Version 2

Determination’s gotta win, right?

Yesterday, I got an amazing email.

An agent sought me out (from the PitchWars contest), and I’ve been following her on Twitter and keeping up on her for literally years. When she asked for pages, and then a full, I was on the floor in hysterics. SO. Excited. It felt right. It felt like after all this time, the door I so badly wanted to open was beginning to let in some light.

Yesterday, that email came. As my husband and other lovely encouragers and CPs have pointed out, it’s a very positive rejection (if such a thing exists). She said she loved the story and details, it was well-written, and the way the music themes were woven into it is something she looks for in her authors. That’s the most I’ve received from any agent in the way of positive feedback. But I couldn’t see that. In fact, right now, all I can really see if that she didn’t connect with my characters enough, or the pacing didn’t grab her and keep her on the edge of her seat (well, it’s not a thriller, but I get what she’s saying she prefers, I guess) the way she’d like.

Lots of agents do R&Rs. At worst I thought she’d do that, and I’d tighten it and tidy it according to her suggestions and the world would be an amazing place. I began writing this story in 2006. I’ve learned SO much through it. It’s a part of me, in so many ways, and I’ve put hours beyond counting into making this what I want it to be, but also what I hope others would enjoy. So when she didn’t ask for an R&R, I pretty much felt like the world turned dark and crumbled around me.

Basically how I've been feeling for the past 12 hours.
Basically how I’ve been feeling for the past 12 hours.

It’s my dream to be published, to write books with my life and focus wholly on that. Part of that dream is also to have an amazing agent who gets what I’m trying to say, who loves my voice, and who helps me better myself. So while an offer to publish from a small publisher came through PitMad, I decided to turn it down. That in itself is a huge encouragement that my story has some zing to it that somebody likes. I gave it careful thought, but I really do want to work with an agent, and that publisher and I weren’t the fit I was hoping for, so as honoured as I am, it’s not right for me.

I’m determined to reach my dream. Several times in my life, I’ve had my heart set on something, and as preposterous as it might’ve sounded to those around me, I reached for it, and got it. It might not have had a happy ending, but it melded into my personality over the years to stay determined and I could reach what I was really trying for. There’s no bigger dream than finding others who enjoy and believe in my writing, and making it the THING THAT I DO. It’s not just a hobby to me.

But there’s more to it than that, and I’m ashamed to admit it but we’re all friends, right? Since graduating at the top of my class as a mature student in 2010, I felt like nothing could stop me when I put my mind to it.

Some of you know that a LOT has stopped me since then. I’ve applied endlessly for jobs I can totally do, and most of the time not even received a response to my application. For 2.5 years. Writing AND applying for jobs?

inconceivable

And yet, that’s what I’ve been doing. My long-time favourite author, Simon R. Green, has a story that’s stuck with me. If you don’t know who he is, check him out. I’ve been reading (and re-reading) his books since I was 12. He’s the New York Times Bestselling author of the DEATHSTALKER series, an amazing space opera, and my personal favourite, BLUE MOON RISING, and the HAWK & FISHER series.

He had years and years of rejection letters before all his success, and then, after 3.5 years of being out of work, just TWO days after he finally got hired at a book store in Bath, he sold SEVEN NOVELS. In one year.

Granted, those were very different times for the publishing industry, but the idea stays the same. The man was struggling big time, but he was determined. I guess in my silly old head, I’ve been dreaming that some similar story would happen to me. That all this time trying to find where I fit in to the world – despite the 1st class degree and hard-work-pays-off uni experience that mocks me endlessly now – would not be for nothing; that it would have to have a happy ending.

I still believe it will. It doesn’t change the fact that I cried for about 2 hours last night, but I’m really thankful to the CPs and friends who’ve read some/all of my ms and told me not to give up. Besides, I’ve still got another year to catch up to Simon. (right?)

I know that my attitude right now is having a little freak-out and I’m not feeling on top of the world like I did when the agent and I were exchanging emails, and she was saying how excited she was to finish reading. I feel worse than I can remember feeling. But I need to suck it up, so hopefully by the end of the day I’ll start to get back on top of things, and know she just wasn’t the agent for me after all (despite what every cell in my body was telling me two days ago). So… this:

riker

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Version 2

A trouble shared is a trouble halved.

There's a light in the distance! Okay, really, I just wanted to use this shot because it's pretty. But it is relevant, in an ultra-cheesy way.

I know the saying is “A problem shared…” and I know too that sometimes this isn’t the case. Sometimes sharing your problem just upsets the other party and now instead of just yourself, you’ve also got the problem of a worried-sick mother, or a partner who feels helpless, or a friend who nervously changes the subject, and so on.

But in the case of the peace that comes from knowing others understand and sympathise, it goes a long way towards propelling you through the trouble. A cloud can hang over a situation in our lives for months, or even years. We may have a long way yet to go to get through it. But each time someone genuinely reflects on the subject, or shares their similar experiences, it can be just that little nudge you need to get you through another week, or another day, or even another hour. These nudges along the way, whatever their stature, are fuel for the journey.

After commenting on some tweets from the Guardian Careers’ Twitter account, I was invited to share my experiences of being an unemployed mature graduate with a 1st class degree. Of being both “over-qualified” and “under-qualified”, according to employers.

The Guardian’s careers articles, Q&As, and series of guest posts are comforting and enlightening, and I highly recommend taking a look around their archives. Job hunting and its related soul searching can be a very solitary, lonely experience. Even if you have supportive loved ones around you, unless they’re in the same boat, it’s not always easy to relate. The self doubt, the what-ifs, the state of looking backwards so often you need a rear view mirror attached to your head. I often feel cut off from the rest of the world in this matter. So it’s refreshing to read about others’ experiences, some reflecting my own, some with different outcomes, but all insightful.

All of my friends save two are in stable jobs, some in very healthy career paths, so there are few people with whom I feel at ease discussing this topic. The truth is, there are hundreds of thousands of people out there unemployed, and thousands of mature graduates who’ve either been in my shoes, or are in them now. And really, I know I can talk to my friends about this topic, but my self-consciousness keeps me from dumping it all on them when there’s little they can say to make it better. It can be awkward to shine the light on the lopsidedness in friends’ situations, and I never want to make anyone uncomfortable. So it was with great relief I read the comments on my post today.

Simply put, there are some amazing, lovely, empathetic, intelligent, eloquent people out there who are either in a similar situation, or know a loved one who is or has been, or can simply just see the state of the job market and feel for those of us struggling to find a place in it. To all those lovely people, a massive hug and thanks. I want to add you all to my Twitter and Facebook and read your blogs and encourage you that while we may be in a rotten time for chasing dreams and wondering if there’s any value in doing so, I believe persistence is key. Don’t give up.

Knowing that we’ve had to work a lot harder to get somewhere we want to be, in the end–even if it takes years–we’ll appreciate it infinitely more than those who slid easily into jobs pre-2008. It sounds counter-intuitive, but I feel like whenever this recession starts to ease up, we’ll be able to put a big, fat bullet point on our CVs that reads DETERMINED and COMMITTED, skills honed not on the job but while seeking one. And determination on the job is much easier when you know there’s a paycheck coming, so those of us able to keep that determination alive in the mean time aren’t wasting time.

Thank you for reading! Your time and thoughts are valued!

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