When “nothing happens”

Photo, A Typewriter, Takashi Hokoshima, Nov. 8, 2013, Flickr, Creative Commons
Takashi Hokoshima, "A Typewriter," Flickr, 2013.

I began writing when I was in third grade, and since we didn’t have kindergarten back in the Paleolithic era, that was only two years after I had literally learned how to write. Poetry became my way to escape when school was boring, when other kids picked on me, and basically all the time. In other words, I have been writing, a lot, for a long time. Officially, I began writing and submitting romance novels 10 years ago.

During those years, I have been active in my local romance writers’ chapter and RWA. I have written seven complete manuscripts and a number of incomplete. I was a finalist in the American Title Contest as well as other smaller writing contests; I have had requests for partial and full manuscripts; I have been this close. . .

But no cigar.

Well, at least not yet. And that’s the question. Why would anyone continue to do something in the face of rejection after rejection? Hopes up and hopes dashed? I’ve had friends say that they would have quit long ago, but I haven’t.

So, I write this with the idea of encouraging others in the same boat—why would you get into this mess?

When you stop rolling the dice, you can no longer win the game. Because you have no choice. I have heard it said many times, that if you can do something else, do it. But if you can’t picture yourself doing anything else, you have no choice but to write, or sing, or draw. In reality, we all have to earn money and support ourselves. In “real life,” I am a tenured professor, and I feel blessed to have this job. My students teach me as much as I teach them.

But, there have been those times when I return to school after summer break, that I feel a pain similar to the loss I felt after maternity leave. I didn’t want to leave my baby with someone else, or my manuscript unfinished while I go back to the work world.

That is the serious answer. There is also the response—what else would I do with my free time? Make candles? Nothing wrong with candles, we all need a little romance in our lives, but I’m pretty sure I’d get bored. We’re also all creatures of habit. I can’t help but think when I see an interesting headline on Yahoo—there’s a story in there.

We’re also all gamblers at heart. Maybe if I just pull that slot machine handle one more time. Maybe if I submit to just one more agent.

Then, there’s the question as to whether “nothing” is really happening. If you meet nothing but rejection, maybe, and only maybe, writing isn’t for you. On the other hand, we’ve all heard stories of a friend who wrote for 10 years and then it happened. If you keep getting close, surely the magic is just around the corner. Listen to all the advice and then go back and show them who you are.

Because sometimes that’s all you can see yourself doing for the rest of your life.

Lexie O'Neill

Lexie O'Neill began writing in third grade, won a Creative Writing award in high school, and published poems in her undergraduate magazine. Then, graduate school and family took over. After a decade's break, she joined the Lowcountry RWA and began writing again. She was a semi-finalist in the Amazon.com Breakthrough Novel Award contest, and a finalist in the Romantic Times and the Linda Howard Excellence in Writing contests. She has two children, and a husband of nearly three decades. Age is to be celebrated, right?

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