My goals are clear. I want agent representation. And I want to be published. But those two goals, they're not so easy.
I've been writing with books in mind for something like five years. Since the beginning I've been honest with those around me about the feat that it is. It takes time, time, time, to write and rewrite and ready a book. And then it takes time to prepare for agents, and seek them, and get the right kind of attention from them. And then to compete against other writers, and carve your way. And then do it all over again with editors and publishing houses. So many steps, and not a one is flawless.
It takes practice, lots and lots of practice, and hard work and growth.
I've wanted my friends and family to understand all this--it's like I'm saying, See what I have to go through?--so that they're prepared. So that when months and years have passed and I'm no closer to novel publication they know why. So they don't see it as failure, that I simply wasn't good enough, or that I wasn't doing my best and trying my hardest, but so they knew it came down to more than my own accountability. Because it was merely the way of the literary world.
Somewhere along the way, I've stopped being honest with myself.
Somewhere in my head I've shoved that reality and accountability away. Inside I've thought haughtier thoughts. Secretly I've somehow thought it wouldn't be that long and arduous for me, that my path wouldn't follow the rut of so many others. I'm ashamed to admit it, but here. I'm admitting it.
Even at this early stage of my journey--so so early, friends--I've already begun looking past the practice, the learning, the writing, and I've projected myself to the next level, and I think it's been without fully realizing the work that's due. I might have a chip on my shoulder. Like somehow my writing is already where it needs to be. Like, somehow, I've just happened upon a marketable storyline, or that I've captured an awesomely awesome character, or a print-worthy written voice. Like maybe I could skip through all that work I've told everyone else to expect, because my writing's that good.
I've lost sight of so much. (I think it's why I connected to what India Arie had to say.)
My efforts first need to be about the writing. Because I love words and the things they mean and the messages they relay. I love the stories and themes and life that can be drawn from them, and because I can write. And shouldn't that be enough?
I've made myself believe it's about the end of the race, and claiming the gold medal. Saying I won, instead of focusing on the conditioning, and endurance.
How about I just write? And then I decide how good it is, and whether I can make plans to finish the race. Instead of at the outset saying, It's lap 1, Janna. See that finish line way out there? It's yours.
I made a brave claim in September that I'd have the current draft of my novel-in-progress finished by November, so I could send it to beta readers and research agents. I believed it for a time, that I could make it happen, but it won't happen.
Now I see I'm not ready. I love my main character in this novel, and I love the story, but I've got to set it aside. I need a healthy distance, and I'm starting to see that maybe I've gotten out of it all I was meant to. It was more practice, you see? I really found my style with this book. I learned a lot more about the craft through it, and because of the other things I wrote and read simultaneously.
But I had myself convinced of perfection, or near-perfection, anyway, and I shouldn't have. I'm not ready.
I still believe in myself. My goals are still the same, and I will keep at this until I make it happen, because I know it is in me. It's just I have to peel back those assumptions I've allowed myself, and see the real work beneath. With humility, and a big pile of elbow grease. And really good running shoes.
Maybe this explains the questions and struggles some of you have seen in me of late. It's starting to make sense.
I've a long journey ahead. That's my confession.