There’s a saying in martial arts: A black belt is just a white belt who refused to give up.
I was reminded of this when I was chatting with an acquaintance recently and mentioned my involvement in taekwondo. The woman asked me what I planned to do now that I’d earned my black belt. I was surprised by the question because I’ve never considered that my black belt would be the end of the journey. “I plan to keep doing what I’ve been doing for the last four years,” I told her. “Train to get better.”
I think some people see being published a little like being a black belt. You’ve reached the ultimate goal so why not sit back and bask in the all glory and enjoy a glamorous life.
Okay. First of all, between you and me, there’s not a lot of actual glamor in being published. Don’t get me wrong. It’s great. There’s nothing like seeing your name on the cover of a book or being able to find yourself on the library shelf. But it’s not like folks are throwing parades in your honor or tucking money into your pockets or even bumping your name to the top of the list at restaurants. I can’t even get any love in my own neighborhood. One day, I was outside visiting with my friend when her daughter got off the bus all excited. She was yammering away about how a “Real, live children’s author!” was coming to school for Career Day. My friend kind of laughed then said, “Well, yes. That would be Mrs. Van Vleet.”
When she found out it was just her boring, old neighbor, the girl’s face fell. Then she said, “Oh.”
Yep. Real glamorous!
All being published means is that you’ve mastered the basics and somebody, somewhere liked your work. Many times there’s a bit of luck or good timing thrown in, too. Published or not, writing is still hard work. It’s also thrilling and intoxicating and yes, so frustrating that you want to bang your head against the nearest wall at times. Martial arts is the same way. Even as a black belt, I frequently get my behind kicked (usually by some kid my son’s age!) and it’s not usual for me to blank out on a basic move. My point is, there is no big “You Have Arrived” sign waiting for you. Being published is not the end of the journey; it’s just a nice rest stop where you can sit down and gather your strength and look at a map to try to figure out where you want to go next.
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of places I want to see, a lot of books I want to write.
I’m going to keep on training and try to get better. How about you? After all, an author is just a writer who refused to give up.