Cross to bear

Do you ever sit down in front of a task and just stare at it for an obsessively long period of time without actually beginning said task because you just don’t know where to begin? No? Yes? Jim where are you going with this weird line of questioning? Well, as you can tell from the very first sentence, that was me when I started writing this week’s Mastering the Craft. At first I wanted to write something Easter themed since this will hit The Pilot News on Saturday. This will release on my site on Good Friday. Then I thought that since this will appear in The Starke County Leader on the Thursday after Easter, I thought I’d write something of a compromise. So hopefully you enjoy this mix between the two.

Idioms are expressions whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meaning of its constituent elements. Thanks Dictionary.com for making that definition so easy to understand. You’ve all heard some examples, but do you really know what they mean? For instance:

• “Wag the dog” means to purposely divert attention from an important issue by focusing attention on a more unimportant issue.

• “Sticky end” means that someone dies in an unpleasant way. I would make a joke about death and Michigan, but it’s Easter so I’ll just move on.

• “Born on the wrong side of the blanket” means that a child is illegitimate and that his or her parents were not married at the time of the birth. 

• “Tall enough to hunt geese with a rake” means that a person is taller than a person of average height.

Some idioms, however, can be predicable. “At death’s door” means that they are dying or very sick. “Cheat death” is another one that pretty much means what it says, that a person narrowly escaped a major problem or accident and is still alive. 

Another idiom that comes to mind is “cross to bear.” This idiom means that the person with a “cross to bear” has a heavy burden of responsibility or a problem that they alone must cope with.

You probably know where I’m going with this.

We all face moments in our lives when we think that a problem is so great that we have to face it alone. Or maybe we are simply too prideful or ashamed so we don’t seek out help. That’s when we have a “cross to bear.” It’s not the problem that causes us to bear the cross however, we do that to ourselves. If you’re dealing with an overwhelming problem in your life and you don’t seek out help, that’s adding weight to that cross. 

I was watching Captain America: Civil War in preparation for Avengers: Endgame and T’Challa (Black Panther) is talking to Black Widow about politics and how two people in one room can accomplish more than a group of people. That’s when his father interrupts the conversation and says “Not if you’re moving a piano.”

The idiom refers to Jesus carrying the cross to Golgotha, the place where he was crucified. Jesus died for our sins. Sure, he could have chosen not to experience all of that pain, suffering, mocking, and abuse. But he endured it and paid the penalty for our sins. That penalty was his death. And he did it alone. 

“And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice,  ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (Which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’),” states Mark 15:34. Jesus is referencing Psalm 22 which is a prophecy about the agony of the Messiah’s death for the world’s sin. So Jesus knew that he would be temporarily separated from God the moment he took upon himself the sins of the world.

Jesus was alone at that moment so you wouldn’t have to bear your cross (your burden) by yourself. If you’re too ashamed or prideful to seek help from a person, then seek help from God. I mean, He’s always around and He knows what burdening you. 

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account,” reads Hebrews 4:12-13.

Happy Easter everyone, hopefully you learned a little more than just the meanings of idioms by reading this.  

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Leaving a Legacy

I’ll probably never have children. I’m cutting straight to the honest truth this week. I mean, I think I sort of blew my chances when my marriage ended a few years ago. And I had gotten married at the prime of my life too. Ten years ago I had a lot more hair on my head. Not like Kurt Russell in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, though. I’m talking like a little less than Thor in Thor: Ragnarok. You might think it weird that I’m talking in Marvel movies, but that’s only because Avengers: Endgame is coming out soon.

The reason why I’m talking about my lack of progeny is that I got to thinking about my upcoming death. That’s right, I’m dying. Spoiler alert: we’re all dying. Every day we creep closer to the inevitable end of our lives. It’s unavoidable, so it’s worth thinking about. Plus, being all alone in this house (or what I like to call the carcass of my broken marriage) I can’t help sometimes being depressed and thinking about The End.

It’s what we, horror writers, do. We think about The End. It’s only natural. At the end of writing a manuscript, those two little yet very important words mark the closing of a tale. In real life, it’s the same. Our headstones represent those two words. The End.

I asked myself once, while sitting alone in the empty house, what will be my legacy? What will I leave this world once I actually die? According to dictionary.com, there are five definitions for  Legacy. Three of them were boring and didn’t apply to my needs, and one of them was hilarious, but the one that stood out was this: “anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.”

