Me, too. Of course, the older I get, the bigger the break needs to be for me to be impressed by it. When I was first starting out, I just wanted someone – anyone! – to publish an essay or a story that I’d written. Then I wanted someone to publish my book. Then my next book. Then I wanted to be published by a big New York publisher. I wanted to go on a book tour and be quoted in a national magazine. Then I wanted someone to publish my novel.
All of those things happened, and I’m still waiting for my big break. Which means either I’m ungrateful, I’m a loser, I’ve forgotten what a big break is, or I’ve learned something interesting about the nature of goals and possibly the nature of success.
I think most writers, in the back of their minds, have a scenario that they’d like to live, and it runs roughly like this: they write a book, it gets published, Oprah and The New York Times love it, they sell a bazillion copies and buy a castle in France. That is what we consider a big break.
But the reason we’re eager for our big break is not because of the castle in France (or not only because of the castle in France) but because we want our work to be recognized and appreciated. Because we want to keep on doing it. This is in stark contrast to most people doing most work.
There are so many reasons for us to give up. The rent, for example: that’s due tomorrow and it needs to be paid. Most of us have a day job to facilitate that process, and most of us would like to give that day job up but can’t, not until we get our big break. And there are other reasons: the rejection letters that pile up in our inboxes and mailboxes, the queries that never even merit a response, the lack of validation for something so deeply important to us.
Which means we need to honor the breaks we get even when they don’t include a castle in France. We need to recognize what a big deal it is to have an essay published, even if it is the fifteenth one; we need to celebrate an editor writing to encourage us despite rejecting the current work at hand; we need to see that a big break – being able to do this work all our lives – is the culmination of a lot of littler things along the way. Even, maybe especially, the fact that we sat down and wrote something today, even if there was no guarantee of any reward.