I’m not sure how many of you know this about me, but I am a writer beyond my blog. Besides the occasional blessing of writing for Bella Grace, and the baby book I have published, I have fourteen finished manuscripts just waiting in the wings. Yup. Fourteen! Picture books, a middle grade novel, and three-fourths of a young adult novel done. Waiting. Sitting in the digital files collecting whatever digital files collect in lieu of dust.
In the midst of writing three other novels, and jotting additions to my ever-increasing list of ideas, (currently eight pages of one liners, titles, and character snips) it can get a little overwhelming. And, if I’m being honest, I get lost in my own words … the unpublished ones that call to me from beyond the laptop screen. But life happens right? I get busy doing other things – more “productive” things that lead me to that dark place that questions why I’m still trying.
And then I met Wendy. And just like that, God put an amazing woman in my path and I am re-inspired … to keep trying … to honor my imagination … to write on. But today, this is her story. Getting published with her debut novel in April, I hope you will read and share Wendy’s story as far as your social media connections will allow – for she has earned her place in the spotlight, and I ask you to help me make her entrance into the printed page shine!
Let’s talk about dreams. Not the dreams you have at night while sleeping, the ones where places merge together, and people who shouldn’t know each other do, and everything makes perfect sense even when it shouldn’t make any sense AT ALL. No, I’m talking about the dreams we have when we’re awake. The dreams we craft for ourselves and our futures. In those dreams, too, places sometimes merge together, but I’d argue we have a bit more control over our waking dreams. Or at least I’d like to believe we do.
My dream has been the same since I was 10 years old. Other big dreams have come and gone and been fulfilled in the meantime: getting married, having kids, taking fun trips, redoing the bathroom. But this specific dream eluded me for years. It was the one that might not happen. The one that was maybe too unrealistic, too out there, too BIG.
My dream was to write a book. And not just to write a book (because I wrote a book when I was 10 and that’s how this dream was born), but to have a book PUBLISHED. For a while in my late teens and early twenties, I backpedaled on my dream and tried to be practical because … well … rejection is hard and I doubted myself too much. But, as dreams often are, mine was too powerful to just sit quietly and let me ignore it. My dream was kind of a nag, as all the best ones are.
In 1995, my family sat around a scarred wooden table when my mom asked us all to make predictions about the year 2000. I predicted that by the year 2000, I would have a book published. (This was pre-children. I was 26. Oh, silly, optimistic, naïve young Wendy … you have so much to learn.)
But I made that prediction because I was writing. I wrote a college romance called Mostly Flannel. I wrote a WWII love story called The Soldier’s Wife. I wrote a chick lit friendship/vacation story called Rock, Paper, Scissors. I wrote the story of a widow who falls in love again called Keep Breathing. I wrote a story about the May-December romance between a single, pregnant woman and a college student called Pregnant Pauses. I wrote a bunch of fanfiction based on the TV show The Office.
Life marched on and throughout all the writing, I worked. I raised kids. I lived a normal, suburban life, and my writing was a secret I kept mostly to myself. I tried off and on to find an agent (and actually did have one, for a while). I received a lot of rejection. I doubted myself constantly. I thought about giving up. I eventually told some people (besides my family) about my writing and they encouraged me, but I could never tell if they really believed in the possibility of my dream when I wasn’t even 100% sure that I did.
Fast forward to 2011. My oldest child was now a young teenager and I were reading and loving the same books, so I wrote a young adult dystopian novel called The Swailing. I was convinced that this book would be THE ONE (spoiler alert – it wasn’t). I spent a year revising and waiting for agents to get back to me and getting THIS CLOSE and then … nothing. I’d missed the dystopian window, the market was oversaturated with Hunger Games wannabes, and like someone suffering a breakup after a long-term relationship, I had to face the truth: The Swailing would not be THE ONE.
Now it was 2013. Eighteen years after I had made my prediction. Thirteen years after it was supposed to come true. At 44 years old, it felt like time was running out. All this writing, for what? For fun? Sure, it’s fun for me or I wouldn’t do it. But a part of the fun of writing is the potential of what could be. Could I be an “author” and find an audience? Would someone pay me something for my time and whatever talent I have? Would it lead anywhere? In the fall of 2013, my answer so far had been a big, fat NO and I was about ready to give up. I didn’t even know what to write next. I was lost.
It was a feeling of surrender that I’ve had a few times in my life, and it should have been a sign to me that things were about to change. Whenever I let go of my tight grip on needing to control everything, that’s when the best stuff usually happens. My feelings about God’s part in all this are too complicated to go into now, but for me, surrender is the precursor to salvation of any kind.
One beautiful fall day I went for walk, taking my journal with me. And then (because exercise isn’t always my top priority) I sat at a picnic table at the park, stopped feeling sorry for myself, and brainstormed. I jotted down a list of seven pretty mediocre ideas. This was the last one on the list: “Girl who is a popular tutor because she can see into the future meets a boy who can’t let go of the past.” I thought about that idea a little more and jotted down a few more notes – that because she “sees” things, often heart-breaking things, through touch, she has become hesitant to touch. Something about the idea connected with something inside of me. A teenager yearning for connection and intimacy, but being trapped by her own body. Hmmmm.
So I started writing a book about that, and I called it Zenn Diagram. I wrote a lot that fall – about 50,000 words during the month of November, and then … guess what? I finished it?! I found an agent?! Ummmm, NOPE.
I did nothing. The half-finished story sat on my computer and collected virtual dust for a year and a half. Until the spring of 2015 when my dad, who had been my boss for 20 years, decided to retire and sell his business. I had no idea if the future owners would keep me or fire me. I tried to think of what other job I could get, what other job I was qualified for, and I was completely stumped. What was I good at? (Helping with homework? Nagging kids to practice instruments?) What did I enjoy? (Eating chocolate? Taking naps?) The idea of starting a new career sounded horrible to me. I just wanted to write.
This is where surrender simply wouldn’t do the trick. I had to take ACTION. It was now or never. So I dusted off my manuscript and finished it. I asked some friends to read it. I edited and revised. And then in June, I steeled myself and started querying agents again.
But this time was different. I got an offer of representation. And then another. And then a third, all within the first month or two of querying. I selected an agent and we worked together to revise some more. I was tempted to get excited by my progress but I knew from experience that having an agent doesn’t necessarily mean you get published; it’s just a step in the right direction. But then my agent started submitting my book to publishers, got an offer, and in January of 2016, the deal was done. I was going to be a published author.
My book, ZENN DIAGRAM, comes out on April 4, 2017. Almost 40 years after the seed of the dream took root. Seventeen years after I predicted it would happen.
Yeah. I’m a regular overnight sensation, aren’t I?
So why am I telling you all this? Because this is what I’ve learned:
- Sometimes you have to surrender to get unstuck.
- Surrender doesn’t necessarily mean give up – it can mean let go.
- Patience is essential in just about anything, but don’t let it make you complacent.
- Tell people about your dream, no matter how ridiculous it sounds. There is value in accountability.
- The key to accomplishing anything is ACTION.
So … those are my thoughts on big dreams and how to take steps towards making them come true. I encourage you to think about yours. What do you need to give up to get there? What action do you need to take? What rules do you need to break? And then start taking some steps in that direction.
Wendy Brant is the author of the upcoming young adult novel, ZENN DIAGRAM, published by KCP Loft. To learn more about her or her book, visit wendybrant.net, or you can follow her on various social media: