When Ben asked how I was doing, I didn’t expect to burst into tears.
It had been a rough week. Failed projects, miscommunications, wasted efforts. On Halloween I spent the entire day prepping for our neighborhood party. It’s a luxury to have an entire day just to clean and set and decorate– I was happily clicking through my list, checking off one task after the other, feeling pleased that everything was going so well. I made a double pot of soup and left it to simmer while I set up tables in the backyard. When I walked back into the house 20 minutes later, smoke filled the kitchen and the soup was irredeemably burnt.
I hauled the entire pot out to the side of the house, aired, the kitchen and bought hot dogs for the party.
No big deal. Everyone had enough to eat and the party was a success.
But I left that pot of burnt soup on the side of the house near the garbage cans, and as the bigger disappointments piled up that week, the soup became something of a symbol to me: wasted time, wasted money, wasted effort.
And then I got rejections from two publishers in one day. Now, two rejections aren’t considered a big deal in the publishing world. You don’t really get bragging rights until you have 60 or so. Still, these rejections were a bit worse– more like breaking up with a boyfriend, rather than never getting the first date. I’d had email and phones conversations with editors and sent extra material to review committees– I (foolishly) thought they might have a bidding war over me. And then they both dumped me within 24 hours.
But I didn’t tell anyone because it felt kind of shameful (two breakups at once!) and we had so many bigger things going on around the house. Until Ben called, and sputtered and choked with sobs.
I think a lot of life is like that, we try things, we fail and we wonder if we’ve just been wasting our time. It’s so easy to see when you should give up on a pot of burnt soup, but how do you know when to give up on an elusive goal?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not holding a pity party. I have a lovely, happy life and I’m grateful for every minute of it. I’m just puzzling over where to spend my time because it doesn’t feel like there’s ever enough of it. We visited our friend Lisa in the hospital this week. Five weeks ago she was in a car accident that nearly took her life. Seeing our energetic Lisa so frail and broken was very sobering. What the point of ambition? Shouldn’t we spend every day just drinking in sunsets and flowers and baby kisses?
With persistence, I know I could get my book published, but do I want to? It seems so small. Will it all be a waste of time? Does anyone really need another book on raising teenagers? Can I handle the inevitable negativity? (I got my first piece of hate mail the other day. That was fun.) Instead of writing about teens, I may just take a job teaching at the high school.
Back to Ben, because he said exactly the right thing and I think it applies to all of us.
Once I got past the sobs, I started whining, “I don’t know where to go from here. Should I rewrite my whole proposal? How do I figure out what they want?”
Ben replied, “Write the book or don’t write it. But don’t turn it into what you think publishers want. What makes you a really great mom is that you’re not afraid to be different, you never really cared about what anyone else thought and you did what you thought was right.”
And he’s right. That’s my superpower, all my tips and tricks rolled into one. My insecurities often cripple me out in the world, but in my home I know what’s right and I’m not afraid to act on it. Ben’s words feel like more of a success to me than any publishing contract.
So, I don’t know where I’m going from here. I’ve always loved the ‘makes good use of time’ comment, but right now I don’t know what that means. I’ll just keep plowing forward with a prayer in my heart and looking for the next signpost. I hope I’m not so busy trying to be somebody else that I don’t recognize my path.
You are my favorite blogger. I have followed this blog longer than any other, since way back when Mary was getting baptized, or even before. Our families overlap very little in age, my oldest is the same age as your youngest. I have three boys and a daughter. I feel like today is a good day to thank you. You have touched my heart so many times, have taught me so many things, about mothering boys, loving life, and embracing the moment. I can’t even tell you how much your words have meant to me. So thank you. Thanking you for sharing your light, life, and wisdom with me! You are amazing. If you decide to persist and get that book published, I’ll buy the first copy!
I don’t know Lillie, but I could just about say “ditto” to everything she wrote (except I have 2 daughters and 3 sons). I guess we’ll have to fight it out to get the first copy of your book.
Thanks Erin. Your encouragement really helps. xoxo
Oh Lillie, you’re so kind. I’ll keep trying (or I might just self-publish).
