"Wherever men have lived there is a story to be told." Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, January 10, 2008

That Thing Called "Try"

When I was writing about the rodeo world in my upcoming novel (to be released this fall), I learned that "try" is probably the most important word in a rodeo cowboy's vocabulary. I realized recently, though, just how relevant that word is for writers, too, if they want to be published, and if they want to keep getting published. We get discouraged sometimes when we go through dry spells and it's easier to quit than to keep forging ahead. Like most writers, I've had my days when I've thought about giving it all up to devote my time to a hobby that didn't involve characters and plot development.

During the holidays, my youngest daughter got married at our home, and with all the company, my office became the "catch-all" room. So, after the new year began I had no choice but to clean it up if I wanted to get to my computer. I realized I had no place to put all the stuff that had been stacking up, and I would have to clean out some old filing cabinets or buy new ones, and there wasn't any room for new ones. It was sort of like a treasure hunt. Honestly. I found things I had long ago forgotten I had. One would ask, "Well, if you forgot you had it and haven't used it for twenty years, then you should throw it away." But then you respond, "But now that I remember it's here, I'm sure to use it." You'll be proud to know that I didn't give into the urge. I shredded so much stuff that my paper shredder is now working only on one side.

And then I came across some old files that held all my early query letters and corresponding rejection slips/letters. I hesitated over those--for a long time. Maybe most people don't keep rejections -- why be reminded of failure, right? -- but maybe they don't represent failure at all. You see, I had forgotten the amount of "try" I had undertaken to get that first book published over twenty years ago until I opened those folders. I had forgotten how far I had come until I read some of those old (and very terrible) query letters. I had forgotten just how much I had learned on this long journey of being a writer.

In the end, I put all of those manila folders and all those rejection slips back into the file just in case I need to be reminded again about that thing called "try." I still have a ton of stuff to shred.