Preconceptions can set us up for failure if we are rigid. But what if we use our preconceptions to catapult us to a level of excellence not limited by our finite vision?
A couple of years ago, I wrote my memoir about the adoption of my two daughters as creative nonfiction. I meticulously researched facts and details I had forgotten. I scoured the Internet to verify locations, names, dates, and chronological order of events. I pulled out every document I had saved from both adoptions and poured my heart and soul into my writing.
I asked many friends, professional acquaintances, and editor-journalism-communication types to read Children of Dreams and offer suggestions on how I could make it better. I listened and made revisions that created an almost unbelievable story.
Two weeks before the Florida Christian Writer’s Conference in 2009, I sent off my completed manuscript to be reviewed by an editor attending the conference. I spent $50 and downloaded a file to prepare me for the right attitude while at the conference. I had attended this conference twice before and came away both times disillusioned. This time I was determined not to let that happened.
I couldn’t think of anything that an editor could say to me for which I would not have an answer. I launched my website before the conference and signed up for the marketing class with Randy Ingermanson. I was ready to dive in and market my book if an editor or agent offered me a contract on Children of Dreams. I did not feel like I was setting myself up for failure. I always set lofty goals and then leave the outcome in God’s hands.
The conference arrived and I was excited to be there. I couldn’t wait to share the joy of my book with others. But when I showed my manuscript around, I was surprised by comments.
“No one is publishing memoirs right now,” one person said. “Oh, a memoir,” another stated. People stepped back from me like I had bad breath. Nobody would read one line and acted like I had written something “C” rated at best. But I remained positive. I was certain when I received my manuscript back from the reviewing editor the next day, he would be interested.
The moment arrived when all the reviews were handed out to the attendees. When mine wasn’t, I went up and inquired. Despite the volunteers looking everywhere, they didn’t have mine. While my book was “lost,” all the remaining slots to meet with other editors filled up. Nobody knew where my book was. If the editor who had received my manuscript didn’t like it, I would have no opportunity to present my book to someone else.
To say I was disillusioned is an understatement, but it didn’t come close to what I felt when my manuscript was found. I read the note the editor wrote. “You might consider submitting this to a magazine.”
If the editor had read one paragraph of that 235-page manuscript, he would have known the story couldn’t be condensed into an article. I had presented part of it to a “Focus on the Family” editor a year earlier, and her comment was, “It’s too long. If you can shorten it, we would love to take another look.” I was unwilling to cut it down any more, and it was that comment that made me realize I needed to write the whole story. It took 235 pages to do the story justice.
I did meet later with a couple of editors at the conference and was told by them—as well as an agent, “When you have one thousand people on an opt-in list, come back and talk to us.” While I was nice to them, I thought to myself, if I had one thousand people on an opt-in list, why would I need you?
As a result of that experience, my “gumption” kicked in. I reassessed what I really wanted. What was important to me? Sometimes “no’s” become wonderful opportunities to think “outside the box.” We are free to pursue goals we never would have considered if we had been given what our preconceived ideas told us we wanted.
The key is to be open to change, to give up something to receive something better. Since God controls the outcome, we should focus on the process and what we can do to enhance our chance to achieve our goal.
I have never met an author who didn’t have a lot of gumption to become published. Good writing and successful marketing are key, and money helps the process to go faster as far as exposure, but without the seed within us never to give up, the chances are we won’t go anywhere with our writing.
Today I have forty-three reviews with five stars on Amazon. I thank all my friends and professional contacts every time a new five-star review goes up, knowing without their honest input—and yes, some of it hurt—Children of Dreams wouldn’t have all those wonderful reviews.
My gumption not to give up is still intact, and I am more determined than ever to share my writing with others. Preconceived ideas have long gone out the window. I am setting a new path into the unknown with the John 3:16 Marketing Network, writing a new young adult fantasy novel, obtaining my Masters in Creative Writing, and hopefully someday will teach at the university level in China when I finish my education.
God gives us a cup overflowing with opportunity when we commit our way to Him. Gumption is the human quality He endears us with to get us started. If God is for us, who can be against us?