Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I’ve Learned on My Writing Journey by Elizabeth White

You’re in for a treat! It’s Writer’s Journey Wednesday and author Elizabeth (Beth) White is here to share some of her experiences. Enjoy!

What I’ve Learned
on My Writing Journey

My writing journey has been like…well, since it’s fresh on my mind, I’m going to use my first couple of days in Tokyo as a metaphor. No straight lines from point A to point B. Lots of dead ends. Magnificent soaring heights and long treks underground. Pockets of ancient tradition juxtaposed with dizzying speed and modernity. Waiting. More waiting. Trying to communicate when nobody speaks your language. A panoply of the conservative and the outlandish.

I don’t know what I expected after I sold my first novella to Tyndale in 1998. Perhaps I thought I had “arrived.” I was going to follow in Francine Rivers’ footsteps and touch the hearts of millions. Natural assumption, perhaps, but—wrong. My career with Tyndale lasted through four novellas and an aborted three-book contract—which to this day I cannot fully explain, except to say that publishing houses are run by human beings who make the best decisions they can, based on their individual experiences and education, based on other people’s expectations and policies, based on the phases of the moon. Just kidding—education has little to do with it.

So I quickly learned to absorb rejection without falling into depression. It’s a little like buying a subway ticket, scurrying onto the train to grab a strap and hang on, standing among aliens and strangers, missing your stop, getting off where you hadn’t intended, and trying to figure out what to do next. You either enjoy the fresh new sights and sounds and smells, relax and learn something from the experience—from which your future work grows richer and stronger and more confident—or you give up and take a taxi back to the safety of the American embassy. In other words, write only for your own pleasure and forget trying to reach an audience.

I think the point of this little essay is to encourage serious writers to quit whining about unreceptive acquisitions editors, about the misery of the slush pile, about ignorant critique partners and contest judges, about the dizzying changes in publication “rules.” Remember, that’s part of the landscape. Learn what you can from criticism, absorb praise with humility and gratitude, and refuse to give up on your real destination. Listen for the language of the “natives.” Don’t assume everybody else is wrong. Don’t be satisfied with cheap imitations. Expect the unexpected.

Tokyo is one of the most amazing and fulfilling places I’ve ever been—as is the writing journey.

Beth White’s day job is teaching chorus and piano at LeFlore High School in Mobile, Alabama. A native Mississippian and graduate of Mississippi State University, she is a pastor’s wife and mother to two young adult children. Her hobbies include playing flute and pennywhistle and painting, but her real passion is writing romance and romantic suspense with a Southern drawl. Her novel Controlling Interest won American Christian Fiction Writers’ 2009 Book of the Year award, and Crescent City Courtship recently won the RT Book Club Reviewers Choice award. Visit her on the web at


  1. I love people who embrace the day -- *this day -- the one we're living now! I am CRAZY about people who are funny, especially in the face of the-day-everything-didn't-go-perfectly. I think friends who don't whine for more than 30 seconds before they square their shoulders and move on ROCK! You're my favorite. :)

  2. Beth, I love your sense of humor. And I really enjoyed Tour de Force. It's comforting, too, to know your journey involves waiting and wondering. That's familiar territory for me, too. :) Thanks for visiting.

  3. Thanks to both Annettes! I appreciate the warm welcome. Glad you liked TDF--I'm working on a sequel. Y'all take care!

  4. Beth, I'm so glad to read you're working on a sequel. I was hoping. :) I'll be watching for it.


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