Let's try a bit of an encouragement imagination exercise. Something for all you writers out there. (Though if you're an artist or other communicator who wants to get known, you can switch out writing for your craft.) This is something I call the Three Drinks.
For this, you'll need three servings of your favorite beverage. Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, fruit juice, green tea, or whatever floats your ice cube. Get three cans, or glasses, or cups, or what not, and get something you really like.
Okay, step one. You're getting ready to write that great novel. Something you want to see on the bookshelves or topping the best seller lists. It's your dream. Imagine your characters, the story, their battles, their conflict, their enemies, the big climax, and ultimately their victory. And imagine after all this time and many free afternoons and evenings you've sacrificed to get it done, just day job, write, sleep, day job, write, sleep, day job, write, sleep, over and over again you've finally gotten it done. It's in the can, as they say. Mission accomplished. It's ready to be shared with the world.
And with that... drink the first drink and enjoy it.
Now it's time to market the thing. You send it in to a publisher... and they send it back. You send it to another publisher... and it's sent back unread. You try showing it to your friends, and they're encouraging, and say it's good... but they're not ready to part with the cash for a copy. So you share it online to publish... and there's no reaction. Just a few piddly web hits, and you think they were all bots anyway.
You share it with writing groups, your English class, fellow teachers, the poetry slam folks at the coffee shop. Mixed reactions some like it, some think it's feh, some think you should drive a truck for a living instead... and some simply don't care, or won't even look at it at all. It's very discouraging.
But as they say, "Praise the Lord anyhow, things could be worse." So, ready to try to write something else, you say, "Praise the Lord anyhow."
And sure enough... things get worse.
Your day job is gone. Your workplace folded. There's a downsizing. Or maybe you were fired unfairly (or maybe even fairly) on a disciplinary matter. Whatever the reason, there's no more paycheck. So there's no time to write that second novel. Your new job is finding something that'll put steady food on the table, even if it has to be store brand or generic stuff.
But the economy's lousy. There's no jobs to be had. You keep casting the search wider and wider, and friends keep looking and recommending you to everyone that might hire... all to no avail. The employers simply don't call back. You'd be thankful to get a fry cook position in a fast food restaurant, but not even that's there.
It's getting desperate. You've got to sell stuff out on eBay or Craigslist just so they don't turn off the power. You cancel the satellite TV, the subscriptions, dial back all the unneeded stuff you can... and even some things you do need. You even give up the internet connection and get by surfing on wi-fi.
But finally, you've come to a dead end. The landlord won't extend it anymore. Right on the door is your eviction notice.
With nowhere else to go, you end up in a homeless shelter. All you have on your person is your ID, the clothes on your back, and a copy of your unsold work. Oh, yes, and the plain soup served up in the shelter's kitchen. But they did get you a drink to go with that... and it's your favorite.
Now drink the second drink. Does it taste any different from when you drank it when you finished your work?
It shouldn't. It hasn't turned to sludge or bitterness in your situation, I hope. It should still be a moment of sweet flavor that you really need just now. It may be the only thing that's gone right so far.
Well, no point crying into it. Determined not to be a mooch, you volunteer in other places to keep yourself busy. The other homeless folks see what you've written and ask what it's all about. You tell them, it's your book. They borrow it and read it... and they like it. So much so, during their down time between job hunting, they get together, do a skit in a favorite scene and act it out for fun. You make it into a small show. It's a joy, and it takes your mind off of the tough times for a while. And the other shelter residents love it.
Then someone decides to grab a camera and record your little show. They show it off to some friends... who show it to THEIR friends... and soon, it spreads around like spilled ink on a white tablecloth.
It hits the net, and while it doesn't go viral, an interested independent director takes note. He wants to convert the thing into a stage play, and see about getting it published. What the heck. You go for it, and rework it so it can be done on stage. He helps adapt it with his technical advice.
And lo and behold, it's good! The audience loves it! And with that, your story gets shotgunned around for someone to produce it off-off-off Broadway... and a company takes it! It's pretty cool to see folks moving around and doing your story... and their own takes on how it happens in their own eyes.
And once that ball's rolling, you finally get your book published online, and more people are taking note. It starts moving and actually paying for itself. It's not just breaking even, it's actually helping you pay the rent. It's pretty cool to see people reading and commenting on your story, and to actually get paid for it. It's a big relief to get into your own housing again... but you don't have time to enjoy it long.
Because someone in Hollywood just called. They like the play and your writing, and want to see you about adapting it for a TV movie. After some phone calls, getting up with a lawyer and meeting up with an agent, you manage to hammer out the terms, and they start shooting within a few months. And soon it's on the small screens in homes all across America.
But it doesn't stop there. The play/book/TV-movie was just a starter! A pilot. They're now bugging you to write a whole series for the next season. And they come up with thousands of reasons a week for you to do it. Never mind about that apartment... you're too busy traveling to the West Coast to stay in it any more!
It's grueling and you have to dicker with a team of writers, but your vision hangs in. Your story's now something everyone's got to tune in weekly to see. And you're the driver on where the story's bus goes.
Folks love the show. They're writing fan fiction for it on the web! Lots of people show up at conventions dressed as your characters. And now you're making a nice profit on the merchandise.
Now it gets clinically insane. A major film studio has put up the cash, and now your book is getting the IMAX treatment. People are now officially slamming down ten bucks or so to sit somewhere with overpriced snacks and drinks to watch your story on the wall. And they're loving it.
Your life's a whirlwind now. Your agent's handling the endorsement deals. Your phone's ringing all the time with every favorite star who wants to be in your next book's adaptation. There's talk about putting your work up for nomination for the awards. You're getting pulled every direction at once, and you don't want to do anything illegal or harmful to keep up... so you ask for a week or two on holiday somewhere private to collect your thoughts and work on your next book. They reluctantly give it to you.
And so in that club, or beach bungalow, or luxury hotel suite, you sit and take a breath. And someone brings you something to drink. Your favorite.
Drink the third drink now. Does it taste any different from the first two? Is it any more magical or satisfying when you drank it when you first finished the book, or ended up homeless?
Of course not.
The main point in all this is that no matter the circumstances you were in the beginning, the tough times and the terrific, the dreamy and the disappointing, the agonizing and the ecstatic the three drinks you enjoyed all tasted the same. They were a constant. They were all your favorite, or at least something you liked. That never changed even though the situations in the scenarios did.
That's something to always remember, wherever you are. The most important things in life, the good things are always there, and are always something to hang onto whatever your situation. Love of and from God, love for and from family, respect from friends, your favorite song, a good barbecue sandwich, petting a cat, finally beating THAT level of Angry Birds... or helping someone else that needs it badly.
Those things never change, even if the world around you does.
So whatever's true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and are great to write home about... if there's anything decent, virtuous, or praiseworthy to them... hang onto those things in your mind and heart. And keep them in your glass. And a toast to all of you working on your great work waiting to be discovered.