Last week, I finished two of the most difficult chapters of the novel I’m currently writing. I was racing ahead with 4,000-word days and really leaning into the book and enjoying every aspect of it, but I knew these chapters were coming and when they did, it was almost as if I slammed—hard—into a wall. Which is fine. I’m good at what I do. I slam into walls, I tear them down, and I keep going. It took longer to tear down that wall than I thought it would, but it was torn, much celebrating was done, and now I’m back to charging ahead again.
In this currently-unnamed novel, readers will discover that one of the characters is not exactly who they thought they were. And yet, when the truth is revealed, there will not be a big shock or revelation but a quiet understanding—Aaaah, now it all makes sense. That quiet unease that the reader has been made to feel, that “what am I missing?” feeling will suddenly all come together and make sense. And yet, nothing is new. The true character of this person is revealed in the very first moment we meet them, and yet, we still miss it. This is, of course, how good fiction is written. Any mystery or crime fiction writer has to ensure that the clues are there but that the reader is misled anyway.
The same is true for life.
People will reveal their true nature to you very quickly after you meet them. You will know. Deep inside your bones, you ALWAYS know. And you ignore it anyway. You think they might change. Or you doubt yourself—perhaps even berate yourself—for jumping to conclusions about a person without ever having gotten to know them.
But the body doesn’t lie. The body knows. The gut knows. You know.
You meet a guy everyone is charmed by and thinks is wonderful and you have an unexplainable “icky” feeling, but you go out with him anyway, live with him even. And when it ends badly, you look back and you know. You knew it even then. You knew from the very first moment. You just didn’t want to know. You pretended not to know.
The agent you chose from the dozen who wanted to represent you because he looked best on paper even though when he spoke, you were pretty sure he didn’t get what you wanted to do. Your books don’t sell, your career is stalled by a decade, your confidence is shattered. Why blame the agent when you already knew? He revealed himself to you when he wasn’t interested in hearing about your culture and didn’t respond to your emails. Why were you so desperate that you refused to see?
Are you so full of ego that you think you can change them?
Or so arrogant so as to not accept people for who they say they are?
Or so unsure of yourself even when you know, have always known, will always know who you are and what you were destined for?
Sometimes it’s just not your fault, Mostly, you know. And you settle anyway. You accept a grayscale version of the life you were born for. You say yes because saying no would mean that you are more powerful than you think you are, more desirable, more capable.
And you repeat the same patterns, the same cycles, the same mistakes, because you want to see the best in people, you want to mold them into who you think they could be, bring out the capabilities they hold.
But people will always show you who they truly are. Honor them—and yourself—by believing them when they tell you.
Want to see a query letter that sold to the New York Times? You can download that (and 20 more) by clicking here.
Or perhaps you’re looking to learn the secrets of a six-figure freelancing income? I asked successful freelancers what they’re doing right and they told me. You can read that report here.