This is a very good article on failure, and the artistic process in general. I think the biggest take-away for me is the passage: “Think of it like this: If you have three finished short stories and the first doesn’t sell you still have two more in circulation. If you write one short story and wait for it to sell before writing the next one you may never be published ever—you may not even ever get to write that second story.”–This is right on.
I, of course, take this advice to a perhaps ridiculous level. I have about forty stories now on my tracker. I have 31 pending submissions. So far, I have received 15 acceptances, and 81 rejections! But just as this article says, having so many stories circling around, I feel less invested in each individual piece. The more I write and submit, the easier each rejection becomes. It feels like moving to a point of perfect Zen harmony, where I am satisfied with any response, acceptance or rejection. This helped significantly with my book submissions.
I have recently received the first response from an agent, and it was a rejection. But it didn’t even cause me to stutter. I sent out queries to two more agents this week, and if those don’t pan out, I have a bunch more tagged in my Writer’s Market book. At this point, I have enough success to know I am doing something right, so all I can do is keep driving on.
Failure is a reality of life. But it is a truth that today’s youth are not being taught. I recently started negotiations with a graphic designer to maybe do a cover for my book. The discussion was dead on arrival. The designer was fresh out of college, had no experience, a completely blank resume. Yet she expected to get near professional rates for her work. Of course, I wasn’t going to pay that for work I could not gauge the value of. Plus, as an artist myself, I know how it is to get started in the business.
Half a year in and most of my publications are still with free or token-pay publishers. You have to make a name for yourself, build a resume, before you can start demanding professional rates and respect. Hand-in-hand with that comes failure. Lots of failure. You have to get through the failure and prove your worth, then you can call yourself a professional.
It can be discouraging, but if you look at the most successful writers, people like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, they struggled for their success. They worked other jobs while the wrote. They got rejected, time and again. But they kept at it, and in the end it all proved worth it.
If you really want to be a professional writer, you just got to grin and bear it, embrace the struggle and let it make you stronger. If you do, you’ll make it someday.
On February 1st of 2011 I wrote about the various definitions of “successful” and with six years passed, and two things appearing in front of me at more or less the same time, I thought it time to look at that subject again with the more negative connotation: failure.
First, I read Rivka Galchen’s article “Mo Willem’s Funny Failures” in the New Yorker, in which she told this story:
Willems’s books reveal a preoccupation with failure, even an alliance with it. In “Elephants Cannot Dance!,” they can’t; in “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!,” Pigeon, despite all his pleading and cajoling, never does. Willems told me, “At ‘Sesame Street,’ they would give us these workshops about the importance of failure, but then in our skits all the characters had to be great at what they did, everything had to work out. That drove me…
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