Sometimes You Hit a Brick Wall

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

I’m sure many of you are familiar with the late Randy Pausch’s story and his book, The Last Lecture (co-written with Jeffrey Zaslow) which came out a decade ago. In his lecture and his book, Randy spoke with great wisdom about achieving your childhood dreams.

One of his points that has stuck with me through the years was that the obstacles to our dreams are like brick walls, put there to test how badly we really want something. He wrote that those brick walls “stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.” (Of course, those are the other people. Not you or me.)

Reading his positive spin on obstacles was freeing for me as a literary agent, because I’m frequently one of the brick walls with whom writers collide in the midst of chasing their dreams.

I meet so many writers… but I can’t represent everyone. I feel bad, not only saying “no” but for being unable to spend more time with each “no,” giving advice, encouragement, tips. I just can’t… but Mr. Pausch’s philosophy makes me feel better about it.

Each time I become the brick wall… each time an author crashes into my “no,” they are forced to reckon with their own dreams. They have to ask themselves once again, “How badly do I want it? And what is this brick wall trying to teach me?” I hope it leads to ever greater commitment to improving the writing, building the platform, and learning to navigate publishing. Or even finding a different goal.

For Christian authors, I hope the impact with the brick wall sends them back to God, again and again, ever looking for confirmation, refutation, or clarification of their author-dreams.

So maybe it’s not so bad being a brick wall after all. If an agent is an obstacle to you achieving your lifelong dreams, please take it as an opportunity to ask yourself how badly you want it, and what you’re going to have to do to get it.

What kinds of obstacles—agents or other roadblocks—have you encountered in your publishing journey? How do you respond to them?


Photo by Peter Doran on Unsplash

10 Responses

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  1. Great post, Rachelle. My dreams are almost certainly not likely to come true, but I have learned of a liberation:
    * The dreams God has for us are not outcomes, but outreach; He is not nearly as interested in progress as He is in process.
    * These longings we’ve been given, whether they be writing or painting or the building of an aeroplane, they are not destinations but tools, the tools with which He forms our character, and each step, the WAY in which we take each step, is a delight to Him.
    * When you write your heart, you’re writing a love-letter to God.

  2. Rachel, thank you for this post. I’m sure it must be very difficult being an agent, and having to be a brick wall at times. But, I also believe hitting brick walls tests our passion and commitment to what we feel called to do. If what a person is doing isn’t in the very gut of them eventually they’ll give up, and hopefully find something that really is in their gut to pursue. As a Christian, I believe in testing, and trials, and God using brick walls to direct us elsewhere or to challenge our inner and outer selves. Brick walls force you to take stock in yourself, they challenge your want to, and the gifts Gid has given. After all, Paul had to challenge timid Timothy to stir up his gifts in order to accomplish what God had called him to.

    I must challenge all brick walls I come to because of this. Is it a redirecting bu God, or is it something that will challenge me in such a way that it calls me to growth beyond my greatest expectations.

  3. Some of my best growth has come from hitting a brick wall. Yes! You are providing an important service to writers, Rachelle, just by the act of gatekeeping. Contests I’ve entered, writers I’ve talked with, Agents I”ve queried. These have all provided valuable feedback and change, especially my wonderful critique partner!

  4. God throws up some walls for me to push through or climb over, he puts up other walls for my own protection. I’ve had long talks with him about the purposes behind my walls. I want to get it right.

  5. Katie R says:

    I never thought about what it’s like for the people who are the brick walls; thanks for the new perspective. 🙂

  6. It is amazing to me that you posted this today, because just yesterday, I read this, and found it tremendously impactful:

    “I look at the world and see three sorts of people: those who dream boldly even as they realize that a lot of their dreams will not come true; those who dream more modestly and fear that even their modest dreams may not be realized; and those who are afraid to dream at all, lest they be disappointed. I would wish for more people who dreamed boldly and trusted their powers of resilience to see them through the inevitable disappointments.”

    – Harold Kushner, Overcoming Life’s Disappointments

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