I spent three years trying to write a book proposal for Writing as a Sacred Path. The book was in good shape. I was proud of it. I felt I had something of value, and I longed to share it with the world. From September through May, when I teach, I would fiddle with it every chance I got. Then summer would come, and I’d say, “Now that I’m off for three months, I’ll get that proposal finished.” I said that one summer, then the next, then the one after that.
Keep in mind we’re not talking about a whole book here, but a proposal for a book that was already mainly written. Book proposals are tricky, but they shouldn’t take three years. Still, that’s what it was taking.
Finally, I realized I wasn’t going to get that proposal written without help. So I hired a skilled editor who was right in tune with my work.
“I’m stuck!” I complained to her in our first phone call. I described my “process”—if you can call it that—and discussed the problems I was having getting the project on the page.
“What we have to do,” she told me, “is get you out of your own way.”
Creating Our Own Barriers
Learning to get out of your own way is one of the most valuable things writers can do for themselves. As a teacher and coach I’ve seen many writers create barriers for themselves. It’s almost as if we go looking for fallen logs to drag across our own paths and then declare them obstacles.
- Mary wants to get her short story published. She keeps looking for the right place to submit. She is convinced that none of the journals she has looked at would go for her style, so she just keeps looking.
- Jonathan’s nonfiction book has been rejected by seven agents. He’s too discouraged to send it out again.
- Lou’s sci-fi novel came back from an editor with the comment, “I’m not sure why you’re calling this science fiction.” He’s ready to give up on it.
These are all real examples (with names changed, of course), and I could give many more, including quite a few from my own life. But I think the point is clear: These are not obstacles. They are opportunities.
With the thousands of journals and ezines publishing short fiction, Mary’s inability to find the right one doesn’t ring true. Jonathan’s seven rejections is a tiny number: Many writers submit to dozens of agents before finding one. And Lou received a wonderful gift: An editor who was interested enough to actually comment on his novel and offer a piece of advice he should take seriously.
The Real Barrier
Having been there, I understand where each of these writers is coming from. But I also know that, for myself and for them, the real obstacle isn’t the one they think it is. It is their own resistance, their self-doubt, their fear.
Look at the obstacles in your own life. What is slowing you down? What is preventing you from doing your best work and from getting it out to the world? How real are those things? I can promise you that many of the things you are seeing as obstacles aren’t.
If you take a closer look at that wall ahead, you'll see it has a door.That barrier in front of you? It's really a bridge. And that gate standing across your path—it may be closed, but all you have to do is push.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...