This weekend I was incredibly blessed to have my darling friend Margie come and visit me. She hopped on a bus and took a 7 hour ride just to stay a couple days with me. We had a fabulous weekend of late night chats, lots of giggling, and jamming out (once we got new strings on my guitar!). I actually met Margie on Twitter, and wasn’t sure she was real for a while.
Of course, late night chats led to pretty serious, introspective discussions, as they tend to do. I’m not sure what it is about the night that makes it the perfect time for these sorts of talks. The dark, the quiet, barriers lowering as participants grow tired? As scary as the night can be in some cases, there’s also something safe about it. Sacred. The night is a keeper of secrets.
Clearly it’s a little late for me to be typing this up too. Before I wax poetic for a thousand words, I’ll just move on.
One topic of conversation that came up regularly was the past, and how all the big and small events of our lives led us to this point. If one thing had been different, we might be in completely different places. If my dad hadn’t taken a position at a new church my freshman year of high school, what path might I have gone down staying in that small Iowa town? If I’d chosen a different college, a different major, where would I be? If I had dated this guy or that?
Even the things that seemed the most tragic at the time have put me in the place I am now. When my parents told me during my freshman year that we were moving, I ran from the house and to my friend’s house. I threw a fourteen-year-old tantrum. I may have been a little dramatic. If I’d ended up with that guy, would I have accomplished all that I have? Would have I been able to focus on my dreams, create new goals? When I couldn’t find a job immediately out of grad school, it gave me an opportunity to seriously rely on God, and I ended up at the agency that has been my employer for 7 years, where I’m now a supervisor. When my church closed two years ago, I was ready to be done with organized churches, but now I’m at a church that feels like home, like family, after only seven months.
Since Margie is also a writer, our conversations also turned to writing pretty frequently. Most obviously, if I hadn’t found the writing community on Twitter, would Margie and I have ever met? Or any of my other fantastic friends, both real and imaginary? Devastating to think about. If my first, second, or third novels had been picked up, would I have even written the fourth? I would have written A fourth, but would it have been this book? The Girl Before was always meant to be THE book. I just didn’t know it while I was getting rejections for the others. I always had a picture in my head of what it would look like, the kind of agent I wanted to have, the kind of book I wanted to write. But if I had signed with another agent on another book, I wouldn’t have the amazing rockstar agent I have now. I might not be publishing with the incredible publisher who picked up the book.
Timing is everything.
I’m glad my first book didn’t get picked up (oh boy am I glad about that). I’m glad my second one won’t be my debut. There’s something special about the book that will be my debut, and it was always meant to be that way.
I’m glad the job I interviewed for in Sioux Falls seven years ago didn’t pan out. I’m glad all the jobs I applied for in Minneapolis never called me back. I have met some of my favorite people in the world here in Des Moines. It’s a beautiful city. I’ve gotten to watch my nieces grow up. I met friends who put me on the path toward publication, both overtly and not.
As surreal as it is for me to say, I’m glad my church closed. I cherished my time there, and the relationships I formed, and especially those I’ve maintained. It was the right place for me at that point in time, but not forever. My time away from church forced me to grow in my faith in different ways, to test it, to see how I could fit in this world. It also helped me realize how important it is to have a community of people supporting you, coming alongside you, caring for you. Like-minded people, but not clones. People you can have great discussions with, disagree, and still love each other at the end of the day.
Sound like the writing community at all?
I’m glad I’ve stayed single all this time. Twenty-three year old Rena would disagree, but it was the best thing for me to learn to rely on myself, to become independent, to gain confidence and learn to take chances. Twenty-three year old Rena would have married the first guy who asked her, and given up almost anything for that companionship. It’s not always easy doing life alone, but I know that I can, and I know I’ll never settle for someone just because they’re there. If I end up with someone, it will be because they realized the full extent of my awesomeness, and I have no doubt their level of awesome will match my own.
This is the parallel always made with agents as well. Newbie writer Rena would have taken any agent offer. But it’s so so so important to wait for the one who is going to be just as passionate as you, put just as much effort into the relationship as you, and appreciate the relationship, be just as in awe that you chose them as you are that they chose you. I can’t imagine being with an agent other than Sharon. She is my perfect agent match, but if I had been less patient, more eager to just GET SIGNED, I might not have found her.
The times where I felt things were the most bleak are actually the times where I see the most growth in myself. Strange how that works. And yet, not so strange. Not really.
So when you’re feeling like things aren’t going fast enough, like you’re not getting anywhere, remember that it just might not be your time yet, but your time will come. I know, easy for me to say, on this side of it, but there are plenty of things I’m still waiting on as well. Let’s wait together.