Never Stop Knocking on Doors

A couple months ago, on a 45-minute drive to my teaching job, I listened to the “Reading and Writing Podcast” to pass the time. The host asked the guest the same question he always asked his guests: “what advice would you give other writers out there who are trying to publish their work?”

The guest responded: “Persistence. Never stop knocking on those doors.”

I think about this line every day. Every. Day.

And every day, I’m knocking on more doors.

The author went on to say that those writers he knows that haven’t been successful gave up. They stopped knocking after rejection.

A week ago, this advice rang true more than usual.

Remember in my last post, I mentioned that I got my first full manuscript request? And remember how I said that waiting was the hardest part? Tom Petty’s song “The Waiting” got me through those three weeks of waiting, and lead me to a big fat “no.”

Actually, it was more of a:

“Thank you for sharing your manuscript with me. Though the topic and approach are engaging, after careful consideration I’ve determined that the project is not quite right for my current acquisitions plans.”

So, it was more of a “I liked it, and it has potential, but I don’t think I can sell this to my team.”

The rejection was bittersweet. Nobody likes being told no, yet it was movement forward in my quest to publish my book. I still agree with Tom Petty, though. Waiting, and not the rejection, is the hardest part. Rejection, while yucky, is a necessary part of the process. And I have an unexplained blind faith in this process.

Rejection means that I can confidently move on to other presses.

Rejection (in this case) was also validation. This editor liked my work enough to ask to read more. She doesn’t know me. She’s not my husband who loves everything I do, or my thesis committee members who always tried to find the positive because, well, they had to work with me for a long time. She didn’t need to waste her time on my work. But she wanted to.

This stranger asked to read my work in consideration for publication. I let that settle in.

I also reminded myself that if I got one request, I can get more. IF I keep knocking.

I’m currently participating in a writing conference (via Zoom, alas) and after just one day, I already feel reinvigorated to revisit my manuscript and polish it even more. Learning more, networking more, meeting more writers on this journey is one way of knocking.

Yesterday I found more small presses to submit to (after I was convinced I had found them all–haha–that is a fallacy that almost made me give up. Never stop knocking! There are always more.). I search for more possibilities in as many ways as I can think of: the acknowledgments page of a book I admire, Poets & Writers database, Twitter posts, writing conference panels, a simple Google Search, another simple Google Search with new key words, etc.

And tomorrow, I will revisit a few of my essays in workshop and hear feedback from others who have never read my work before. New eyes on my work, new thoughts on how to better it, or on what’s working well–all knocking.

So, each day that I don’t give up, I get a step closer. Each day I make a tiny (or sometimes big) amount of progress.

And most of all, I keep knocking on those doors.