My most unforgettable moment as a writer happened some years ago.
It was not when I made my first sale, nor second, nor even third sale although that qualified me to join the American Pen Women.
I’m often encouraged by attending writers’ conferences where it’s exciting to meet editors and agents, but my unforgettable moment did not happen there. Nor did it happen because I’m a member of Writers of the Foothills, By-liners, Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas or the Oklahoma Writers Federation.
The moment came after I’d spent years of “becoming a writer.” Actually, I was feeling sympathetic toward my husband because he had dealt with my temperament, my discouragement, and at times, my tears as I attempted to write.
One day, feeling successful over my published work, I looked at my husband, and said, “It must be difficult to live with a writer.”
“I imagine it would be,” he replied.
At once, my head came out of the clouds.
Because of his comment, I took an objective look at myself as a writer. One of my published articles had brought 25 worn dollar bills to my hands. True, the film for the photograph had cost $8. And I put 40 miles on the Plymouth. But the person I interviewed offered me a free canoe trip on Little Red River. I took a rain check and sent the article out to two more editors. Maybe, just maybe, one of them would also pay $25 for the story of a new canoe business along the Little Red.
The very first payment for my work was $18 for a short sketch—a Mother’s Day piece which appeared in the Arkansas Gazette. I wrote it one day when I was in bed with the flu. The local editor turned it down, but I sent it to the state paper on Tuesday before Mother’s Day, knowing they required six weeks for seasonal pieces. The article appeared in the daily paper the following Sunday. Tears of joy slipped down my face.
“Those are the kind of tears I like to see,” my husband said. “Happy ones.”
They are the kind I prefer to shed.
Not all tears actually spill over, but often they threaten to. Like when I find my mailbox empty and before I remember that an empty mailbox doesn’t mean a rejection.
Rejections come in all sizes, shapes, and colors. My early ones were form letters, causing me to think that maybe a computer read my manuscript. Now, I receive nice rejections. How can that be? They have personal messages and handwritten signatures from real editors.
Acceptances are important and unforgettable because they make me part of the writing profession– a highly competitive field. Checks are important because they help pay for my computer, paper, pencils, postage and groceries.
All writers start with a desire to write and a dream to succeed. Hard work is merely a stepping stone upon which writers must stand in order to see their byline in print.
Seeing my byline in print was the next best thing to being paid for my writing.
May I suggest to new writers, keep your head out of the clouds and watch for your own most unforgettable moment! It will happen!
The voice on your answering machine
asked me to leave my name and number,
and so I did. But you’ve not called–
and now it’s time to slumber.
So I shall dream the night away
and hope tomorrow morning brings
the sound of your voice over the wire
to wake me when the telephone rings.
© 2014 Freeda Baker Nichols