Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Fricassee (When Friends Stop Asking)


Yesterday at Whole Foods, I bumped into a friend of mine whom I don't see very often.  I'm really fond of this guy--he's warm, passionate, quirky, and he and his wife sell the most amazing food at our local farmer's market every Saturday.

I've known him for almost a decade.  We go to the same church, and I first met him when he sang in a special choir that I was asked to conduct one Easter.  The funny part was that, for several years afterward, I would pass him in the hallway, and he would say hello and call me by name--and I didn't know who he was.

Because let's be honest.  When you run a handful of rehearsals and a couple of performances for a group of thirty or so people, you don't exactly remember all their faces, let alone learn their names.  It was actually Mr. A who finally said to me, "He sang with us!"

After that, I made a concerted effort to remember my new friend's name, and the rest is history.  He's a peripheral friend, not someone in my closest circle of influence.  But I treasure him, because he's one of those people who always makes you feel like you matter.

Almost five years ago, when I first signed with my agent, he was especially encouraging and supportive.  Whenever I ran into him (which was often at Whole Foods), he would ask me how things were going with my writing.  As in, every time.  He was interested, and he knew it was important to me.  He's a creative type, too, so he "gets" that part of me.  He was rooting for me to sell that first book, to get things moving.

Of course, I never had anything exciting to tell him.  Still, he kept asking, and kept offering support.

Yesterday in Whole Foods, he didn't ask me.  I wasn't surprised, because he hadn't asked for quite some time.  In fact, it's a relief to not have to continue to say things like, "Oh, we've got another book out there right now, so I'm just waiting."

Such a relief.  Seriously.

But the absence is glaring.  This man always asked.  No matter what else we were talking about--no matter where we happened to see each other.  I could count on him to always touch base with me on my writing.  In his own way, he was walking along with me on my journey.  I deeply appreciated it.  But at this point, it's much easier--much less painful--that he doesn't ask.

He's not the only one.  As time has passed, other friends have fallen gently silent.  And why wouldn't they?  After a while, it becomes awkward to keep asking the same questions--and getting the same answers.

No, I haven't sold a book yet.  End of story.

And this, folks, is the quiet valley through which you've got to push if you want to keep going.  There are no cheering crowds.  There's no one asking to interview you (those requests have died away, too), no one following you, no one insisting that you will get your break soon.  And the ugly truth is that they've stopped believing.  (And, because these are decent folks, they would never say that to you.)

And it doesn't matter.  It's not pretty, but it doesn't matter.  Because when you get to this point, you have to press on.  Despite everything.

Despite, perhaps, having stopped believing yourself.  Somewhere along the way, it stops being about the believing, and is only about the doing.  Writing because that's what you do.  Telling stories because they're in your soul, and you've worked so hard and so long to write them well, and others have confirmed that, yes, you actually have learned to turn a phrase or two, and, dad-gummit, you're not going to stop writing just because your dreams haven't come true.

Just because your dreams aren't even there anymore.

No.  It's way beyond dream-chasing.  It's set-your-jaw, sit down, take a deep breath, WRITE.  It's meeting folks you know and love, and not thinking twice when they don't ask you if you've sold anything.  (And if someone does ask about your writing? You don't have an emotional break-down.  And you don't feel like a failure, either.)

Mine was clearly never meant to be an exciting, holy-cow-her-agent-sold-the-triology-in-just-2-weeks! story.  That's not what I have to offer you.  And it's a good thing, because those fast-success stories aren't the norm.  We just hear about them a lot because, well, they're exciting.  And people vomit them out, and we slurp them up, and our spirits long for a similar story.

Heck, even sold-in-two-months is exciting.  Or sold-in-six-months.  Or her-first-book-didn't-sell-but-her-second-book-sold-in-a-week.

You get the idea.

The only way to keep going is to move past all that.  And if my role in all this is to be an example to you of what it means to JUST KEEP GOING, then I embrace that.  One of the things that has kept me going during the difficult times is remembering that you are watching me.  That you need me to carry the banner so that we can walk the walk together.

That's what I'm doing.

Press on through the hard times.  Press on when friends fall silent.  It's about you and your writing.  It's about determination and dedication and stubbornness.  It's about rising above everything -- everything -- and continuing to write.

And one day, I'll bump into my sweet friend at Whole Foods or the farmer's market or church, and I will exclaim, "Guess what!" What a moment that will be.


  1. Chills. You gave me chills. You don't know how much I needed to hear this. Sometimes this querying thing can make me forget why I loved writing in the first place...because I LOVE WRITING. It's time to sit down and write the MS that has been churning in my head waiting to break free. To get back to the part I love and experience the joy again. Thank you for the reminder. And you, my dear Authoress, you need to also remember that part of YOUR journey is this. What you so selflessly give to our writing community. xo

  2. The keeping going, rather than the waiting, is the hardest part. Maybe Tom Petty knows that, too.

  3. Journey is belting out those notes of inspiration in my head... don't stop believing!

    Speaking of Journey, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, for letting us in to your story!

  4. I may not ever get published--too much of a midlist author in a breakout world--but my name is on three acknowledgement pages because of critiques and support I've given. I'm proud to have been part of someone else's success, even on a small scale.

    I can only imagine the number of authors you've helped succeed. Your contests are awesome. Your website is a comforting hug in a lonely endeavor. Bask a little in those successes while you wait for your sale. And the next time you bump into that friend tell him, "You wouldn't believe how many books I've helped get published."

    1. This person makes an awesome point. Go this person.

      Authoress, your hard journey hurts my heart. For real. I've only been following for a few years but man it really stings to be like, "wow, and SHE hasn't gotten what she wants yet? That sucks!" But it's so brave and good of you to share with us, because it lets us see a truth and feel like we're not alone. No one has walked with us the way you can because you can feel what we feel and more. So for that, I truly thank you. Man, I hope you break through soon...this is just rough. But in the meantime, thanks for being there for us, and being the Baruch to so many Jeremiahs, so to speak. You are truly amazing.

