In October of last year I attended Moonlight and Magnolias in Atlanta. Every year the Georgia Romance Writers put on the biggest little writing conference in the south (my words not theirs) and every year I come away having learned something and having met someone or several someones who make an impression on me.
As fate would have it, I once again met an interesting individual. She immediately came to mind when I began looking around for one of the twelve guest to feature on my blog. Funny enough after I received her blog post I had to laugh out loud because everything that she describes below I have experienced in some way shape or form. Please join me in welcoming Anjali Enjeti to the blog:
Ask Me About My Writing
I’ve been writing for eleven years now. And while I’ve had some success, it’s safe to say that 99% of what I’ve written hasn’t gotten published. OK, maybe 99% is a little high. Let’s settle on 95%.
My fifth book and first novel has been on submission for six months. (My first book was a memoir, the second an anthology, the third and fourth were picture books.) Going on submission is a scary process, made only scarier by the fact that one of my books, which I would have bet my life would sell-- didn’t sell.
It’s a lot of hard work—not getting published. And when you’re buried in rejection letters, there’s the added stress of wondering whether you’ll ever succeed-- whether your blood, sweat and tears will ever amount to anything.
I know many published writers whose books take up an entire shelf at the local bookstore. At books signings and speaking engagements, they complain about upcoming deadlines from their editors, their worldly travels to promote their published books, their rapidly declining advances. They bemoan their lack of sleep, interrupted and shortened because of their busy writing careers.
Successfully published writers seem to forget that we, unpublished authors, are also exhausted and overworked with our writing. No, we don’t have the advance or marked-up editorial letter to show for it. Hell, we still can’t find an agent. But we, too, make enormous sacrifices in order to write. Because we, unpublished authors, are working just as hard to get published as published writers.
We also struggle with self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. We have to wait until the kids are asleep before we can get a significant amount of writing done. We come home cranky and spent (from our other jobs, which actually pay the bills), and somehow must muster whatever creativity reserves we have left to write engaging prose and scintillating poetry.
Recently, I went out to lunch with a wildly successful, best-selling author. Over grilled cheese and lemonade, she peppered me with questions about my own writing, my agent search, and my publishing history. She nodded when I confessed that I didn’t know whether it was worth it anymore—this writing life.
Here she was, living the dream: a big-time author, traveling the country to speak to reading and writing groups, researching her next novel in Europe, and selling foreign rights to countries I’ve never even heard of—and she couldn’t have acted more interested in my own, humble, and fledgling publishing career.
I left the lunch feeling validated. Reborn. For she had taken the time to listen not only to my (numerous) tales of woe, but also to reveal her own, very discouraging start in publishing. And by doing so, she pulled me from the pit of rejection-despair, and restored the fire in my belly for writing and submitting that had nearly gone out.
So if you are a published author, and you find me standing in line, waiting for you to sign my copy of your book, do me a favor: Remember what it was like to be on this side of the process. Take a moment to look me in my weary eyes.
And ask me about my writing.
Anjali Enjeti, a graduate of Duke University and Washington University School of Law, is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing (Fiction) at Queens University in Charlotte. She writes for ArtsATL, the premiere arts criticism website for the Atlanta area. A Hambidge Center fellow, she serves as Co-Vice President of Programming for the Atlanta Writers Club, a 100 year-old organization with over seven hundred members. She is also a member of the Georgia Romance Writers. Her essays, articles and fiction can be found on her website, anjalienjeti.com.
Thanks for having me, Chudney! Looking forward to hanging out again at the conference in October!
Thanks Chudney and Anjali for this inspiring post! Anjali, I think its really neat that the successful author helped rekindle your enthusiasm. However, often one has to muster up one's own 'fire in the belly' -- and when one is able to, this is in itself a tremendous success. I will say though that I find the more years that pass, the more rejections that accumulate, the more self-doubt begins to settle in, the harder it is to believe that one's own writing is of any significance. No matter who asks about it ::((
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