I am about to step into the next decade of my life and it’s feeling so much messier than I’d hoped it would. Turning thirty was easy. I felt like an adult, and was finally taking charge of my hopes and dreams. Forty feels like failure. I know it’s not. I could absolutely make a list of all the things that I did and all the things that happened to me in my thirties and I’m sure I’d be surprised.
But back when my thirties were new and I had taken that precarious step from dreaming of being a writer to actually being a writer I said something to my friend Beki in passing, “I know getting a book published could take a while but if I still haven’t sold one by the time I’m forty, that will be hard to swallow.” As the words were coming out of my mouth some small corner of my brain thought, “you should not be saying this out loud.” Now my therapist friend would call that Magical Thinking. But I’m a writer, I mean on some level all the thinking I do is laced with magic.
Which brings us to today when yet another query response came in. Honestly, I’ve been rejected so many times they barely make an impact anymore, but this one was different. This was a revise and resubmit, which means that the agent liked the premise of the book but thought it needed a bit of work. Advice I can take, work I can do and revise I did. I sent the revised pages and then I waited for SIX MONTHS. I wasn’t waiting-waiting, I queried other agents, took webinars, read books and started working on my next book. And I KNOW from the experience of other authors that a revise and resubmit is NO GUARANTEE. I barely even thought about it. But on hard days, the days when you think “I could really use a win” something in my heart would whisper “there’s always the revise and resubmit.” It was there like a tiny thread of hope that I could cling to when I really needed the life line and there were times this winter when I really needed it. Today the response came in, I wasn’t even looking for it it’s been so long. It was the most heart wrenching no thank you I’ve received. “…I do want you to know how difficult it was for me to pass on this one…” In other words, you came really close. So much harder to read then the blanket “Not for me.”
So here I am, facing forty with multiple manuscripts, having written way over 600,000 words with no literary agent, and no book contract. I don’t know what that means exactly, if it means anything. Even back on that fateful day when I accidentally told the universe that I needed to be published by forty, I knew I wouldn’t stop writing. By then the need to tell stories had already sunk its talons so deep into my soul I knew I couldn’t stop. But it is hard. Last week three people at church and my dental hygienist asked how the writing’s going. I try not to be embarrassed by it, but it would be nice to have something else to say other than “I’m still plugging away.”
I sat outside today, and I stared at the garden and the trees and really tried to have a good attitude. So I’m a debut author at eighty, who cares. But the disappointment was too thick to trick away. And then there was a really quiet voice that said, “Do you trust me? Do you trust my timing?” (Someone explain to me why this voice is the quietest of all the voices. Shouldn’t it be louder than my bitter disappointment?) And I do trust Him, in my head. But I’m not gonna lie, my heart is channeling its inner psalmist and crying out “WHY MUST YOU TAKE SO LONG OH LORD?” And I get that this is super dramatic, I’m not facing persecution or anything. But I’m gonna be forty so maybe I’m entitled to one or two dramatic days.