If you were wondering, the hilarious one was this: “of or relating to old or outdated computer hardware, software, or data that, while still functional, does not work well with up-to-date systems.” Why is it hilarious, you may ask. I think the same definition could be attributed to people sometimes. Anyway, back to the real focus of my column.

What does that mean? Sure, it could mean inheritance. My father once took me to a storage shed and told me about the stuff he intends to give me when he dies. I told him, “I don’t want to hear about that. That’s just morbid.” Which it was, but that’s what he cared about. That “stuff” is important to him and he wants to make sure it’s taken care of when he passes (he’s still alive if you were wondering… hi dad!). 

For politicians, “legacy” could mean the laws they’ve passed or the service they gave to their country. He served not only in the Vietnam War, but he served as a senator from Arizona from January 1987 until his death in August 2018. No one can deny that he served his country. After his death, there were countless stories about his character. One such account written by Raoul Lowery-Contreras for the website www.thehill.com, had this to say about the senator:

“When one compares the character of John McCain with anyone else, one finds few men who measure up to the senator and the 1,800 days of torture, beatings and broken bones that he, and most other American POWs, suffered at the hands of their North Vietnamese captors. Real men must stand up now to be measured by the standards that Sen. McCain left us as his legacy.”

For writers, it’s pretty obvious what we leave behind: the articles, books, short stories, and other published content. You know, interestingly enough in the paper I edit (The Starke County Leader) I have this feature piece called “Throwback Thursday” where I take a front page from the past and give a summary of what happened. That front page is a small piece some writer’s legacy. That’s what they left behind for us. Now, being in a depressed mood, I realize that my books, articles, even the newspapers I edit won’t really make a difference in the world. A hundred years into the future, I doubt professors are going to be assigning my books as part of his syllabus. I don’t think I’m a terrible writer, but I’m no Stephen King. 

So what exactly should my legacy be and how should I go about leaving it when I pass (I’m thirty-three so I’ve got some time…hopefully)?

Well, there’s another aspect that I haven’t covered yet. I may be a writer, but I’m also a Christian. So, looking on the internet I find this really great article about leaving a legacy in terms of Christianity. It starts by quoting the Bible. 

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith,” writes Paul in 2 Timothy 4:7. 

Fighting the good fight. Finishing the race. Keeping the faith. Isn’t that something that you’d want to be remembered for? I don’t want my nieces and nephews, my friends and other family, and others to think anything less of me. “Oh, Jim was nice, but he wasn’t that good at finishing what he started. He surely wasn’t one for standing up for what’s right. He wasn’t even a faithful dude.” That’s not exactly what I want people to say at my funeral.

I guess the point is that when you die, it doesn’t end at the grave. It’s my opinion that I’d rather strive to leave a faithful legacy than one of half-heartedness.

Getting Back on the Bike…

There are moments in our lives that we just cannot forget. Typically, my unforgettable moments are the “firsts” of something. The first adult book (Jurassic Park), my first dance (8th grade, horrible experience), and my first feeling of intense dislike for the State of Michigan (when my parents divorced and I had to spend every other weekend in Niles). Another one of my firsts was my first new bike. It was a green speckled Huffy. That was such a significant memory because prior to that, if I wanted to ride a bike I was forced to borrow one my sister’s bicycles. As you can imagine, as a boy, riding around on a Strawberry Shortcake bicycle was not an appealing thing.

This photo was found on a Yahoo image search, but it’s an exact replica to what my sisters had (if memory serves me accurately).

Another memorable time of mine is when I crashed and burned on that bike. Every time. I honestly remember every single accident, every moment of panic just before crashing, every injury and the pain associated with that injury. I also remember that I didn’t just lie on the ground and cry. I got up and got right back on the bike. 

That’s what humans do. We get back up, we persevere, we try again. You might be wondering why I’m talking about memories and bicycles when this should be a writing column. Well, faithful reader, keep calm and read on.

I haven’t written one word in my fourth book since the beginning of March. I was too busy working, then going home and editing a book for my publisher. As some of you know, all of that work amounted to nothing because my laptop was stolen. I had a backup of my fourth book, but not a recent one. Turns out that I lost about 6,000 words give or take a few hundred. In the grand scheme of things, things didn’t turn out that bad. 

I thought to myself that as soon as April hit, I’d get back into the writing grind. I had my backup laptop configured, I finally got Word all situated on it, I had it all figured out. As I’m writing this, it’s the fifth day into the month and I haven’t written a single word. There have been nights where I’ll open the document and just stare at it for a few moments before closing it again. As I do, I make a mental promise to work on it later, the next night, or at a more opportune time.

