‘On the Outside Always Looking In’ by Lynne Schultz ’21
People will tell you writing is a lonely career, and that’s exactly why many choose that profession—they like the quietness of it all. However, for those of us trying to break into the elusive field of publishing, the loneliness doesn’t come from the writing—it comes from the quietness on the other side. The lack of response from agents, editors, and publishers can make one wonder if anyone is out there. Very much like the Dear Evan Hansen, Waving Through a Window song (Ben Platt), we can wait days, and weeks, and months for a response making those lyrics so very personal:
“I wait around for an answer to appear, while I’m watching people pass. Waving through a window, Oh, can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?”
It’s so easy to give up. We see it all the time in life, in sports, in business, and in people. We feel that we’ve given it all we have, sometimes never knowing that the very spot we decide to quit is within close reach of the win. When I feel frustrated with life, with work, or with writing, I often look for a sign. Many will think this quite absurd, but the Universe is funny like that—especially for those who listen.
To that point, I recently needed a sign. For the last few years, I have written a weekly LinkedIn article. Most of the pieces are about the challenges, the opportunities, and the successes of life. While I have been writing these posts for years, there are certain times when I wonder to what point? Is there anyone listening? Is there anyone waving back at me? The next day, after pondering these thoughts, I received the following email from a well-respected colleague in my industry:
I have been wanting to tell you how much I have enjoyed many of your posts on LinkedIn over the past year or so. I just hadn’t gotten around to it and seeing you on the Rep Summit today gave me the nudge I needed: ) You are so relatable and down to earth that your messages have impact that is perhaps greater than you are even aware. You have encouraged me to not let the voice in my head tell me “it’s too late”, permission to be vulnerable, and to be kind in all interactions as you never know what someone is going through. I appreciate the genuine sharing of your thoughts, ideas, and wisdom. They are gifts if people will slow down to receive them.
There are times I really love the Universe.
Not long after receiving this note, I received an offer to publish a Hanukkah picture book I submitted a few months ago. Perhaps another sign from the Universe appreciating all the years of my work with the American Jewish Committee (considering I’m not Jewish). While I’m not sure the house is the right fit, the nod was just what I needed.
We never know how the words that we struggle over, the pages we type, the things that we say or do to our characters will affect others. By showing our fear, we make others brave. By being vulnerable, we allow others to accept their vulnerability. By revealing our inner wounds, it allows others to face theirs. By sticking with it, we find success.
Graduating from VCFA gives us a set of wings to soar into the writing world. But flying without our advisors alongside us becomes both scary and lonely. We alone must navigate the winds, judge the weather, and take the risks. Yet, it is the words and encouragement of our past advisors, our cohort colleagues, and writing friends that help us build the strength to go on. To refuse to quit. To believe there is someone who needs to hear what we have to say.
At the end of the day, I write because I like to write. I write because thoughts bubble inside of me, demanding to be on the page. I write because I believe my words might make a difference to just one person and that one person to another, and like the butterfly who flaps her wings on one side of the world to change the events on the other side, we might never know how our words might change the world for someone else.