When I was in my early twenties, I used to argue that everyone needed to have their heart broken at least once. Not only was this a great way to soothe a friend who’d just had his or her heart broken – hey! this will make you a stronger person! – but I also believe it to be very true.
Falling in love is a fabulous, giddy and wonderful thing. Loving relationships are what sustain us through life. Most of us want to find that special someone (or someones) and find our own happily ever after. But that quest can be a trial. With each busted relationship, we lose not only that person, but also the dream of what could have been.
I’ve been there – the sense of failure, the certainty that I would never love again and would be alone for the rest of my life.
But, over time, your heart begins to heal and you discover that you learned some things. Thinking about a new relationship changes – it’s no longer a laundry list of “wants.” After a shattering break-up, you get a a really good idea of what you do NOT want. The new Dealbreakers List is usually short, but it’s backed by experience. It provides you with a much better compass for knowing what is likely to work for you.
Heartbreak also teaches the very valuable lesson that nothing is easy. Even if the falling in love part was, the maintaining of it can be damn hard work. If you take the relationship for granted, fail to nourish it, it can fall apart in the blink of an eye.
Finally, that rejection, the sense of failure – from those things grows resolve to do better. To be better. Hope grounded on this kind of foundation is a powerful force.
Then, when you love again – you’re better at it. Wiser. More careful with what you’ve been handed.
I think career-heartbreak can be just like this.
A friend of mine recently had her option book rejected. In most contracts with publishers, they say they’ll publish two or three books in a series and then have right of first refusal to see the next book in the series. This means you have to show it to them first, before you try to sell it to someone else. The rub, however, is that very few publishers want to buy the third or fourth book in a series. To them the series has been done already. So, when her option book was refused, she knows that’s the end of those characters and that world.
(And yes – she can self-publish more books in the series, and she might, but that’s a different kind of effort.)
This kind of thing happens All The Time. Of my three crit partners, all three have had their option books refused after the first two in a series. They grieved, wailed and gnashed their teeth – and moved on.
While I see my friend going through the stages of grief over this, I also see her wrestling with the heartbreak and healing from it. She now knows what she does not want in a new publisher, a new book contract. She was lucky to begin with – a Cinderella story of many offers and a very nice deal. The courtship was great but working under contract was crushing. She knows now what she needs to maintain a creative and productive writing pattern.
Best of all, when we discuss her options – like self-publishing – she shows an increased resolve. She’s working on a new story and she’s going to focus on that. She’s stronger and wiser now.
It’s funny to me, that in my 20s the conversations were about busted relationships and now, in my 40s, they’re about busted careers.
We know now what we learned then – there’s always another one, just around the corner.