Thanks for sharing. This is just what I needed to hear today. Having been recently called into yw I have been struggling with how to please parents, kids, and the other leaders. Inevitably disappointing some of them at various times. And I imagine the part that hurts is you respected the editors and felt like they understood your book and your goals in writing it because that is the part that I have found most difficult. Finding that I have done something that a parent or leader disagrees with-and it’s a parent or leader who who I admire and respect. Anyway, I totally just made this about me. But I get it. And I am sorry. And know that in this space you have inspired me to be a better person and parent. Even in the times where you feel inadequate. So. I would read your book!
Thanks for your kinds words Amanda. And it was supposed to be all about you– I really loved Ben’s words and think they are useful for everyone.
Keep writing here! You’re a blessing and encouragement in a very discouraging world.
Thanks Jill! I will. <3
Deborah Pace Rowley
I love your blog and your writing. You inspire me in my own writing. Here is just my simple perspective on the book rejection. I have been working on one book for about 10 or 12 years. I have submitted it multiple times and it has had outright rejections, maybe’s, yesses that have turned to no’s and even some other combinations of responses that I can’t remember right now. Each time I have tucked the manuscript away and thought to myself, “Well, it isn’t the right time now.” Then I will get it out again when I feel prompted and rework it here and there. I felt prompted again to pull it out after General Conference and submitted it to a publishing company. This time it got accepted. I don’t know if this will be their final answer or if the book will finally see the light of day, but I do know that the book is much better than it was even 2 years ago. And even if it doesn’t come out, I am grateful for everything I have learned in the process. Keep following promptings and don’t assume that a rejection means you misjudged God’s voice. He sees such a bigger picture than a publishing contract. Maybe these weren’t the right companies. Maybe this isn’t the right time. I know your time spent writing, your desire to share your thoughts, your ability to lift other parents and influence other teens will never be wasted time. Thank you.
Oh Deborah– your story is amazing and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing it with me. And I want to read your book!
I found your blog a few weeks ago and have been binge reading your posts (especially the ones about parenting) ever since. I’ll spend hours searching for different topics in your archives, and my husband laughs when I tell him that I’m reading “that one blog” again 🙂 You definitely are different from other parenting resources I’ve found. Markedly different. And I love it. I’ll read things here that I’ve never heard elsewhere and I’ll mull over them for days. If you do publish a book, I’ll be one of the first to buy it. And if not, please keep writing here. I’m really grateful that you’ve broadened your sphere of influence by publishing this blog for anyone to read. It has been so valuable to me. Best of luck with whatever you feel is right with your book.
Thanks for your kind words. And oh my, you can find some funny stuff in the archives. I just wish my readers could edit out my typos for me. Thanks for your encouragement.
You have the nicest commenters 🙂
I also love your blog! And I want to buy and read your book, whenever it comes out. And if it doesn’t, your blog will console me in all of its wonderfulness!
I hope that one day I will be able to have similar conversations to the ones you do with my kids.
You’re right! I do have the nicest commenters– and you are one of them!
I hope my comment can help you see how much your writing has impacted the world for good. I️ have turned to your blog again and again for a reminder on the hard days that families can stay strong, marriages can be happy, and children can grow up with strong testimonies and big smiles. You are making a difference in my life just by your old posts! Hang in there. You already know this — follow the Spirit and seek peace and everything will fall into place.
Thank you, thank you for your encouragement. xoxo
I am so sorry Michelle. Saying that you’re my number one parenting mentor probably does very little for your tired heart but I still want to thank you. There are very few people I know that I have not shared your blog with and shared my enthusiasm (that word doesn’t seem strong enough) over your writing a book. Please don’t give up. That may be unfair of me to ask and of course I want you to do what is right but know that we are 100% behind you! I will be the first to pre-order! Just tell us what we need to do. More likes? More shares? You name it, I’ll do it. Thank you for your courage and honesty! Your strength and example are stretching into this next generation of mom’s too. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
You’re so kind! I’ll keep writing! xoxo