I’ve been dreading this post for a couple months now. Truthfully, I thought about not posting it at all. But to not write about my failures, as well as my successes, just seemed dishonest. Because sometimes in life you work for something and it comes about, and sometimes you work for something and it doesn’t. Unfortunately, this time it didn’t.
My book proposal didn’t sell. It came very close, as close as you can come before getting the dreaded no. I had conference calls with publishers, rounds and rounds and rounds of rewrites, and months and months of waiting. It came down to one major publisher that was very interested, and for over a month, that editor tried to find a way to sell it to her company (editors essentially have to sell an idea to a team of department representatives within their company to make sure that every department is on board with the book before purchasing it), but it just didn’t go. The problem was that publishers didn’t know what to DO with my book proposal. It was a story of the first five years of our marriage, but it wasn’t necessarily a memoir. It included how-to information about surviving the first few fragile years of marriage, but it wasn’t necessarily a relationship or self-help book. It addressed spirituality and faith as part of your marriage, but it wasn’t necessarily an inspirational book. Several re-writes that publishers asked me to do had me carving the book into one of those mainstream genres in an effort to make it easier to market, but in the end it just didn’t sell.
I think the most heartbreaking part for me was how close it came. We have been watching the Olympic trials in the evenings, and I imagine I feel very similar to someone who has trained years for the Olympics, but then came in third at the trials. Just barely missing the cut sometimes stings worse than failing miserable. This all happened three months ago, and it has really taken me this long to let it go. I was so disappointed at first. Truly heartbroken. There’s just no other way to say it. I have wanted to be a published author for a long, long time, and it’s something I have constantly worked towards. Honestly, it is a small part of the reason I started my original blog and it is a large part of the reason why I actively sought out writing in other formats besides this blog. When something has driven you for so long, it’s hard to let go of the wheel, after a while.
In the months that I have been working through this disappointment in my own head, I’ve come to see that I viewed this book process as a test of faith. I think I believed that God owed me a success after all the things I’d been through in the past couple years. He owed me. I deserved this. And if I am really honest, I think I felt that way so deeply, that the idea of not succeeding hardly ever crossed my mind. You see things all the time that say, “Prayer is powerful,” or “God knows the desires of your heart,” or “Seek and ye shall find.” And even non-religious sayings confirm the idea of success being a decision, “Dreams don’t work unless you do,” “Believe in yourself,” and “Dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
But this process has shown me that just because my dream didn’t happen doesn’t necessarily mean that I failed or that God didn’t hear me. What if in becoming published, I had to go on a book tour and Chris began to resent being left at home with the kids all the time? What if our marriage struggled because of my success? What if I didn’t give 110% at school because I was preoccupied with book sales and events and I missed the opportunity to reach students that really needed me? What if I had to quit my job because of book obligations? What if the book came out and received terrible reviews? What if I couldn’t keep up Marriage Confessions because of my book commitment? What if I gave someone terrible advice and their marriage ended as a result? What if I missed a milestone for one of my kids because I was out promoting my book? What if my kids felt neglected or put aside because I was too busy with the book?
Who knows what would have happened if I had reached that one goal, what other prices might have had to be paid in exchange for that one success?
I sent my agent an email sometime throughout this process that said, “I’m starting to realize that when one door closes, a good agent forces her way inside another!” It was a joke about how hard my sweet agent was working to get my book to sell. But what I’ve learned through this process is that sometimes, no matter how much we try to force a door to open, it’s best for us if it closes. Even if that’s not what we want. Even if we sit outside that closed door for three months, whispering through the keyhole, “Pssst…Are you sure, God?” Sometimes closed doors are the blessing.
When the call came from my agent that the publisher had decided to pass in the end, Chris did just as I hoped he would. He put his arms around me as I stood in our kitchen and cried. He didn’t say anything to try and make it better. He just let me be sad. In the following weeks, he very gently suggested that maybe this wasn’t the end. Maybe another re-write, another publisher, another proposal… and he’s right. I could try again. Third times the charm, right? But I can feel the weight of God behind that door I’ve been trying to push open. (And, trust me, it would ONLY be the weight of GOD that could keep me from pushing that darn door open!) I can feel him in this disappointment. And I can hear him saying to me very softly, “Just wait and see what plans I have for you, Katie.”
No disappointment is easy. No matter how much faith you have or how much you know it to be the right thing. A disappointment, especially after working so hard, is heavy and heartbreaking. But after those pains passed, I have realized that there is sometimes sweet relief when you stop pushing on that door. There is such divine rest that comes after you have given something all of your strength. And, for me, there is hope, too. Hope that if this incredible dream wasn’t part of God’s plan for me, then what other even bigger dreams does he have waiting? When the timing is right and I am able to walk through that next door, what kinds of joys will I find?
And, for me, that’s enough.