Well, it finally happened.
I just signed a major publishing deal to write a self-help book for mothers. To say this is a dream come true for me feels so cliché, flat and ridiculously understated that I’ll just say something else.
It was a long damn road to get here.
The struggle was real. The struggle isn’t over, I still have to write the book, but as my team at work once reminded me, the struggle is part of the story.
This surprisingly comforting realization was presented to me when I checked into a hotel room two years ago after receiving my 13th rejection from publishers.
I was deflated, tired, overwhelmed and had very likely consumed a tequila shot or two when I walked into my hotel room in NYC to find the scene above sitting on my bed. My colleagues and dear friends managed to convince me, via cheesecake, that the struggle was natural and necessary to get to the next level.
They were right. The struggle has been part of the story.
It took me four years to get to a “yes” regarding a book deal and those four years were filled with a lot of highs and lows, a tremendous amount of hard work…and a lot of tears. I cried during the bad times and I also cried during the good times. I guess that means I’m an equal opportunity crier.
I recently took some time to reflect on this four-year journey and the tears that came along the way. I’m not sharing this information to convince you that I’m a crybaby, although I won’t blame you if that’s your takeaway when I’m done.
I’m sharing this journey of tears to demonstrate how much hard work and perseverance is required to achieve your dreams. Dreams are hard to imagine and even harder to accomplish. My favorite quote from Henry Ford summarizes this sentiment perfectly:
Opportunity is missed by most people because it comes dressed in overalls and looks a lot like work.
Luckily, my parents started putting me to work at a very young age so I’m no stranger to the sweat equity it takes to get a tough job done. I hated it as a child, but I’m incredibly thankful for it now.
Here’s my journey of hard work going in and tears coming out.
1. Tears of belief. In 2013, on an airplane 20,000 feet in the air, I opened a new word document and typed “An Untitled Self-Help Book for Mothers by Katherine Wintsch” on the first page. For four painstakingly hard pages to write, I started documenting my journey from being broken to becoming whole. When the plane landed, I closed my computer and shed a few quiet tears. I cried because I was finally prepared and finally brave enough to tell my story.
2. Tears of rejection. By 2015, I had landed a literary agent and crafted an entire book proposal which my agent had submitted to 36 different publishers. Look out, World! Or not. Every single publisher said no. When the final publisher said no, and it was the end of the line, I left my office and sat on the back steps of the dry cleaners across the street and cried my eyes out. I’m talking about the ugly cry of all cries, like, “I can’t go back to work looking like this” type of crying. I felt rejected, I felt like a bad writer and I felt like a loser.
3. Tears of doubt. Fast-forward to 2017 and everything was back on track. With a lot of help and a lot of introductions, I landed an A-list agent and I was ready to win. However, I quickly learned that my new agent and I weren’t exactly on the same page. Meaning, I thought the seven sample chapters I had submitted to him were fantastic…and let’s just say he didn’t agree with my assessment. In a very supportive, but not so subtle way, he told me I needed to start over. What I’d written wasn’t unique enough, sharp enough or compelling enough to sell to a publisher.
After our first work session, I boarded my train back to Richmond and I cried most of the way home. I didn’t know if I could do what he needed me to do. I didn’t know if I was good enough to pull it off.
Through my tear-filled eyes and cracking voice, I called my business partner and my previous boss and begged them both to breathe some life into my deflated soul. They told me they believed in me, that I’d done harder things in my life and that I could absolutely do it. In that moment, I made the decision to believe them.
4. Tears of joy. After months of writing, editing, sweating, doubting, believing and working my ass off, the tides finally turned and the tears started to come from a happy place instead of a sad place.
In April of this year, I put together a rock-solid book proposal and, upon reading it, my agent came up with a ground-breaking theme that would hold it all together (to be revealed at a later date on this blog). His vision, his insight and the girdle he put around my personal story took it from a wimpy story of self-reflection to a heroic story of triumph over my own self-doubt.
Once again, I found myself 20,000 feet above the ground when the breakthrough (his, in this case) hit me. But this time, I cried like I’ve never cried before. In fact, the ugly cry was so intense that I had to put on sunglasses on the plane out of fear that everyone around me would think someone I loved had just died.
Luckily, this time my tears were tears of pure joy. I knew in my heart that I had the framework and the theme for a remarkable story that would change the lives of thousands of women around the world.
So…am I a crybaby? Sure, I cry a lot, but I think I’m far from being a baby.
I put my heart and soul into achieving my dreams and when you put your soul out there, sometimes it gets stomped on and sometimes it gets a hot air balloon ride to the stars.
Here’s hoping the actual writing of the book is a less emotional experience.
Somehow, I doubt it.