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Last January, I was on the verge of abandoning my writing dream. I was letting it die a slow death because I was consumed by negative thoughts.
Was I good enough? Would anyone want to read the two novels that were languishing in a drawer? If I let this dream go, what would take its place?
I stopped writing and started spending time in restaurants and cafés. One afternoon, my old friend Cecilia joined me. She listened attentively as I described my frustration with the rejection letters I'd received.
Cecilia waved her hands. “It’s simple. All you have to do is go down the river.”
I couldn't believe it. I had just spilled my writing guts, and Cecilia was ready to segue into one of her white-water rafting stories.
She must have read my mind because she smiled and shook her head. “Going down the river means taking advantage of any and all opportunities that appear. Whenever anything sparks your interest, jump in and see if the river takes you someplace magical.”
Former cheerleader. Phys Ed teacher. New Age practitioner. Cecilia was a triple threat. And maybe she had a point here.
She raised her voice, “And maybe, just maybe, you’ll have a bamboo experience!”
Part of me wanted to leave. Why was she talking about bamboo. But part of me was curious.
“The Chinese bamboo tree is unlike any other tree on the face of this earth," Cecilia continued. "During the first four years, there is no sign of growth. All the growth is hidden underground. In the fifth year, an amazing thing happens—the tree begins to grow at an astonishing rate. In a short period of time, sometimes just five weeks, a Chinese bamboo tree can reach a height of ninety feet.”
Months after our conversation, I kept thinking about the idea of majestic bamboo.
At first, not too much changed, but as January gave way to February, I found myself attending more writing workshops and seminars. I joined Sisters in Crime and started participating on discussion boards.
In March, I took a website design course and revamped my online presence. In April, I ventured into the world of social media and joined Twitter. (To date, 2,400 followers and growing!) Later in the summer, I joined Toastmasters and worked on honing my speaking skills.
It was a pleasant stretch of river where I parked my canoe, ready and waiting for my bamboo experience. Instead, I received a canoe bump. My good friend Magda visited me in October and treated me to a birthday dinner. Afterward, she gave me an ultimatum. “Do what you have to do, but get one of those books out there before your next birthday. If you can’t get an agent, publish it yourself.”
I reworked parts of both novels and sent them out again. This time, I also included small publishers in the mix. The rejection letters came shortly afterward, but I noticed a difference. I was now receiving positive rejections. Agents and publishers were sending short, encouraging notes instead of form rejections.
On Thursday, January 31st, my bamboo tree sprouted. Debby Gilbert, senior editor at Soul Mate Publishing offered me a contract for my paranormal romance, Between Land and Sea.
Everyone has a dream or burning desire within. It could be starting a new business, going back to school, or running a marathon. Whatever the dream, start by acknowledging and accepting your present circumstances. They may or may not be to your liking, but do not waste valuable time and energy trying to change them.
Instead, take the following steps:
1. Go down the river, paying special attention to the sign posts along the way: the persistent email about a marketing seminar, the poster on the bulletin board, or college calendar on your night stand. If anything merits a second glance, act upon it.
2. Get a canoe bumper. While you need support and encouragement when life is difficult, you also need someone to challenge you out of your comfort zone. You may not always like this person, but he or she will motivate you to achieve your personal best.
3. Set a timeline, keeping in mind that a goal is a dream with a deadline. If you struggle with deadlines, ask the canoe bumper to set one and keep you on task.
4. Last, and most important of all, THINK BAMBOO!