Forgive Me, For I Have Doubted
Written by
Marisel Vera
June 2011
Written by
Marisel Vera
June 2011

Countdown to Publication Blog -- Week 7.

 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. 

One literary agent wrote an angry rejection as to how the novel was too chauvinistic and sexist for her agency. I was a little hurt by that particular rejection because although the male protagonist IS chauvinistic and sexist, the novel certainly isn’t.

             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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  • Marisel Vera

    Pamela, I feel that if I keep my sight on "the journey," it helps me be grateful for what I have done and encourages me in the present.  It's so easy to fall into the writer envy trap!

  • Pamela Williamson

    Great post, Marisel. I love this sentence: "Writing is the only way that I can quiet that urgency inside me that compels me to express myself." So true for me too.

    It is so nice to know that I am not alone in my doubts.  

    Yesterday was one of those days for me. This line says it all:  "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."

    Thank you for sharing your doubts and struggle. It encourages those of us who know just how you feel. answer to your question: "Is a dream worthwhile only if you achieve it?" That's a great question! I'd like to think that it is in the pursuit of the dream that makes it all worthwhile. 

  • Marisel Vera

    Thanks, Julie.

  • Great post, Marisel. Best of luck with your book (and the next ones!)

  • Marisel Vera

    Right on, Ava!  I wish that She Writes had a little LIKE symbol just like Facebook so I could go straight down the line and LIKE everyone's comments. 

  • Ava Bleu

    I feel ya', Marisel.  I go through a writer identity crisis about once every six months or so.  As I mentioned elsewhere, when I decided I had to write for my own sanity, whether or not I was published, that helped release a lot of anxiety.  But I still have moments when I think my writing is either brilliant or crap.  I am probably not the best person to make that determination for many reasons.  Knowing this, and realizing that by stopping I might possibly be ending something good, I can't take that chance.  I mean, I gonna write anyway, right?  Sharing or not sharing my writing, ultimately, will harm or help no one but me.  So I'm all in.

  • It took me 20 years to publish my first book of poetry. During those years, my writing improved with critiques by workshop groups and editors. The final manuscript only retained 2 of the original poems. But there are many ways to get your writing out there without publishing a full length book and that is part of what has been gratifying to me. Blogs, websites, newsletters, open mics and literay salons, literary journals and anthologies...even "notes" on fb with links to your work on your emails to friends! Whether one person reads it or thousands, it builds the writing muscle and builds bridges to the community. Don't we write to communicate?

    And of course, now more people are self-publishing than through publishing houses. Never give up on a dream, but you may have to modify your expectations, until you can build up your audience.  Success if when you have touched someone's heart with your words. If we can't get published by a "house", think outside the box....

    Wendy's Muse

  • Janis Seminara

    That doubt monster crept up on me as I was about to jump in the shower. I slid open the glass doors and out of the steam, there it was; what if all this work, sacrifice and even money that you are placing towards publication doesn't pan out? Hit me like ice water on a cold winters morn. No! I answer back, I am on my way, it will happen and until it does I am doing the work I love, living in my bliss. Really, I asked myself, what else would or could I be doing? Your article offered solace for  fellow writers who every so often finds themselves face to face with the doubt monster. It is a part of this writerly life and on those days 'it' shows up, I celebrate the courage I have to keep going! Thanks for the support.

  • Helen W. Mallon

    I think writing is sort of like marriage...sometimes you feel the inspiration of angels, sometimes you do it simply because it's what you do.  

    And if you give up the dream, you'll NEVER know success, however you define it.


    Kelly (hi Kelly) I really like what you said about passion--that quality of pissed-offness brings us back to why we write in the first place. I like the notion that you can mine that out of rejection. Thanks!

  • Deborah Batterman

    Hi, Marisel --

    I know only too well those crises of faith that nag at us . . .and the beauty of being in a community like She Writes is that we can share them.  I just happened to read an essay on The Rumpus that struck a chord. Here it is . . . 

    No One Can Take a Bath for You: Why I Write

    Writing, as you point out, is simply something we do. How could it be otherwise?





  • Pam Dakan

    Thank you Marisel! You are an inspiration. I often think the same thing. After writing a memoir 20 years ago and now doing the re-write, it's my faith that it will happen, and the wish to inspire through a story of survival and personal triumph that I continue to do so.

  • Jenni Wiltz

    Thank you, Marisel!  I've experienced similar moments of doubt, and this post is so inspiring.  I actually gave up writing for about five years because I never thought I could do it--finish a manuscript, that is. Then, in my late 20s, I decided I couldn't face myself in the mirror if I didn't try again.  I did.  I finished that manuscript, shopped it around, had it rejected, and wrote I'm shopping my third novel!  Even if it never gets an agent and never gets published, I still know that I did it.  My family and friends know, and they understand how hard it can be to be a fledgling writer.


    Thank you for bringing this inspiration to the community!