Every time I look at the document, all I can see is that flickering vertical line at the end of the document. It waits impatiently for me to move it with my words. If there are any writers reading this, then I’m sure you’ll understand what I’m going through.

It isn’t that I don’t know where I’m going in the story. Because I do. However, I can’t get over that loss of progress. It was done. It was written. It was perfect the way it was and it was how I wanted the story written. How can I write anything better?

Ultimately, that flashing vertical line represents my faith in my craft. It represents my wavering belief that I can write something equal to what was there before the theft. 

We all have something we struggle with in our lives. Relationships, addictions, ethics, morality, faith, the list could go on and on. I’ve struggled, and still struggle, with many of those issues. What can I say, I multitask. Currently, I’m struggling with self-doubt. See, self-doubt and I are old enemies. It’s one of those relationships where the foes sit down and drink coffee and play a game of chess. Like the end of the first X-Men film. Only one of us will win the battle, but it won’t be the last time we face off against each other. 

You would think by now I’d know my foe’s tricks and battle strategies. I’d be able to counter his attacks and strike back effectively. You’d think I’d be able to overcome him in the end. But no, I’m still struck by surprise when my enemy makes his opening move. I’m still initially paralyzed by the crippling effects of his attack. I’m too weak to counterattack. 

I’m just not enough. 

I wish I could end this rant on a good note. I wish I could tell you that everything was okay again and that I’ve triumphed over my Self-Doubt. I wish I could tell you that Michigan isn’t as “Pure” as Tim Allen says it is in his commercials.

But I don’t have a magic lamp and those three wishes will still remain that: wishes.

I will make a promise, to you all. I’ll keep trying to get back on that bike. Maybe when I start writing again, that’ll be another lifetime moment I’ll never forget. The first time I truly defeated my self-doubt.

At a loss for words…

Right now, I’m laying in a hotel bed typing this column on my iPhone. That’s one of the magical things about writing. Writers are sort of like time travelers. I’m communicating with the future. Originally, I had a column about April being National Poetry Month and why I don’t like writing poetry. I know what you’re going to ask, “But Jim, haiku you say that?”

Well, you’ll never read that column because someone stole my laptop. That’s right, you read that correctly. I don’t like reading or writing poetry. Seriously though, someone stole my laptop. I am literally out of words. Somehow, somewhere, Alanis Morissette is laughing.

The sad thing was that it wasn’t just my things that were taken. I was with my sister’s family in Fort Wayne attending the Christian concert Winter Jam. We got out to our vehicle and that’s when we found that someone had broken in and stole all the ibuprofen and electronics. They even took my sisters broken prescription glasses. I’m not sure if the thieves were being funny by taking the ibuprofen or if they were doing it strictly for drugs. By stealing the laptop and my nieces and nephews tablets, they caused a real headache.

Some of you might be wondering why I’m making jokes at a time like this. Mainly, it’s a defense mechanism of mine that some can find annoying. I understand, but at times like these my humor is all I have. That, and my intense hatred for Michigan.

As a writer, this theft left me staggering and speechless. They stole my livelihood. Everything I had written was on that laptop. That brand new, 15.6 inch Lenovo laptop that I’d worked to save up to buy. It may have only been about $400, but to a writer that’s a lot. A little known fact about writers: we’re not that rich. Worse than that though, they stole my hard work. I’d been editing a book for my publisher, Burning Willow Press, LLC. It was my second book I’ve edited for them. To say that I worked extremely hard to edit this thing would be an understatement. I had promised the Vice President of the company that I’d have that book back, edits completed, by the end of March. I wrote him an email tonight explaining what happened and that I was going to have to break my promise. There would be no way for me to complete the edits have them back by then. Even though I didn’t purposely break my promise, I’m still ashamed to have to tell him that I failed to live up to my word.

But, even worse than that. They stole my ideas. Snatched right from my head. Everything I’ve written is on that laptop. Sure, most of that is backed up on an external hard drive so it’s not gone forever. That doesn’t change the fact that all of my ideas, all of my personal thoughts and creative content is in the hands of another person, a thief. I feel downright violated.

And there isn’t anything I can do about it.

I want to spring into action with a “particular set of skills” and track down the bandits and show them why they should have stayed in Michigan where they belong. I want to quell the sadness I and the rest of my family felt. Also, that insecure feeling of knowing a stranger had rifled through your things. That feeling that your safe, comfortable, secure bubble had just been popped by the sharp prick of a thief’s needle. I can do none of those things, however.

