Sometimes the Sun Shines When It’s Raining

At the time I thought of writing this post, I didn’t know we’d be on the tail end of Frankenstorm when it aired. So perhaps it was fate that made me ditch the first ten or so post ideas I had before deciding on something that is, ultimately, a painful reflection on one of the darkest periods of my writing career thus far. But this isn’t meant to be a downer, that’s not my style. Chin up, fair writers. Sometimes we need the dark to appreciate the light, or a cold, hard rain to appreciate a warm embrace from the sun.

The journey to publication has felt like an unending storm with several eyes of calm that like to tease you long enough to restore your hope and motivation, then disappear again. So many things have changed even in the short time since I’ve begun. You must blog–it doesn’t matter if you blog. You must tweet–it doesn’t matter if you tweet. You must join Facebook–it doesn’t matter if you join Facebook. This critique partner loves your opening, that beta reader hates it. Print versus ePub, agent versus indie, traditional versus self-pub… I lost my sanity long ago. Only the craziest of us have stuck it out.

These things rain down on us, daily. Sometimes a drizzle, sometimes a torrent. Personally, the entire year of 2011 felt like a flood of confusion, and most of it came from my own head. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was the year I’d reached a crossroads in my writing journey. One way led to immediate failure (giving up), the other led to success (at some indistinct point in the future). I’m sure every writer comes to this junction at some time or another. Perhaps even several times.

The most unfortunate part of this crossroads is that it finds you at your weakest. You’ve had success in the past (that you will never take for granted), and this tricks you into believing that you should be further along your path than you really are. You’ve also been writing long enough that you’ve moved beyond the basics and feel brave enough to take some writerly risks. So you do. And then those risks come back to bite you in the ass.

What once felt like courage is now labeled foolishness.

It’s easy to complain your way through this kind of storm, or to blame it on something out of your control, like an ever-changing industry. But that essentially gets you nowhere, or worse, sends you backwards. The more difficult action is to board up your writing cave, lock yourself inside, and analyze where you went wrong. Where YOU went wrong, no one else.

But you are so sick of looking at this dreck you’ve been slaving over that you have to let it go (just for a moment, dear novel, I promise I’ll come back to you). Once you release the biggest of your worries, the others are easy. One by one you tuck them away, somewhere safe yet out of sight, until all you have left is a clear mind and a blank page.

And that’s when the magic happens. Suddenly the wind stops howling and a sliver of light spears through a window that, in your hurried desperation, had been boarded crookedly. Ahead of you is rain, behind you is more rain, but right now, in the eye of the storm, the sun is shining on your face. This new warmth is all you can feel, and from it is borne something you couldn’t have created without first weathering a hurricane.

Every sentence is fluid, every story element snaps into place. When you reach The End you know you’ve just witnessed a rare miracle. You don’t expect it to ever be this easy again, but you’ve also been forever changed by the experience, for the better.

They say writing is a lonely venture, and for the most part I believe it should be. Because it isn’t until you shut everything else out that you find something special inside you, and only you, that brings your stories to life.

While 2011 was my darkest year so far, 2012 has been my brightest. That storm has passed, and the story I wrote during the eye of it is going to be published later this month. I’d written it just for me (as a break from a novel I still refer to as my Problem Child) and now I get to share it with the world.

So if you find yourself in the midst of a publishing storm, and you most certainly will from time to time, just remember that it will not last forever. That isn’t the way the world works. Even something as strong as a hurricane will eventually pass on through. And sometimes you may find that the sun still shines when it’s raining.

_____

Image courtesy of Evgeni Dinev / Freedigitalphotos.net

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About Lydia Sharp

Lydia Sharp (@lydia_sharp) is a YA novelist and an Assistant Editor with Entangled Publishing. She has been a contributor to Writer Unboxed since 2010. For all the places you can connect with Lydia, and find her books, please visit her website.

Comments

  1. says

    Congratulations on your brighter days; that’s awesome! This post is good timing because I am in the middle of a writing storm, and I feel at times I’m losing my bearings. So after reading this, here’s hoping I’m heading for brighter days.

