She Writes amigas, I have a confession to make: I had a crisis of faith. It began with a question, sneaking up on me while I was doing something as ordinary as hanging up clothes in my closet, a question so blunt and bold that no one I knew had ever dared to ask it.
“What if I never get published?”
I stared at the clothes in the closet, my fingers clasping a wire hanger. I am a little superstitious. It is impossible not to be when you grow up Puerto Rican with a devout Catholic mother who believes in Spirits. The question seemed to come from nowhere. I took it as a sign, a warning not to get my hopes up.
It had been three years since I had taken Cristina García’s novel writing workshop and I had diligently applied her poetry technique to my writing. The quality of my rejections testified that my writing had improved. I had actually had an hour long conversation with an editor at Simon and Schuster who had read my coming-of-age novel after a year in the slush pile. She said it was a lot better than many manuscripts she came across, but she didn’t think that it would sell except maybe to school libraries. Agents continued to reject my queries for the novel which would evolve into IF I BRING YOU ROSES.
I thought to myself: Would it be so bad if I just gave it up? If I did, I never would have to say “I have to write” ever again. I wouldn’t have to give up lazy summer days or cozy winter nights to write. I could be a room mom and make friends with the mothers of my children’s classmates. I could do lunch and go shopping with my sisters. Never again would I say to my husband “I can’t do ____________. I have to write.” What if I continue to make those sacrifices and still, never become published? What if I work my whole life and never get an agent, never realize the dream of holding my book in my hand, seeing it on the shelf at the public library? If I quit, I would never have to feel like an imposter when I tell people that I’m a writer and they ask where they can get my book. All those years, I felt that it was only a matter of time for my dream to come true, but what if it didn’t?
In that closet, surrounded by clothes, I had to face it—the simple truth— that I might never have a published novel. It humbled me to realize that it might be out of my power to achieve my dream regardless of how hard I tried and how much I worked. It just might not happen. I had given it my best and I could be proud of that. I thought of where I came from: the Chicago ghetto where being afraid was part of life and how my parents instilled in their children the determination to do better and get out. Did I have the right to give up when they didn’t?
Then I thought of my own children. They were in elementary school at the time, and that eventually the day would come when I would want to encourage them to try for their dreams. But, how could I do that if I gave up on mine?
In that closet, I decided not to worry about becoming a published author. I was a writer and I would write. Writing is the only way that I can quiet that urgency inside me that compels me to express myself. I decided that I would never again entertain that question “What if I never get published?, that I would never tell anyone that I was momentarily tempted. And I haven’t, until now, She Writers, because I know you’ll understand that faith is as important as talent…and practice…and discipline.
A writer begins with faith that she has a story to tell and that someone will want to hear it. She begins in faith and must continue in faith.
She Writers: Is a dream worthwhile only if you achieve it?
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