It was my younger nephew that spoke up and said that it was actually a blessing and a test from God. He went on further explaining that we didn’t really need the things that were stolen. The things we really needed were left behind.

Now, let me tell you something. Hearing someone, doesn’t matter the age, tell you that you never really needed that laptop isn’t an easy thing to accept. How can that person know this? They don’t understand that it isn’t just games and files on that laptop. I couldn’t tell you how many evenings I’ve spent hunched over that thing typing out words or editing that book. I wanted to tell my younger nephew that he was wrong, that to me, that laptop was practically my life.

It was at that thought, that laptop was practically my life, that I knew I was wrong and he was right. It was such a selfish thought. Sure, I’ve suffered a setback. Sure, I’ve broken a promise. Sure, I live about an hour south of Michigan. But at least our vehicle wasn’t damaged beyond repair. At least they didn’t take my prescription blood thinners. At least they didn’t steal our clothes.

Here’s the best at least of them all: At least we left the parking lot together and unharmed.

There are worse things than having your laptop stolen. Living in Michigan for example.

Thank a Journalist Day was March 13

***Before reading, please note that the following rant is entirely a biased article about journalism. The writer of this rant is a journalist after all. At least he claims to be one. Now back to our original Mastering the Craft. Enjoy.***

You have to be crazy to be a journalist. Now, I realize what you’re all thinking: “But Jim, everyone thinks that about their jobs.” And you’d probably be right. Please, just hear me out and take a few minutes to read my irrational reasoning.

In order to understand the mind of a journalist, you have to understand what they do on a day-to-day basis. I could be all fancy with you and say that “we’re the protectors of truth” or that we “keep politicians honest” or even that “we report Fake News.”

While that might be true, here is what I personally think we do:

• We tell the public what happened at a government meeting, school board meetings, an event, something else of public interest.

• We let you know what’s going to happen in the future. Examples of this include the Community Calendar, fundraising opportunities, concerts, hot button issues taking place at a public meeting, and other events of public interest.

• We bring to light issues that might have been kept buried. That’s investigative journalism and you have to wear a fedora and have a Chicago or New York Mobster Era accent when you question individuals.

• We are on our own side. What I mean by that is, when we write an article we are emotionally detached. We do not share our opinions with our readership. Admittedly, this is one of the tougher parts of our job. Some succeed in doing this while others fail. But hey, we’re only human.

Anyone can snap a picture and/or write an article about a government meeting. In today’s age anyone can report on the news through a blog or creating a Facebook Group and calling it “(insert name) News.” It’s easy, but what’s not easy is what you do with that knowledge you gained when you attended that meeting.

“With great power comes great responsibility,” stated the fictional ill-fated Uncle Ben.

If you want a quote from a better source than a comic book character, I’ll use the one I found at http://www.americanpressinstitute.org.

“The journalist places the public good above all else and uses certain methods – the foundation of which is a discipline of verification – to gather and assess what he or she finds,” states the website.

Sometimes people don’t like reading the truth. I know, you’re probably wanting me to reference Jack Nicholson but I refuse to do it. It’s true though, that old phrase, the truth hurts. Sometimes people don’t like to read about what was said during a meeting. I remember one time I used a quote from a clerk-treasurer a few years back. The town had to remove the flower pots in front of the downtown bar because inebriated patrons were using it for things other than horticulture. She called me out on it on one of my last days at that paper. “Why’d you have to quote me on that?” I replied back, “Hey, you were the one that said it.”

Being a journalist is a tough gig. You’re mostly working on your own, on a deadline, and constantly holding back personal bias. Sometimes we witness the aftermath of some of humanity’s worst actions. Fatalities in car accidents, court cases involving some of the worst things imaginable, events in Michigan. Okay, that last one was a personal bias and used for comedic purposes. But you get the point. Most of the time we don’t receive the kudos and thanks for doing the job. Sometimes all we receive is criticism and angry voicemails telling us how poor a job we did.

So yes, we have to be crazy to do what we do.

To be fair, we also get to know the people that make our coverage area great. We get to see the few individuals attempting to make their communities better. We get to cover the fundraising efforts, the not-for-profits trying to provide children the essential items they lack, the prayer breakfasts, and a plethora of other activities and events that balance out the bad.

