer. I vowed, right from the beginning, that I would not self-publish, no matter what. It just wasn’t a road I was prepared to take. So I memorized individual publisher’s submission guidelines, the “Do’s” and “Don’t’s” of submitting manuscripts, and I read zillions of books on the subject, articles on the web, and anything I could get my hands on to make me feel like I wasn’t completely loopy for even trying to attempt such a long-shot! Once my brain was full of all the information I could absorb and I knew I was as ready as I would ever be (which still wasn’t ready enough!), I made the leap and sent out packages tailored to specific publisher requirements – even to ones who said they weren’t accepting manuscripts from no-namers.

Then, according to my infinity hours of research, I had at least six months to wait before I even heard anything (which would most likely be a rejection notice, they all assured me) from a publisher. Well, a few weeks later, I got a favourable email from a small publisher in the U.S. stating they wanted to read the whole manuscript! Yikes! Freak out time!

And then a few days later I got another email from a publisher in Canada wanting the completed manuscript. And then about a week after that, I got an email from Simply Read Books in Vancouver, also wanting the full meal-deal. Now, before you think all I got was positive feedback, let me assure you there were plenty of rejections tossed in with those heart-stopping emails – on a daily basis! Actually, the rejections kept coming in for months after. And I’ve kept each one. I remember actually cherishing my first rejection letter that came from a big NYC publisher. “I’ve made contact!” I exclaimed, hugging the impersonal form letter. My husband and kids thought I’d lost it. (FYI – I’m not crazy. I didn’t do that with every rejection letter. The novelty of ‘making contact’ wore off after that first one!)

So, considering I needed to send my completed, polished manuscript off to three different publishers, I quickly did another once-over and shipped them off. Pressing the “send” button on my email was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. My finger quivered over the key for a good long while. I was sending my baby into the hands of complete strangers! Strangers that had the power to make a final judgement and totally and out rightly reject my six years of blood, sweat, and tears. Okay, maybe not the blood part, but the sweat and tears, definitely.

One of the three publishers did the deed and swiftly hung my sweat and tears out to dry. But not too long after, Simply Read Books called one night. I thought my husband was playing a cruel joke on me when he said, “There’s a publisher on the phone for you.” “That’s not even funny,” I said as I took the receiver. But within a few minutes I was laughing! I couldn’t believe what the guy on the other end of the line had just said to me. All I heard was, “I want to publish your book,” and then my mind shut off and I didn’t hear anything else – except something about a contract. What? A contract? A real, live contract? And this from a publisher who’d said they weren’t accepting submissions from no-namers!

Once I hung up the phone and the happy-dances with my family died down and the days turned into weeks with not another peep from the publisher, I had convinced myself that the man on the phone had either called the wrong person or had changed his mind. I wasn’t going to get published after all. Time to embrace the rejections that were still coming in and drag my heart back to the place of rejoicing for at least “making contact.”

But a real live contract showed up in the mail a few weeks later. I read it about fifty times (the first twenty-five times because I was still in shock and the last twenty-five times because I was trying to make sense of it) and then I had a lawyer read it over before I signed it and sent it back. And then I cried. My baby wasn’t mine anymore. For the first time I could see why some people would rather self-publish and keep their baby in their own arms forever.

Now, before you shrug me off as just being “one of the lucky ones”… Well, maybe there’s a speck of truth in that somewhere. But let me assure you, the amount of “luck” I might have had can’t even come close to equalling the number of hours and amount of hard work I put into the whole process. Hard, hard work – right from the moment I started researching publishers to preparing submission packages to the never-ending editorial process to seeing my book through to print. And now, beyond. You may have heard it said that writing the book is the easy part. Well, let me tell you that is the absolute truth! So many people think publication is the magic pill and if only they could swallow it all their authorial dreams, goals, and ambitions would be instantly fulfilled and then all of their hard work will have finally paid off. Well, that may be partly true, but I’ve swallowed the pill and have learned that although it may provide a shot of instant relief, it’s actually designed to work as a slow release. And it’s only effective when working in conjunction with the mettle in your system.

There have been so many times over the years when I’ve totally felt like giving up and trashing this whole crazy idea of being a published author, just because it’s been such hard work. And continues to be. True, there are many moments of exhilaration and satisfaction and fulfillment and affirmation and love of the business. There are. Many. But it’s not always that way, like with anything in life. I’ve been bumped and jostled; I’ve stumbled and been tripped up; I’ve got scraped knees, elbows, palms, and chin. I feel I’ve now earned the right to include “blood” for a complete “blood, sweat, and tears” parallel to hard work. Publishing is a tough business. Period.

But you know what? I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had for anything. (Well, maybe for some things, but not just for anything.) It’s undeniable: The thrill of publication is grand – the Grandest of the grand! And the people I’ve met and the things I’ve experienced along the way have been life-enriching. Absolutely. And what’s more? I’ve learned great lessons; lessons about the importance of researching and doing my homework; about being patient and assertive; about practicing my craft; about networking; about perseverance, determination, and hard work. About how a no-namer like me can earn the chance to be published – and even published successfully – when all of the above are taken seriously. I’ve also learned that lessons like these have the potential to become great fuel to propel me forward and, conversely, they also have the potential to become dust if left to sit too long.

So as this brand new website emerges from the dust all sparkly and fresh, you’ll find me here among the rubble, donning my safety-goggles and doing what I can to convert my accumulated knowledge to rocket fuel.

Like I said, this isn’t a long story made short. But considering where I find myself today, looking to the future, I wouldn’t want to shorten it anyway.

