Here's a hint - the answer isn't "So I'll get published."
I think on some level we all know publication might not be in the cards for us. That's a frustrating thought, isn't it? We yearn to share our writing. I don't know why, but we do. And on this blog we talk a lot about things we can do to improve as writers. We don't talk about improvement for improvement's sake, right? We talk about it because we want to get good enough to be published. Or at least, I assume most of us do.
I've been a published author for a little over a year now. I won't lie to you - in lots of ways, it's awesome. But don't assume that publication will validate you as a person. (It won't.) Don't assume that getting your first book published will lead to a second or third. (There's no guarantee.) Don't assume the rejection is over once you get that contract. (Couldn't even keep a straight face while I typed that one...)
Honestly, some days I want to go back to being an aspiring novelist rather than a published novelist. Before this became my job, the only expectations were the ones I had for myself. I didn't have the pressure of satisfying my agent, who for whatever reason believed in me. I didn't have to worry about marketing, promoting, and all the other non-writing activities that come with this vocation. And I didn't have to worry about letting down my publishing house with less-than-stunning sales numbers.
All I had to do was write. Which I love even on my worst writing day, when the words are tough to find and my characters aren't leaping off the page like I'd hoped. I write because I love to write. If my agent queries every possible publishing house with my next project and they all say, "Thanks, but no thanks," I will keep writing. It's who I am. And same as my husband doesn't feel quite like himself when he doesn't get to exercise (the weirdo), I don't feel quite like Stephanie when I don't get to write.
Don't give up on your dream of being published, but don't let it be everything. Don't allow your feelings of success or failure to be dictated by the opinion of some pub board. Just trying makes you successful.
And now, off to do what I love - write.