Emily Timbol

The Writerly Blog Hop

Apr
03
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Seventeen years ago I attempted to write my first book. I was ten years old. Everyday after school I sat in the cheap fold out chair in front of the computer, my feet dangling just above the carpet, while I pecked at the keyboard. It took a couple weeks for about 30 pages to appear. My story was about a young girl with curly hair in the witness protection program, trying to find her parent’s killer, so she could get her life back. But after 30 pages, it got too hard to keep the characters and events together, and to come up with ideas. The novelty of writing a book wore off. So I quit.
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While a freshman in college, eight years later, I was struggling with a crush on a guy from high school who had ended up at the same out-of-town university as me. To work through these feelings, I decided to revisit my old love of writing. Every night after class I’d plop down at my cheap cardboard brown desk, my fingers flying over the keys of my laptop. This time, I made it 60 pages into my screenplay about a (you guessed it) curly haired girl and the guy who finally realized he loved her. Once complete, I read back what I had wrote, horrified. It was crap. Drivel. Terrible and immature. I sealed the manuscript into a manilla envelope, and shoved it in a drawer. Instead of working to make it better, once again, I quit.

I’m now 27, and have spent the past three years writing, editing, and submitting my memoir to agents and publishers. While doing that, I also become a regular blogger for the Huffington Post, a member of the Burnside Writers Collective, and a contributor to Red Letter Christians. I’ve come a long way since my feet first dangled in front of a computer screen.

My book is done. And at 63,000 words, it’s a lot more than 60 pages. It’s been something I’ve committed to for years, not weeks or days.  And unlike my youthful writing, I invited lots and lots of people to not just read it, but critique it. Tear it apart. Tell me how to make it better.

Yet, after all this time, I still struggle with two things. Wanting to quit. And not feeling like a writer.

Like Kirsten, who started this blog hop, when I first pictured my life as a writer, it was one  filled with thick glossy book covers embossed with my name. Sitting on (built-in) bookshelves in a large, white, expensive home. On the beach or in the mountains maybe. A home I kept when I wasn’t living in my high rise apartment in Chicago/NYC/Seattle. I’d have an agent, a publisher, and a bank account that reflected this fame my creativity had brought me.

My life looks nothing like that.

I have no agent. No publisher. No glossy covered book with my name on it. My house, while lovely, is nowhere near the mountains, let alone white. And because of these things, I often feel like I have no right to call myself a writer. A failure, yes, as I have an inbox filled with rejection emails from agents. Writer, no.

But the more I connect with other writers, and participate in things like this blog hop, the more I see that the things that I think make me a failure, are what actually make me a writer. Writing, for one. And persistence in the face of a landslide of rejection, for another. To write is to be rejected. To be a writer, is to overcome rejection, and keep writing.

Even though I don’t have the bank account, agent, or hell, even desk of a writer, I still know that, as long as I keep putting fingers to keys, a writer is what I’ll be. Glossy book cover or not.

9 Responses to The Writerly Blog Hop

  1. Love this, Emily. Your first novel sounds like mine, written in third grade and all about some nature photographer, written in a Hello Kitty notebook. 🙂 I think that the struggle does help define us as writers. It’s easy for very few people. The rest of us? I think we struggle with identity and “making it” (whatever that really means). Hope to get to read your memoir someday!

    • Thanks Kirsten! If I don’t get an agent or publisher after six more months, I’ll self-publish, and you’ll get to read it for sure (I’ll probably hit you up for self-pub advice.)

  2. Sister, I could wallpaper a room with rejection slips! Ok, a very small room, because I, too, quit too often! I hate rejection. I hate slips. Together–it’s worse than horrible! But I’m learning that writing is about community and reaching out to other people. So keep on reaching! YOU are a WRITER!

  3. I love this! I remember hearing an interview with Garth Brooks at the height of his career recalling how he was “turned down by every label in town… twice.” And I thought, ‘How could EVERY label in town not see what a money-machine he was going to be? I mean, a couple, sure – but every label?’ But in that moment, I figured out that to be an artist is to be rejected. Even if you are a money-machine like Garth Brooks was in his prime, how many people said they hated his music? You can replace Garth Brooks with any singer, writer, painter, sculpture designer, etc. and they will have a similar story. Success in art is simply making it. Keep doing what you do!

  4. You are a writer indeed! You describe the uphill climb in such a way that I cannot help but stand up and cheer for you!!!!

  5. Tonya Salomons

    Oh friend… this —> To write is to be rejected. To be a writer, is to overcome rejection, and keep writing— > this is going above my desk to remind me that I’m a writer… thank you so much for your words today!

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