Sure, you have to be crazy to be a journalist. But, speaking as a journalist, I have enjoyed these past four years of insanity. Here’s hoping there’s more where it came from.

Wednesday, March 13 was “Thank a Journalist Day.” If you didn’t read it in the newspaper you most likely didn’t even know it existed. It was declared and signed by Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb. The day was created by students at Ball State University and asked people to participate and state why they believe journalism was important.

In closing, I would ask this: if you are at a meeting/event/sporting event/ribbon cutting/or other various public activity and see someone with a recorder or notepad, go up (after the event, we’re working after all) and shake their hand and say thanks.

Or you could buy the local newspaper. Because, come on, there’s much more in it than Sudoku and Family Circus.

Novel Ideas: Becoming an Editor

Last Saturday, I was at the weekly Bible Study and one of my friends asked me a question. Some of you might already be saying, “Stop right there. You’ve got friends?” To which I would respond, “Why yes, I keep them in my basement that way they can never leave me.”

Hopefully you all know I’m joking right? I’d never kidnap my friends and keep them locked away in my basement. That’s what my garage is for after all.
Joking aside, my friend also happens to be a copyeditor and asked how one would expand into the world of book editing. I told my friend that question would make for a novel idea for Mastering the Craft (Pause for laughter to subside).

So I did some research and here are my findings about how to break into the novel editing biz.

Some of you might not know that I have edited a few books for other authors. I’m currently editing one for Burning Willow Press, the home of my own books. The first tip I have is this: get some writing of your own out there so employers can see the quality of your writing. This will show them that you know how to write character arcs, build tension, craft a scene, write dialogue. You know, the basics of storytelling. If you don’t know how to write a story, you shouldn’t expect employers to hire you to edit a story.

If you don’t want to wait to get a story published, then the easiest way is to place it on your own personal website. Having your own website is a great way to market yourself. A good freelance editor’s page should include your experience, qualifications, prices, testimonials, and any other piece of information that would sway your potential employers to hire you. If you’re looking for a good example, check out http://www.thejohnfox.com.

Once you have your website up and running, it’s time to build up your social media presence (if it’s not already). Having an account on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon Author Page, and LinkedIn will be your primary way of networking with not only potential employers, but also with other editors. Don’t think of other editors as enemies, think of them as resources. If you’re new to the business, reach out and ask them for advice. They were once in your shoes (maybe they still are).

Now, here’s the biggest piece of advice in terms of social media and your website. Maintain and update them as much as possible. If a potential client finds his/her way onto your site and the last post is from a year ago, it’s not going to make them get excited about hiring you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about your business. People love seeing posts about your pets, your newest video game addiction, what you’re reading, what you’re writing, and just life in general.

Join in on internet book release parties. Authors typically have Facebook events to promote their latest releases. During those releases there’s normally what’s called “Author Take Over Events” where authors or others in the business take over for a time slot (typically half hour or hour periods of time). Hosting such a time slot is an excellent way to network. You could also have contests and give away editorial discounts. This might entice an author to hire you simply because your services are now cheaper. Remember, indie authors don’t get paid the same as Stephen King and James Patterson.

Having a bachelor’s degree in English, Journalism, Communications, or some other related concentration is advised. This shows the potential client that you’ve received formal training and should have a grasp on editing. However, if you don’t have the time/money to go to college then you can always receive informal training that may help to even the scales. Go check out your local library and see if they offer online courses like Lynda.com and Gale Courses. My library does and they’re free (at least at my library) to those that have a library card. Even if you’re a college graduate, sharpening your skills is never a bad thing. I’m taking an editing class through the library this March.

Along those lines of education, make sure you have knowledge of Microsoft Publisher and/or Adobe InDesign. They’re not absolutely necessary, but they’re a good bonus to have. Also, get some firsthand experience with Microsoft Word, specifically the Track Changes function. Most publishers now a days require you to have Office 365 and use Track Changes. But hey, look on the upside. That subscription to Office 365 is now tax deductible since you’re purchasing it for your new editing business!

The very last thing I can suggest to you, my friend, and all those others that consider the glamourous life of a novel editor. Focus on getting that first client. After that, focus on performing a good job. Bad reputations can cripple a career. Bad reviews are always easier to spread than good ones. When you do get good feedback from your client, ask for a short testimonial to put on your site. Wear it as a badge of honor.

Above all else, have fun. It’s always been my opinion that you should never spend your life at a career that you despise. 