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  2. says

    Nice encouragement. Thanks for reminding us to step back a bit to see the whole picture. We can’t go downhill both ways. Life cycles…and, that’s a good thing.

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  3. says

    I agree writing is a solitary venture, but sometimes that quiet can be lonely and isolating too. Post like yours really help to minimize feeling alone and remind me that, yes, this is a journey with highs and lows. I’m not the only one feeling elated and beat up at various points in the storm. Congratulations on your triumphs!

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    • says

      That’s a very good point, Julie.
      When it comes to being a writer, I don’t believe in isolation. We need each other. But when it comes down to the actual writing, sometimes isolation is the only way to get results. Thanks for the lovely comment. :-)

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  4. says

    Lydia,
    Thanks for writing such a personal and poignant post on the inner struggles writers face. We can all take away a big lesson from you: sometimes it’s best to shut everything else out, clear the mind, and just let your inner talents flow freely. Best wishes to you on your new book and I will save this post for future reference.

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    • says

      Sometimes it’s hard for me to shut out the world, even when necessary, because I’m such a social butterfly. I just love people! But you are right, there are times when you have to put yourself and your own work before that of others, or else it helps no one. So hard to do, though.

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  5. says

    This was great – it captures exactly how I feel right now. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on getting out of the eye of the storm and into the sunlight!

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  6. says

    Thank you for sharing, Lydia. I clearly remember finishing the first draft of my fantasy trilogy a few weeks before my 48th birthday. That birthday I thought all three would be published by the time I was 50 (so I was optimistic – read: naive).

    After reality struck in the form of uniform rejection, I went through some dark days. But now I can look back, at 51, and know it was the road that had to be taken. If I had taken the easy road, and quit, I’d have never gotten to know so many wonderful WUers. And the books would’ve never had the chance to become what they are. Whatever happens now, I am grateful for the sunshine I’ve received in the past three years.

    This post is a ray of sunshine in and of itself, Lydia! Thanks again!

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    • says

      I can identify with so many things you mentioned about your experience, Vaughn. Especially the part about meeting so many great WUers along the way. Here’s to kindred spirits!

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  7. says

    This is so true, and I’ve been through the cycle so many times now, but it’s funny how soon we forget that it IS a cycle, and we need to have faith that the frustrations and doubts won’t last forever. I love your comparing it to a hurricane with an eye. Great reminder that storms aren’t stationary… they move on. I’m glad you’re having a great year.

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  8. says

    What a beautifully written piece from your heart and soul, Lydia. You’ve shared thoughts and feelings most writers feel from time to time. I saw myself in many of your words. Thank you!

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  9. Denise Willson says

    There’s always a rainbow for those willing to search for it. :)

    Denise Willson
    Author of A Keeper’s Truth

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  10. says

    Thanks for sharing this. Isn’t it just the craziest business? It’s art. It’s commercial. It’s priced too high. It’s priced too low. You’re right. It’s never ending. It seems even the publishers can’t figure it out. And as a marketer I can’t quite put my finger on it yet, either. But what does seem to work is if a person reads you and likes you, they will buy something else. Those conversion rates are the best. I felt stuck last year and something unleashed and I feel better than I have in a long time about being a professional writer. Was it me? Or the response to my writing? I don’t even think it takes something big to happen. Sometimes it’s just what’s in us.
    Congrats on your upcoming release~

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  11. says

    Great post, Lydia! I could have written this–“You’ve also been writing long enough that you’ve moved beyond the basics and feel brave enough to take some writerly risks. So you do. And then those risks come back to bite you in the ass.” I’ll blog about my failed risks later this month.

    Thankfully there are cycles. I’m glad that 2012 has been so good to you, and I look forward to hearing more about this debut of yours!

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  12. says

    Oh, I am so here right now. Well, not in the sun, but deep in the storm. And the what-is-the-right-thing-to-do questions…

    My 2012 has been rough, but I think 2013 is my time to retreat and do the cave work…

    Thank you so much for the inspiration and encouragement!

