The Forest for the Trees was a different sort of book for writers. Written by an editor, Betsy Lerner, it addresses the temperaments and propensities of writers. It isn't a how-to book. It is more of a reflective book about what writers go through and what editors think of the writing process. I thought it was very refreshing. Thank you, Sheila of The Deliberate Reader, for bringing this book to my attention.
The thing I gained most from this book was encouragement. Writers often get to the point where they want to just give up because their work isn't gaining the audience they desire. Lerner writes at the outset, "It is my deepest hope that this book will offer helpful advice to beginning writers, but even more that it will inspire the late bloomers, those who have worked in fits and starts over the years but have never just quit or given up the dream completely. This is also a book for people who sometimes believe the worst about themselves when it comes to their writing..." Those words hit me square in the head.
I think self-doubt and rejection are the hardest aspects of writing that writers have to deal with. The author quotes another editor, Ted Solotaroff, who writes this apt analogy in his essay, "Writing in the Cold":
"Rejection along with uncertainty are as much a part of the writer's life as snow and cold are of an Eskimo's: they are conditions one has not only to learn to live with but also learn to make use of .... The gifted young writer has to learn that his main task is to persist."
For me, this was just the encouragement I needed to hear as I approach another Nanowrimo in November. I have no idea what I'm going to write about, but I know that I am going to attempt to shift out of my comfortable mode (writing young adult novels) into something which may stretch me but also may provide a wider door to publication (writing women's fiction). I have enough self-doubt to sink a ship. I go back and forth over the question of whether I should just give up on this dream or relegate it to the back burner and seek out employment instead of pouring myself into writing which never yields much in the way of results. Even when I give my novels away to others to read and provide feedback, I seem to wait months before I hear a word back (not an encouraging sign, but my husband asserts that it could be just a matter of the other person not having time to read it yet).
As Lerner forcefully asserts: "the only person whose rejection really counts is your own. No matter how many people return your work, the only one who can send you packing is yourself."
So if you are a writer plagued with self-doubt and ready to throw in the towel. Don't give up yet. Read this book about what editors are looking for and how editors perceive a writer. Read it for wisdom. Read it for encouragement. Read it as a lifeline when you think you might sink into the abyss.