To be continued …

Motivation and The Grey

In ruminating on July 7, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I watched The Grey last night. Holy. Wow. I couldn’t bring myself to take the garbage out to the garage after that for fear of the glowing eyes. Or worse, for fear of being pounced on and torn to shreds from behind. True, the worst that could happen to me in my backyard in the city would be a snarl and possibly a nip from an unsuspecting, glowy-eyed raccoon, but still. I wouldn’t even swim in a pool for a good long while after just seeing the previews of Jaws.

I couldn’t get The Grey out of my head all night. The moments of off-the-charts fear of what was lurking in the darkness. The looks of complete terror in the characters’ eyes as they were being attacked. The deep despair of being lost, feeling forgotten, being isolated – made to face the many dreads of the cold, stormy landscape alone and ill-equipped. It seemed those already dead got the better end of the deal.

I wonder if a motivational saying like: Keep Calm and Carry On would have helped these guys?

Or maybe one of these little gems:

We don’t see things the way they are. We see them the way WE are – Talmud.

I have found that if you love life, life will love you back – Arthur Rubinstein.

We must let go of the life we had planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us – Joseph Campbell.

Life isn’t a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, Chardonnay in one hand, chocolate in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming ‘Woohoo WHAT A RIDE’! – anonymous

Ah. What these fellas were missing was the Chardonnay and chocolate! Then the ride would have been worth it.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love a good motivational saying like the next person. They’re great little pick-me-ups for when you’re feeling like crap and want a little nugget that suggests everything will be okay in the end. They’re even great for when you’re feeling good and want confirmation that you’re on the right track; your attitude doesn’t suck at the moment, and you can nod and even laugh along.

But what if your situation truly does appear hopeless? What if reading quotes like the above feel more like a slap in the face, or a laughing pointing finger, than a comfort? What if you’ve fought and worked and persevered and journeyed tirelessly, only to keep running into to the same barriers, the same obstacles, the same behemoths time and time again? What if you find yourself in that place?

True that the above quotes, and so many others like them, hold grains of truth that can be applied to almost anyone in any situation. But there comes a time when nice cozy sentiments don’t cut it. When everything comes up short and we need to face the reality that no, not everything works out in the end all the time. Not every book, movie, situation, relationship, goal, life has a happy ending. And we’d be sorely remiss to permit – or fool – ourselves to think it does.

There will come a time when the motivational quote you may have to cling to looks more like this:

 Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day*

When you feel like this might truly be the last good fight you’ll ever know. When you are prepared to live and die on this day. When you feel like if you don’t succeed this time, it’ll be the end.

I wonder if you’ve been told at some point or another in your life that “maybe you’ve just got to know when to give up.” I know I have been. And I’ve more than once considered those words. And have almost given in to them as many times.
Almost.

But the question remains: When do you give up? When signs of the impossibility of success surround you like crash debris in an isolated arctic landscape? When you’re face to face with the wolves you’re sure will completely devour you? When you fall so hard and get banged up so much that you’re convinced you’ll never be able to get back on your feet? When you get wedged between rocks so strong they hold you down so you can’t break the surface for air? Does there come a time when you should just lie down on the rocky shore of a gently flowing river and surrender because the fight has become Too. Damn. Hard?

When? When do you pack it in?

Never. Not even when you find yourself on your knees completely exhausted, spent, fenced in, and smack dab in the middle of the den. Even then you must not give up. Instead, strap knives and broken bottles to your bloody, frostbitten hands and say,

 Once more into the fray
Into the last good fight I’ll ever know
Live and die on this day
Live and die on this day*

Even then, look the problem that’s become your enemy in the eyes, once again, and utter, “Bring it!”

It won’t be easy. It won’t be fun. It won’t feel all fuzzy and warm and inspirational. You most likely won’t be putting your glass of Chardonnay and bar of chocolate down in order to strap on your weapons. But you will have the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t give up. You didn’t hit the floor and roll over. You didn’t surrender. You didn’t betray yourself.

But know that you can’t do it completely on your own. Sure, the internal motivation, the perseverance, the drive to survive must come from within yourself. But you can only travel so far via your own strength and determination. If we’re honest with ourselves, we know our own reserves will only last so long. And we know “two heads are better than one.”

So, allow me to share some insights I’ve gleaned on the path of my own non-trivial journey that have now been seared into my head and heart, thanks to The Grey and my sleepless night. And if you have any others, please do share them in the comments below.

1)      Listen to advice. But be choosy. Don’t fall for listening to people who are self-important, people who talk the talk but haven’t walked the walk. Seek the guidance of veterans, of people who’ve been there, people who know what they’re talking about and have the scars to prove it.

2)      Equip yourself. Prepare for the long hard road ahead before you take that first step. Know what you’re getting into enough to anticipate challenges. Research. Feed yourself with knowledge and pray for wisdom.

3)      Get into a group of like-minded people. And stay there. Those who lag behind, the sick, the injured ones, they are always the ones to get picked off first.

4)      Don’t get cocky and think you’re better or smarter than others. This means be open to new ideas, suggestions, perspectives, approaches. This also includes being nice to people and getting along. Because if you don’t you’ll soon find yourself at the back of the group. A prime pick-off target.

5)      Be creative. If one method doesn’t work, try another. Be smart. Think ahead. Open your mind. Break the cycle of insanity**

6)      Determine now that even if, after doing all that was humanly and spiritually possible, you still end up smack dab in the middle of the den, you won’t roll over. You’ll strap knives and broken bottles to your hands and utter, “Bring it!”

7)      Make a pact with yourself that the only time you’ll actually give up is when you’ve got no vitals and your soul has left the building. Literally.  

Now get back out there, into the fray.

*Quote from The Grey

** “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein