Blogs by Barbara Forte Abate
10/28/2010 2:51:07 AM
It all starts and ends with believing in the dream...
Unlike those who appear to be born lucky, things have never come easily for me.
Because family circumstances ill-afforded an opportunity for college after I graduated from my small town high school in 1978, I vowed that I would simply need to dig-in and commit myself to working hard to prove that I was indeed capable of achieving the vision I’d held so dearly since childhood – the dream of being a writer. Growing up in a fractured family with more than a few obstacles to overcome, I felt fragile and yet oddly confident, thoroughly prepared to leap into my future with both feet and fists flying – not unlike Rocky preparing to go into the ring – diligent training and tenacious determination would take me the distance, of this I was convinced.
Except when they didn’t. Early on, married with four small children, living in an old house in need of renovations, hardworking husband trying to establish a career, I didn’t often have long uninterrupted hours of writing time, so I simply parked my stack of yellow pads on the dining room table and wrote whenever babies napped and housework and meal planning were up-to-date. While writing is its own brand of hard work, I believed, hoped, confidently expected, to accomplish what I’d set out to do. It would simply take more time than originally anticipated. I was after all, a wife and mother first – an ordinary person attempting to gain admittance into a country club whose members were not so ordinary. And so I prayed. I prayed hard and often.
In the midst of struggling through the writing of this first novel, my younger sister died suddenly and in the space of an impossible instant, the world as I knew it came grinding to a loud and immediate halt. Writing a fiction novel at once felt like the most ridiculous and frivolous endeavor a person could think to undertake. Making up stories and inventing characters was both foolish and idiotic, especially when real life was right here slamming into me so hard and fast I’d nearly forgotten how to breathe. It was a slow and devastating climb from the depths of loss back into the realms of continuing life, and yet somewhere along the broken road of healing I discovered that the very act of writing about people, places, and experiences pulled from the tangled jumble in my head was incredibly restorative – somehow even necessary.
My first book at last finished. I borrowed a typewriter from a friend, transcribed my yellow pad scribbles onto tidy white paper and send it off. Abundant elation! I’d finished! Done precisely what I’d so long determined to do. Not without a fair amount of blood, sweat, and tears, but nevertheless something akin to giving birth to a child – the pain is secondary to the beautiful creation you hold in your hands as a result.
Fast forward a dozen plus years ; the form rejection letters now require an entire bludgeoning drawer in the file cabinet, the babies – now in elementary, middle and high school, no longer take naps but instead require transportation to various events, emergency shopping trips for must-have supplies they forgot to mention at a convenient hour, homework assignments that go on for days – and still the dream continues to thrive, only a little more painfully, and with a steady requirement of renewed effort.
I find myself increasingly wrestling with the undeniable fact that the piles of rejection letters I’ve so defiantly collected are in essence delivering a message I stubbornly refuse to acknowledge. I have every reason to pack away the pages and surrender, another causality of real life, since I’m clearly not a “genuine” writer; merely the face pressed against the window looking in on the party I haven’t received an invitation to.
And yet I can’t force, convince, or otherwise cajole myself to stop believing in this thing that isn’t happening; continuing to write, edit, rewrite, rewrite once more, querying and submitting sample chapters to every editor and agent with an address. The subsequent rejections stubbornly compelling me to launch into yet another flurry of rewriting, querying, and a flood of frustrated prayer.
“A wiser person would have the brains to give this up and move on,” a mean and persistent voice rudely pokes like sharpened fingernails inside my head. Though I continue to write and dream, there are times I can’t avoid pausing to actually hear this voice; my earlier certitude quavering before the sobering logic of those words. Some part of me wondering if maybe this dogged admonishment is right and true. Nevertheless, even though the hollow toll of unfulfilled dreams continued to grow louder and clearer with each passing year, I understand I can never permit these uncertainties to settle. Conceding, I know, is to forfeit faith.
But what is it that inspires any of us to stay the course when life continually seems to thrust forth hands that are consistently empty? To look for the single route that will take us safely around the roadblocks erected in our path? Certainly it is Faith clinging to the back of Hope as it gallops ahead, allowing us a glimpse of the light forever glinting at the end of the tunnel. But something else as well – a single word so powerful that has become my personal mantra – trust. Trust that this potent heart’s desire that I’ve carried since girlhood is first and foremost a gift. Trust that a loving Creator such as ours would never be so cruel as to grow dreams in our hearts without then guiding us to the perfect nourishment that will enable them to bloom profusely. Trust that there are reasons why the journey so oftentimes takes us on a different route, far removed from the one we’ve painstakingly highlighted on the map, assured that we ourselves must stay faithful, as He is faithful, and that’s when we can, and will, move mountains.
Looking back – and it is unquestionably a far distance – I can’t very well determine what I was thinking all those times I refused to take “no” for an answer. I only knew that I was in passionate pursuit of something – something planted so deep I had no means for abandoning it.
Some time ago, when the rejection letters from agents and editors were landing in my mailbox at a fever pitch, I made a prayerful agreement with God, assuring that if He would just look the other way while I coddled my injured psyche after receipt of yet another “no thanks, not for us” missive in my mailbox, I would try my hardest to keep it to no more than 24 hours of heartbroken, woe-is-me, the world hates me, all out misery, before promptly moving on. As much as I know that doubt and hopelessness are the enemies of faith, I believed at the time that without this passage of mourning I might very well implode. And I stayed with it, up until the time when I realized I didn’t so much need there interludes anymore. Faith, hope, and trust had firmly established their place and replaced my need to grieve.
And now, twenty years after first sitting down with pen, paper and a head full of dreams, I can somehow understand why the delays and disappointments might have been necessary – the knockdown-drag-out bouts against tears and hopelessness essential – for the underlying truth that in some miraculous way, not only have these hard-hitting villains led me to this peculiar fruition of events that have unfolded in ways I never could have anticipated, but the person I am now is someone who didn’t exist at the beginning of the journey.
I find it impossible to believe that even a moment of our lives simply travels forth on some random, chips-fall-where-they-may, path. Because whether or not we see or understand it as it unfurls before us, there is indeed a plan. His perfect plan.
And as it is with all answered prayers, it is only the beginning. Trust, trust, trust…
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More Blogs by Barbara Forte Abate
A VISIT TO:THE NEW YORK SCREENWRITING LIFE - Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Writer in Training - Tuesday, August 02, 2011
My Life For Sale - Thursday, July 07, 2011
Comrades of The Pen - Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Reject Rejection - Wednesday, June 01, 2011
Watching Yourself a Little Too Closely - Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The Great Agent Quest - Guest Post - Monday, April 25, 2011
Pile Up on Information Highway - Tuesday, April 19, 2011
A Novel Road Trip - Thursday, April 07, 2011
Queen for a Day - Tuesday, April 05, 2011
The Question of Social Media - Saturday, February 19, 2011
The Joy of Reading - Saturday, February 12, 2011
If You Love a Writer - Thursday, February 10, 2011
Spring Fever - Wednesday, February 09, 2011
In the Not So Distant Future - Saturday, January 08, 2011
Hopeful Perseverence - Thursday, October 28, 2010