A couple weeks ago I was talking to my sweet little sister, who is in grad school and also engaged. Her life is kind of crazy right now, and so of course she is having those mental struggles that come with that. She was video chatting with my mom about how hard school was, how she didn't think she could do it, how everything just seemed impossible.
I happened to be in the room, and my heart just lurched for her because I knew where she was coming from. I don't know if it made any difference for her, but it did for me when I said, "You are doing something hard. They don't call it grad school for nothing. But that doesn't mean you can't succeed or that your failures will spell disaster."
The idea hit me in that "Duh!" place after I said it. Having perspective on my sister's plight was easy enough from the outside, and we are all immensely proud of her because she is the first of my siblings to even go to grad school. I don't think I could have done it. I decided fairly quickly that undergrad was enough for me.
But it's harder to remember that you are doing something intended to be difficult when you are smack in the middle of it. I'm sure my sister looks at her fellow students and sees them doing well or having an easy time, much like I thought many of my aspiring writer friends had it easier than me while I was querying and on submission. It's so easy to forget that you are doing something intended to be hard, and that in and of itself is a bold and amazing thing.
Publishing is hard. Plain and simple. Writing a book is hard. Querying is hard. Submission, debuting, maintaining a successful writing career with all its sacrifices—these are all hard things to do. Honestly, I don't think a single part of this job was designed to be easy. The more I've learned, the more I know that for sure.
So when you crash into a road block or fail in some way, don't forget that you are trying to accomplish something difficult. I've failed so many times at this writing thing it's kind of ridiculous. I have almost a dozen trunked manuscripts. It took me 4 rounds in the query trenches to find an agent to take me on (nearly 200 queries!), and even then I spent 9 months editing for that agent before the official offer. When I finally managed to get on submission to editors, my first book failed for 15 long months. Then my agent left the business, and I had to get used to a new one. Then I went on sub for a second time and finally sold a book. This all took about 5 years.
That's a lot of fail, guys, let's be honest. And when you are going through all that stuff it's so, so easy to take it out on yourself. To decide you must suck. To feel like it'll never happen. To want to give up. To wish you had never started.
It's also easy to forget that you are doing something hard, especially when it looks easy for other people. You see other writers getting agents and deals and blurbs and glowing reviews left and right, and it can be tempting to think that they never had a difficult time trying to publish. Well, that's just not true. In my 5 years of pursuing publishing, I have never met a writer who hasn't struggled. They may hide it well online, but that doesn't mean they don't face the same harrowing path as the rest of us.
Take comfort in this truth: You are doing something hard.
In a world where it seems as if we're almost encouraged to take the easy way out, you are doing something to challenge yourself. You are pushing yourself, improving yourself and your craft. You are trying to achieve something that is no easy feat. Even if you stumble or struggle or take forever to get there, take pride in your courage and strength, even when it feels like you have none.
Because this whole writing thing is supposed to be hard, and once you accept that it's much easier to continually find the joy in the process.