Never Lose Hope

About a month ago, I was told that I shouldn’t get my hopes up about something personal. I won’t elaborate about that subject because, as I just said, it’s personal and I don’t share everything with you, my faithful readers. I felt mildly defeated after hearing that. It’s only natural to feel that way.

Here’s the interesting thing about the human spirit: it’s fairly durable. “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down,” Chumbawamba said in their immortal song Tubthumping. For those young enough not to know that song, I’d advise skipping that one. It’s useful for this instance, but really that’s about it.

The way I see it, you have three choices when faced with defeat.  Here they are:

  • The simple one is to quit. Sometimes the task you’re up against is just too massive for your abilities. There’s no shame in it, I’m sure we’ve all been there.
  • This one is easy to guess because it’s the opposite of the last one. Don’t quit. “Never give up, never surrender,” is the slogan of the fictional crew in the movie Galaxy Quest (1999). We’ve all been there too. You think to yourself, “okay I failed. But I’m sure that if I just put in another two percent effort, I’ll achieve it this time.”
  • This next one is a bit different from the first one. It’s this: Put it on hold. It’s technically not quitting if you focus on other ventures. Right? Sometimes that’s the best choice. Sometimes you aren’t ready, but you know that after some growing-up, time, money, or some other factor you’ll be able to come back to it. Maybe the next time you’ll be successful.

Now, depending on what you’ve put your hopes in, one choice may be more feasible then the others. Since this is Mastering the Craft, let’s put these choices into a book related situation.

So there you are, you’ve finished writing your first book. You’ve pumped so much blood, sweet, and tears into it over the years that it’s now become more like your child than a bunch of words on a page. Sending out took a lot of mental effort and you can’t wait to hear back from the publishers. “I’ve sent it to four different publishers. Surely one of them will accept it. Right,” you ask yourself.

It’s okay to talk to yourself, you are an author after all. It’s what we do.

Months go by and you’ve stopped checking your inbox every ten minutes. You’re eating Ramen Noodles, you’re a poor artist after all, when you hear your email notification ding. Throwing the chicken flavored noodles down onto the counter, you open up that email from one of the publishers. Even after reading it three times, it’s the same result. Rejection.

“That’s okay, there’s three other publishers that could say yes,” you say as you dive back into your Ramen.

Four weeks go by and you’ve been rejected from every publisher. Now what? Let’s go through the choices I mentioned above. You could quit. There’s really nothing lost other than your blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, and the crazy amount of time you spent working on that turd you call a novel.

Maybe you decide to invest time into another round of edits. You catch several things that the publishers caught. Now you’re ready to send it off to another round of publishers. Maybe they’ll say yes?

You weren’t exactly sitting on your thumbs while you were waiting for your response. You were busy working on another novel. In fact, it’s turning out to be a better one than the first. Maybe rejection was for the best. You don’t want your debut novel to be a dud, right? Maybe after you’ve gotten this whole “being an author” thing under your belt, you can come back and revisit that dud of a first novel. Maybe you can polish it after a few years and send it off again.

You might be thinking, “Why are you talking about this subject?” Well, like I said at the beginning of the column I was faced with these three choices. I could quit my attempts and not have lost too much. I could try again and see if there’s another outcome. I could put the challenge on hold and try my hand at something else. I was contemplating this conundrum when three things happened at the same time:

  • The song “Never Give Up” by For King and Country started to play.
  • I talked to a friend about the subject.
  • I opened my Bible, at random (I’m not making this up), and Romans 8:25 caught my eye. It states, “Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”

I realized then, that I couldn’t live with myself if I simply quit. I could move on with my life and try something different, but I’d always live with that “What if?” hanging over my head. So I’ve decided to keep at it and see if my perseverance will eventually win. If you think I’m crazy, then you might be right.

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said an unknown person.

Sure, I know the odds. I know that what I’m trying to do has about as much chance as a snowball in Hell. But that’s what I thought when I sent my publisher the manuscript of my first novel. Because I took that initial chance and had hope about my writing career, I’m now the published author of three books and four short stories.

Sometimes you have to put your hopes into what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s what poker players call “going all-in.”

Sometimes it pays off and you’re rewarded for your efforts.
Sometimes your hope is shattered when you fail.

In recent years, I’ve experienced both results. When you win, you feel invincible. When you lose, you feel like you’ll never be able to put yourself in that position again.

I’ll end this week’s column with a quote from the film Rocky Balboa (2006):
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done,” spoke the Italian Stallion, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone.