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  • Toni Wilbarger

Rainy Day Revelations - Part One


It's spring in Ohio, so that means lots of rainy days. And since my mood tends to reflect the weather, a long stretch of rain can send me into depression. Many strings of negative thoughts twist through my head at any given time and rainy days seem to amplify them. The biggest "string" that nags me is the one where I tell myself I'm just not good enough as a writer.


Rejection is a terrible reality for anyone who tries writing for publication. Even though I self-published one novel, I've written two others that have not garnered interest from any agent of editor. And Chicken Soup for the Soul accepted and published two of my articles, but rejected four others. It's the nature of the writing biz, and there's really no getting around it. If you're writing for publication, you're going to be rejected.


First, A Little Background

When I attended one of my first writing conferences in 2006, I met a woman about my age who was in the same boat. Let's call her Liz. When I met her I was crying. No, sobbing is more like it. I'd just had an appointment with an editor who rather abruptly rejected my proposal and dismissed me like a bug that landed on his hand. I barely kept it together as I rushed from the room. I found a small, empty courtyard and I stepped outside to let the tears flow. I kept my back to the glass wall where other conference attendees passed by inside the warm hallway. Our conference was in February in Colorado Springs, and the temperature was somewhere just above freezing.


But despite my attempts to hide my distress, Liz must have noticed me from that warm hallway. She stepped into the cold, touched my shoulder, and asked what was wrong. I told her what had happened and confessed all my insecurities as well. (Poor thing. She had no idea what she was getting herself into, right?)


After I calmed down, Liz asked, "Who was it? He doesn't have to like your material, but he never should have treated you that way." I declined to tell her. There was no point. But I appreciated that Liz seemed to want to confront him on my behalf.


Then she prayed with me and we talked awhile longer. For all I know, she may have had to be somewhere, perhaps another class or even her own appointment with an editor. But we spent some time getting to know each other. Liz had recently written her first non-fiction book and also aspired to write novels. We joined each other for a few meals during the rest of the conference, and we exchanged contact information before we left.


Guess what? Liz sold that book soon afterward. How exciting for her! And now I was friends with a published author. Liz found an agent who wanted to represent her, and a year or so later, her debut novel appeared on bookshelves across the country.


She's written nine novels since then, published by two different and well-known companies in the Christian publishing industry. Now she teaches writing classes at conferences similar to the one where we met. We keep in touch, and she is as wonderful a person now as she was back then.


However, this is where my big depressing thought arises. Liz has all that success in her writing career, and I have-- well, a little. Don't get me wrong, I've learned a lot since the day we met. (One of those lessons is not to burst into tears when an editor rejects my work, lol.) But my mind keeps replaying the fact that neither of us had published a novel back then and now she has nine. Plus the non-fiction book. And I don't even need two fingers to count my novel writing successes.

A little snarky voice inside asks, "Envious much?"


And then I have to admit that even though the voice is indeed snarky, it's also true. Ugh. On top of all my other faults, I need to add envy as well. This is when I sigh. This is when I confess to God. And it's also where I get stuck when the rainy days come calling.


Flash Forward to This Year

If you've been following my writing, you'll know I've had some success in contests with my latest novel. I've achieved semi-finalist status in two and runner-up in a third. A literary agency where I'm planning to submit this novel states that having an endorsement already secured might go a long way in boosting their interest. (In case I'm confusing you, an endorsement is one of those recommendations from other well-known authors that a publisher will list in the front of a novel.)


So even though I've resisted asking because I know she's terribly busy, I wrote Liz and asked her if she would consider reading my novel and endorsing it. She agreed to read it. I thanked her and said, "No rush." Except it's four months later now and I wish I'd given her a deadline.


My First Rainy Day Revelation

That's when I realized my asking Liz for her endorsement wasn't just about trying to get an agent. Remember Depressing Thought Number One? That I wasn't good enough? Asking Liz to read my novel was just using her as a litmus test for my writing: If she says she likes it, then maybe I am a good writer after all.


Wow.


And that's when God showed me I don't need to compare myself with Liz or any other accomplished author. She has her life; I have mine. After all, God doesn't compare us to one another. He doesn't look down at us from His throne and say, "Boy, Toni had better step it up if she wants to be as prolific as my servant Liz." No, He judges each person by their own heart. What others may or may not do has no bearing on how God sees me. My real litmus test should be whether I'm pleasing God.


Okay, so that's one thing. Stay tuned to Part Two of my Rainy Day Revelations, coming soon.


Until next time,

Toni





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