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Blog

Hitting the Mixes

Deanna Hershiser

Deanna Hershiser ponders failure and success in writing.

I've been looking back and thinking I would describe a few of my writing hits and misses. But then I thought, what do those terms mean?

Hit

--n.: 1. a blow; stroke. 2. a getting to what is aimed at.

As in baseball, so with the pen. I wanted to get hits, to see my name in print, to hear that people were reading me. After each of those gifts arrived, I hoped I would receive more -- wider recognition, contest wins, and let's not forget lump sums.

In daydream scenarios, I imagined the greater good my words might accomplish, the lasting effect of my ministry on the world.

Many times, though, I received good news from an editor or contest when some aspect of my life was in a low state, or when the news was more like a blow. For example, the first check I received for an article, back in 1996, brought with it amazing feelings -- most of them good. But I couldn't help tracing over again the sorrowful subject of my story. Was God pleased that I got paid for this? Or had I taken advantage of a sad situation to boost my ego?

While a therapist might have labeled my guilt feelings neurotic, I'm not sorry for the inner wrestling I did. Further thought and prayer helped me write more on the subject and find richer insight.

Miss

--n.1. a failure to hit, attain, etc. 2. (obsolete) loss; lack.

I almost quit writing after my first rejection. Thanks to encouraging friends and growing up some more, I tried new things. One evening I found myself at a writers' conference banquet, knowing I had won a prize for a short story but waiting to hear whether I had received first, second, or third.

Though happy to be in my seat at all, I really wanted first prize. Who would ever care about the other two? To come all this way and not get first, I knew, would feel like a loss.

Then a fresh thought hit me. I might be able to handle loss right now better than someone else sitting in the full dining room. Forget how good anybody's writing is for a minute, my mind said. Someone else might truly need first prize. Strange to say, I relaxed. And yep, someone else won. I still have the certificate for my second prize in a file somewhere, all but forgotten. Yet, again, I'm glad I went through those weird thoughts and emotions in my writing process.

I may post more in coming weeks about my successes, failures, and the mixture of lessons that have ministered through them to me. Feel free to share any of your own in the comments section.

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In 2010 Deanna Hershiser plans to take breaks from toil over essays and memoirs to fish with her father on the McKenzie River near Eugene, Oregon.  Her latest publications have included fiction in joyful! and nonfiction in Camroc Press Review. She blogs here