  • Karma

    I don't think it has ever crossed my mind to truly give up. Since childhood, I was told that to choose the life of a writer would be difficult, if not impossible. So I imagined I would grow up to live in a dirty, empty apartment with leaky pipes and an old typewriter. Even contemplating it while reading this post, I don't do so seriously. Writing gives my life meaning and to find another purpose in life seems like more effort than I'm capable of.

    I have been afraid that I would be too lazy to achieve my dreams or that I would run out of things to say or that I would get distracted.

  • Raven Tompkins

    Hello She Writers! I've been a member for months, been lurking but not really participating. After reading Marisel's post I had to respond. Yeah, I get it. I've been working on a memoir for 18 months now about my experience after my mother's unexpected death...and I've had/have the same doubts.

    Before my Mom died, I'd have said I've been writing since I was twelve. I have journals from when I was twelve filled with adolescent poetry, etc. One of the things my sister and stumbled upon after Mom's death was a series of files filled with artwork and school assignments from when we were both in grade school. My sister's folders were filled with vibrant crayon drawings and school work. Mine were filled with drawings, school work...and stories.

    I'd forgotten that I started writing stories in grade school. Yes, I want this memoir I'm working on to be published. If that doesn't happen I'll be deeply disappointed, but I'll keep writing. I don't write because I want to be published. I write because I can't not write. It's a core piece of who I am. It's the connecting thread in my disjointed 46 years of life. I'm not willing to let that go, even if no one else ever reads a word I write.

  • Constance Adler

    I have finally arrived at the calm understanding that time doesn't exist.  So if it takes one year or 12 years to publish your book . . . who cares?  It's the same either way, which is that your work goes out to the world.  Congratulations.

  • Marisel Vera

    She Write Amigas, I am inspired by all of you! Thank you for writing.  Some of you have asked about my book and finding a publisher, making me think that I am not as a clear a writer as I hope to be.  IF I BRING YOU ROSES will by published August 2nd by Grand Central Publishing.

  • Gretchen Seefried

    Such a coincidence (though is anything, really?) to read this today.  I just finished my latest blog post and as I stared at it, I wondered if it or any would resonate enough to be forwarded, commented on, or cherished enough to bring new members to my community of MidChix & MadHens. I've worked 18/7 the past two years on clarifying my vision of women collected and connected for their greater good, and on encouraging others to join me. The community and the website are growing, but very slowly...and even as a social enterprise it's hard to let go of traditional definitions of success.  Is success a profitable business, a published book...or is success the building of a business and the writing of a book? 

    I recently heard a speaker share three keys to happiness: Intention, Attention, and No Tension.  In explaining the term no tension, she described it as the state of having let go of outcomes.  And I've been testing it.  When I let go of my attachment to a particular outcome, the tension melts away.  I guess it's a form of trust, and it tells me that even if we can't control the outcome, we control the input.

  • Ellen Ferranti

    A dream is worthwhile even if you don't achieve it; because part of the process is the journey getting there. As life marches on, the dream may not change, but the expression of the dream
    may change and become maleable enough to enjoy some fulfillment or success. The key is HOPE...

  • I've often thought of hiding in the closet...though mine would smell of moth balls and old sneakers and clothes that don't fit anymore!  I call it the power to persevere when all around may indicate that it is better or more logical or more commonsensical to not -- to go on.  Does it matter whether the dream is achieved by age 40 or 60?  Does it matter if the dream adapts to new themes (maybe there is a theme that is more commercial or targets a particular audience?) or new technology (ebook)?  Faith should not be rigid (in my book,) but grow and change, and persevere.

  • Christine Murray

    Kelly, great advice. I'll do just that :)

  • Kelly Simmons

    I had the same crisis just before my first book was published.  I had been submitting manuscripts through agents for almost 12 years.  Getting angry and mourning the possible loss of my dream was part of the process that spurred me on.  I was just so sad and pissed off that suddenly my writing contained some authentic fury!  So don't give up-- feel your anger, feel your sadness and your shame -- and channel it into your work.

  • Hope A. Perlman

    Marisel, I loved this post. I love that it only took a closet for you to feel you could have the dream, but let go of the feeling you could control the outcome! It's taken me lots of therapy to entertain that idea - that the getting published part is not totally in my control - but the writing is worthwhile nevertheless. I've been struggling with defining success because of it. If you have a moment, check out my blog.

    I've been parsing success there for a few months.

  • Christine Murray

    I think this fear plagues every certainly plagues me. But you can't run your life by being scared, otherwise you'd never do anything worthwhile. Thanks for being so honest.

  • Lori Finnila

    I love the honesty in this. I want to mention I wrote a free article in my about 'Free Publishing Tips.'

  • Thanks for the encouraging and brave story. I love that line "Is a dream worthwhile only if you achieve it?" I'm searching for an agent for my memoir about life in the aftermath of infant surgery and it helps to hear your success story. I'm determined to get this book published. Two others are in drawers and many stories and essays are in file folders. I have no children who will want to read my work. Time to get this one in print. In any case, writing the story changed my life and for this, I am grateful. Writing the book was key in my healing.