Although it was a last-minute request, and I was totally unprepared, I accepted an invitation to do a 10-minute speech on how to walk in faith while trying to become a published author. I didn’t think I was the appropriate person for this venue. Not to mention, I was ill at ease with the idea of trying to describe to 50 young women how to become traditionally published authors with only 10 minutes in which to frame it.
In the car, on my way to the event, I endeavored to come up with what I could say in a room of ambitious young women who were likewise would-be authors. How could I inspire them? What would I, in my early twenties, have needed to hear–more so than what I wanted to hear–from someone who had been there and done that already? What wisdom did I, in my 20s, wished I’d paid more attention to as told by someone more mature and knowledgeable than me? Someone who had accomplished a goal I was seeking to attain (and I wanted to achieve that goal by the age of 30).
What would be a compelling argument? How could I get them to understand that the road they will travel, with all its complicated, frustrating, and yet amazing experiences, had the potential, in a future that has become so very unpredictable, to influence public discourse? Would they have even a clue as to the number of ambitious young women that managed to achieve similar life goals–those women that came before them? Was there any way I could persuade them that the heap of rejections that begin to make you doubt, not just your talent but yourself, are painful but don’t take them personal? Could I sway them to trust that every tear shed has meaning, purpose?
When I was introduced, I was nervous. Every chair was occupied, and thank goodness the lights were dimmed. I stepped up and began. I was not just truthful, but my honesty was likewise blunt. I said some things that might dissuade some of the inspiring minds in the room. I made every effort to use language that was not intended to thwart anyone’s passion for being published. I mentioned how the book by Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, was my favorite children’s book, and my first-pick as a gift for college graduates. (When you are given this type of gift at 21 years old, you don’t get the point of receiving it. It takes experiencing “the places you’ll go!” before it sinks in.) But Dr. Seuss’s book forewarns his young readers that every path is met with ebb and flow. You will get off track and back on, time and time again. Life is bloody insane that way.
At the event, I referred to “ebb and flow” as “breadcrumbs,” using my own early twenties as an example of being too cocky, too impatient, too cool, too Miss-Know-it-Already, too I-got-this. This attitude made my journey harder, longer. I urged these young women to lose the attitude. And it’s imperative, I overemphasized, while pursuing a “traditional path” as a writer of books: do not let the haters trick you. And if you need something to really keep you focused on your goal, every now and then (because by then it will be available on DVD), watch La La Land. And it’s okay to bemoan it, but trust the process despite how it looks–or feels.
Life’s most astonishing lessons are unpredictable yet requisites, because they teach us, and it’s how we evolve. Writers must evolve. And this applies whether you embark on an ambitious journey or not–grow through your process! There’s one life lesson in particular you have to learn to live with: deep disappointment. You have to discover a way to balance it out. You have to believe that despite the “I’m-such-a-failure” feelings that eventually play with the mind after a number of rejections, it’s all a part of this bloody painful and very distracting process.
When I look back now, with eyes wide open, I can see all the stepping-stones along the way. The breadcrumbs. I see the necessary rejections and the professional reasons that might have been behind them. With a clearer vision, I am so fully aware that each breadcrumb was a life lesson. A turning point. A moment of absolute truth. And this is huge!: a test of faith. Faith, I reminded these young women with their hopes and possible dreams, is the absence of evidence. From the biblical POV, it’s being assured of things that are hoped for, and the conviction of things unseen.
A valuable asset, I have discovered, is the art of discerning; so I urged these 21st century young women to discover discernment. I concluded by reminding them: You are the author of your own unique path, and inevitably you will discover the you you are meant to become. Let your yellow brick road create a story that will amaze, but learn this worthwhile tool: recognize when you have added a breadcrumb to your journey. This is insight as to how far you’ve come. Moreover, it means you are one step closer to your ultimate, it was-worth-it goal.