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  13. Ray Pace says

    Your confusion of 2011 is actually a gift to be used in your writing. Those feelings you experienced aren’t unique to writers. They are there at times in most lives and if expressed in their fullest, are something a reader will strongly identify with.

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  14. says

    “only the craziest of us have stuck it out” This explains while I’m still in. LOL! Congratulations on sticking with it and on your your upcoming book!

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  15. Linda Pennell says

    Lydia,

    Congratulations on your success and thank you for reminding us that the axiom “never give up” has its basis in reality. We all know that most things in life worth having require hard work, risk taking, and persistence, but it sure feels like writing for publication asks for more than its fair share. My grandmother’s saying “never could never did” rings in my memory with each defeat or rejection. It makes me pick myself up and continue what might be a foolish quest.

    You’re right about how suddenly the sun can appear in the midst of a storm. It can come in the form of a critique partner’s being blown away by your story or perhaps a friend who begs to read your unpublished work because she so fell in love with the other manuscript still languishing in your computer. It’s the hope of those bright rays that keeps us going!

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  16. says

    Lydia,

    Thanks for the pick-me-up article. In the midst of any storm, it is so easy to forget that the sun will shine again. It is so easy to give in to the storm and simply coast along.

    I intend to bookmark this post and refer to it often. Thanks again for inspiring us with your writing journey.

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  17. says

    Another unexpected benefit of Superstorm Sandy: a new analogy to writing!

    As a survivor hunkered down in Dystopian New York (the blackout area below 26th Street), and having witnessed the epic flooding of the Hudon River from our windows, let me add to the metaphor.

    In the middle of the night the storm of creation has a terrible beauty. Even as it destroys and overwhelmes us and our characters, we’re awed. It’s a godlike force, careless of human will. It just is. We can only surrender.

    In the long aftermath of the first draft we can feel that we’re without power. But we’re not. We have the powers of perseverence, patience, resourcefulness and will.

    Plus, Starbucks are open above 26th Street to remind us that an end will one day arrive.

    Writing is a storm, all right, but it’s also a long process of repair, followed by learning and resolve to keep going, better and stronger than before.

    Stay strong, WU friends…and send coffee.

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  18. says

    Great to see a philosophical Don checking in! Hope other WUers are faring as well, despite the many challenges.

    Speaking personally, and along metaphoric lines, sometimes the capitalized storms are easier, despite their destruction. It’s easier to get help and have a sense of community when events are seismic. It’s the minor squalls that can undermine one, and it takes that silence and distance to understand what’s happened. It’s even better to write out of the hole, like you did, Lydia, with your just-for-fun project. Congrats on your upcoming publication.

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  19. says

    Fabulous post, Lydia.

    I truly believe that writing is so deeply satisfying because sometimes it is so difficult to 1) do the work and 2) keep doing the work.

    It’s those difficult, rainy times that make the joyful times seem even brighter. And those sunny days DO really seem to come when we are at out wits end. Not sure why or how that happens, but it’s pretty cool.

    Thank you for this sunshine.
    :)

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  20. says

    Thank you so much for this beautifully written post. It’s so great to have the reminder that, no matter how dark the storm seems, it will have an end. It helps so much in the midst of the darkness to see proof that brighter days aren’t a cruel joke, but a certainty, if only we hold on. Thank you.

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  21. says

    Beautifully written post, Lydia. I’m so glad your storm has passed. Writing is something we do because we have to. It is anything but easy. Sometimes I wonder why I put myself through the craziness, but yet I still write.

    This must be why writers need other writers, to help lift each other up when we’re at our lowest points.

    Best of luck with your upcoming release!

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  22. says

    The only thing certain is change . . . three weeks ago I was reviewing book covers and ready to wrap it up. Then life took over and sent me into three weeks of dealing with life changing issues (unrelated to the book) and with no time to work. But how great is it to be doing what I love and living my dream: that of being a writer! The time will surface again and it will all be fine. Thanks for the reminder that letting go and getting it done are two sides of the same coin.

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