I remember being in grade school having to write my first essay. The topic was simple. “What did you do this past summer?” My palms became sweaty. This pit in my stomach began to swell. I literally froze. I couldn’t think of anything. Then I thought what we did on our family vacation. But I couldn’t put it into words.
Fast forward forty years. I practiced law full-time and worked on short articles on history. I learned how to write like an historian. My first book was met with a five-page response from the first publisher. She basically told me what was wrong with it. And, if I cared to resubmit it, I could, but I would have to point out the places where I changed it. I was devastated. I had worked ten years on the book. I thought it was perfect. What does some book editor know about the history of the Intracoastal Waterway? I deemed her response a humiliating rejection. And…I went into a blue funk for six months. I couldn’t look at the manuscript, it was so depressing.
I finally started to rewrite the entire book. A friend asked me if he could read the manuscript. Two weeks later, I got a contract in the mail. Florida’s Big Dig, the story of the Intracoastal, is finally in print. Unbeknownst to me, the publisher submitted my book for the top award for a scholarly book on a Florida history topic. I won the Rembert Patrick Award: a little round medal and some money to cover gas and the hotel room for the ceremony. Seven years later, the book is still in print. The research is solid and important. I expect it to be around for a very long time.
Don’t give up. Read the best books by the best authors. And write every day. Cartoon, courtesy of Chan Lowe.