Breaking Through Brick Walls
by Angela Hartley
A few years ago when I decided to become a writer, I came across the biggest obstacle I had ever seen. I was moving right along, feeling pretty good about my progress and BAM! A brick wall called the publishing industry popped up out of nowhere. A little gate with a Do Not Enter sign sat in front of me with guards turning away anyone without an invitation. Facing the mighty gatekeepers was a daunting task involving a lot of growth. It’s been a long road, and at its end, I wanted to share something profound—a single thought that would change the very fabric of our existence, but I decided our world isn’t ready for that kind knowledge yet. So, I came up with this stuff instead.
- A writer needs to be committed (the definition can be taken either way).
I can’t tell you how many times I considered quitting, but then I would ask some tough questions like how important was it to share my work? Was the payoff sufficient to scale an insurmountable mountain of “I can’t’s” and “I’m not good enough’s”? I guess it was, because walking away felt like the death of my happiness. Giving up was far more painful than a million rejection letters. So, I was committed… to my craft, of course. Not a mental health facility, but there are days when I wonder if it should’ve been the other way around.
- There are no shortcuts.
This is probably the hardest lesson for any new writer and the most embarrassing. I spent two years developing my style and another year on the first draft. Of course it was time to share with the world, land on the best seller list, gain a movie deal and have everybody love me, right? WRONG! Writing the novel is only 25%. Two more years were wasted submitting to companies before I realized my book wasn’t publishable. Rejections came in fast and I didn’t understand, but then I read through the chapters again and I wanted to write my own rebuttal. How could this happen? Someone must have snuck in overnight and replaced my best seller with a crappy novel nobody in their right mind would read on purpose. I’m not the only writer who’s experienced this phenomenon. The first draft is like a chunk of clay needing to be molded into shape. An artist can see the figure perfectly in their mind, but the rest of the world just sees a lump. Step back for a while and you’ll understand. This is where I say the dreaded word “revision.” Revise, revise again and when it’s finally reading right, revise once more—not just the book, but the query letter too. My novel was finally ready for submission when the last revision took only five days. Don’t try to cut corners. A fast and easy path can cost years in this business and taint a writer’s image for even longer.
- Self-publish vs. traditional.
This is a choice every writer must make for whatever reasons they decide. I thought about self-publishing. I thought about it a lot. It seemed like everybody was doing it. They were jumping the wall to greener pastures, but I have this saying that fits this scenario perfectly: “If the grass is greener on the other side, it’s usually because the people over there are full of… manure.” I didn’t want to jump the fence. I wanted an invitation, anything less felt like cheating. If the gatekeepers weren’t opening the door for me, then I wasn’t ready. It felt rude to push past anyways, and if I was serious about a career in the industry, I needed to show proper manners.
- “Poor me” parties are pointless.
A dramatic person like myself reaches a moment, where they stand in the middle of a rain storm, drop to their knees and cries to the heavens, “Why?!” I was in the midst of one of these torrid moments of wallowing when I realized I was being counter-productive. Whining didn’t change anything, neither did feeling picked on. Our challenges do not define us, but how we face those challenges do. Each time I feel like falling into the “poor me” frame of mind, I try to remember these words:
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
–Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture
This is one of my favorite quotes. If you haven’t read The Last Lecture, I highly recommend it. Handed a death sentence when doctors diagnosed him with stage 4 pancreatic cancer, Randy Pausch delivered one of the most profound and moving speeches I’ve ever had the privilege of listening to when Carnegie Mellon University asked him to deliver the last lecture, not knowing the circumstances. Instead of wallowing over his rotten luck, Randy decided to write a tribute to his children, so they could carry a piece of his wisdom after he was gone. Because of his selflessness, these words have reached millions of people and touched countless lives. “Brick walls are not there to keep us out…”
- Gaining admittance.
Thanks to Randy, I discovered I wanted to be writer bad enough to face the challenges of the gatekeepers. It took time and many years of hard work, but I am happy to say the invitation has finally arrived. My debut novel, Copper Descent was released on May 25th. I’ve been on the other side for over a month and I can honestly say the grass is greener here, but I can also see the effort so many of my predecessors have put behind these manicured lawns. With the help of my publisher, I’ve started to cultivate my own garden and no one has tried to escort me out—at least not yet.
Angela Hartley spent much of her childhood being shuffled from house to house with only a book for companionship. The magic she found in the written word saved her in many ways, transporting her into worlds far more enjoyable than the one she resided in. Literature became a passion and the idea of writing carried her through years of uncertainty.
After high school, she met and married her own Prince Charming. They rode off into the sunset in his blue Toyota and a whole new world full of hope and happiness opened up. He claimed they could move mountains together, and they did.
While facing the painful realization that sometimes there are no tomorrows following her father’s tragic death in 2005, she decided it was time to follow her dreams. With the love and support of her family, she dove into another world, full of procreating angels and demon rock stars.
Her debut new adult horror novel, Copper Descent will be released on Amazon May 2014. Angela currently resides in Midway, Utah with her three children and husband. You can find her on her blog, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.