I love cherries. If I could only have one fruit, that would be it. But not just any cherry. When we first moved into our home here in Southern Oregon, we planted a cherry tree. At the time, I knew what kind of tree it was. But the little tag identifying it has long since vanished. All I know is that our cherries are a rich, dark red on the outside, like a Bing cherry. But unlike a Bing, the meat inside is a light red, and the taste is a blend of sweet and tart. I’ve canned these cherries as pie filling, brandy cherry sauce, preserves, any a number of other wonderful concoctions. And they all taste marvelous. That blend of sweet and tart is perfect.
It took us a couple of years to learn what to do with that tree to get it to produce healthy cherries. One year, there was no fruit at all. We’d done everything right, but…nada. I was heartbroken. The next year, a modest production of cherries. But no sooner were they ready to harvest then the birds flocked in. They had that tree stripped in a day. One day, and all my beautiful cherries were gone. That’s the year I learned about putting netting over the tree. The next year, cherries galore. All of them infested with little white worms. That’s the year I found out about spraying the right substances at the right time. The next two years, it was as though the tree was making up for lost time. Cherries, cherries everywhere! And then last year, when we had record rains, the cherries were ready to pick almost a month early. Not only that, but they were huge and even more flavorful than ever before. And we picked close to 25 gallons. Yup, you read that right. Twenty-Five gallons. I still have probably a third of what I put up from last year’s cherries.
As you can imagine, we were pretty excited about what the tree would do this year. We did all the right things—sprayed when we were supposed to, made sure the tree had ample water, put the netting in place as soon as fruit showed up, watched and tested as the cherries ripened. I left for the Write! Canada conference last week knowing when I came home, I’d be spending the first day back picking the beautiful cherries.
I got home last night. This morning my hubby and I went out to pick. But as we did so, we were horrified to discover that 9 out of ten cherries were bad. Rotted from the inside out. We did EVERYTHING right. And the outcome was bitter disappointment. As my hubby and I talked it over, I finally said to him, “You know, we did everything we knew to do. I guess we just have to accept that there are things outside of our knowledge or control that affect the cherries. No matter what we do.”
My hubby’s response: “I’m gonna cut that tree down.”
I laughed, then shook my head. “No, you’re not.”
“Because when we have a year like last year, when everything works and the fruit is abundant and delicious…that makes the ugly years worth it.”
I’m guessing you know where I’m going with this. As I was at the conference last week, talking with authors and editors and other agents, I heard countless people talking about all they were doing to fulfill this task God has given them to write. Many were doing everything they should. Studying the craft and the market, working hard, refining their understanding and expertise, learning how to do their part in marketing, and on and on. And yet, as I encountered these wonderful folks, each one burning with the passion to share God’s truths through writing, I knew.
Even when you do everything right, even when it seems a manuscript should be acquired or a book should sell a gazillion copies…sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, there are things outside our knowledge or control (remember the stories of even best-selling authors whose books released within a month or so of 9/11? Terrible sales, even for established authors), and, for whatever reason, we’re negatively impacted. When those things happen, many allow themselves the frustrated cry, “I quit!” But friends, I’m here to say to you, when that happens, let yourself cry out. And then shake it off. Remember why you’re doing this. And always remember, the way things are today are just that…the way things are today. We have no way of knowing the wonders waiting around the corner. And if we’ll stay the course, trusting the One who gave us this task to begin with, holding on until HE releases us from it, the time will come when everything works the way it should, and the rewards—HIS rewards—are abundant and delicious.
And that will make even the ugliest of years worth it.