  5. Thank you for this elegant expression of a hard truth. So glad you are keeping on!

  6. When my mother got cancer (upbeat way to start a story, I know), my friends, even the periphery ones, were very concerned. Each and every one of them checked in with me repeatedly in those first several months to see how she was, what was the prognosis, how was treatment going, what was the next step, did I need anything? Etc., etc. I said the same sad thing to everyone I talked to, and they always said the same encouraging platitudes back. It was an exhausting dance, and at one point, I just stopped taking calls or answering emails. And they got that. It was in my voice. It was in my eyes. My weariness with it was so evident. So they quit asking. They weren't uninterested. They didn't love me less. They just realized that I desperately didn't want to answer those same questions over and over again anymore. And then, when something changed, I contacted them, and they were very willing to talk about it with me and ask all their questions and provide support and encouragement and platitudes.

    I know it's an inner battle and sometimes telling yourself, "In the face of everyone's doubts, even if no one believes in me, even if I don't believe, I'm still going to soldier on!" It's armor, and sometimes it absolutely necessary to don that and be that stoic person who just keeps going. So I don't want to take that away from you. But it also hurts, in a way, to know that you think the people in your life don't believe in you anymore because it's very likely that they've just noticed the way the questions make you pause and wince a little and maybe sigh before you answer. We don't want people to have to fake smile through a conversation with us, so they've backed off. But I still believe in you. I think this book is going to be the one, and if it's not, I'll believe the next book will be the one, for just as long as you keep writing them. And I bet all those friends are still patiently waiting for you to bring up good news when it does happen and they'll be just as thrilled for you as if it'd happened in the beginning, probably more so.

  7. I 💙 this post. Yes, there are many around me who have fallen silent. My own parents never ask about my writing. But, I make sure I surround myself with other writers who understand and will cheer me on, even when I stop believing in myself.

  8. I so understand how this feels. I'm in the same boat, and I cringe every time I go see my parents and they ask me what's happening with my books. I wish they'd stop asking. I'll let people know when and if I have news to share. Until then, better to just stay quiet.

  9. This reminded me that I've always wished more people would ask me about my writing -- not so much about whether I've published something, but just about what I'm working on and how it's going and that sort of thing. I suppose I want recognition that they understand that my writing is a very important part of who I am, along with the fact that it's simply nice to get encouragement.

    But I've had to realize that it's usually not something that others are going to keep thinking of unless they're writers themselves. That's why it's so good to have writers' forums -- and places like this! -- where we can come and talk about all the little ups and downs of the process that we share. :)

  10. This is very inspiring because it's true. It's the writing, people, the writing, not the glory that we have to care about. We all want the glory, but in the end, it's just you and your words alone together. You have to love them deeply. They have to sustain you. And other writers can sustain you and great books can sustain you. And maybe you can find small triumphs and rewards along the way. But you have to just keep creating, growing, learning. That is what makes a writer. Selling is not the mark of an artist--EVER. Thanks for this post!!

  11. This is the place to share. We're here, listening to you, reading your posts, and cheering you on, even if we cheer silently. You're going to be published, that's all there is to it.

  12. Your path may not be as straight as you had hoped, nor as short as you had wished, but it is uniquely yours. Therein lies a tale.

  13. Writing is hard for the unpublished. It's a lifestyle choice until it becomes a qualified business. Thanks for sharing your journey--it means a lot to know others persist, as well.

  14. Yes, yes, yes!
    Keep going - we're with you!!!
    And we'll be celebrating with you when the time is right! :)

  15. Oh my gosh. That post really hit the spot. Hang in there for us and we'll hang in there for you

  16. My critique partner (now published) sent this to me today, because he's the perfect critique partner. Your words told me what I already knew but needed to hear again. Thank you for this post.

  17. That will be an amazing moment! Thanks for always being a great example of determination and grit, even though it's not easy.

  18. "And you, my dear Authoress, you need to also remember that part of YOUR journey is this. What you so selflessly give to our writing community. xo" - Susan Silberman

    "I can only imagine the number of authors you've helped succeed. Your contests are awesome. Your website is a comforting hug in a lonely endeavor. Bask a little in those successes while you wait for your sale. And the next time you bump into that friend tell him, "You wouldn't believe how many books I've helped get published." - ikmar

    As they say online, "This!"

    Might not hurt to go over the success stories you've helped along the way with all your work here. If it were me, I'd keep a list. Maybe little pictures of book covers tacked to a bulletin board.

    In the movie, "It's a Wonderful Life," the theme was about a man who never seemed to manage to get around to his own dreams in life. But at the end of the movie, he was made to realize what he HAD accomplished along the way.

    There are a lot of authors who would still be languishing in Pottertown if not for you.

  19. What a great, honest, yet hopeful post!

  20. And the pushing forward doesn't stop if you have a book or two published. Sometimes the crowds still aren't cheering and you just have to keep swimming! Wishing you all the best :0)

  21. Read your achingly honest and beautiful post with cringing familiarity. Read these generous and accurate comments with steadily increasing warmth and hope. Thanks to all in this community.

  22. A beautiful post. My wife and I are trying to provide a partial solution to this conundrum, which allows authors to publish, share and promote digital books (mostly picture e-books) for free, while they continue in the struggle to become published in a more formal manner. The site is, it is self-funded and everyone is welcome to use it for free. It has helped me become a better and better-known writer!

  23. Thank you thank you. I'll keep it up if you do too. We'll get there.

  24. Thank you thank you. I'll keep it up if you do too. We'll get there.