I’m not used to failing. I grew up in the self-esteem generation, complete with participation trophies and points for effort. For much of my life, I found that I was successful at most things I devoted my time to. Now, I think I’m a pretty good writer, so it’s come as a surprise at how difficult it is to be successful in this field.
Rejections are part of the business. If you’re serious about being a writer, you’re going to get stacks of them. It can come as a shock for those of us who always garnered praise for our mastery of the word. But the real world is full of people like that; everyone’s got a short story or a novel to shop around. They can’t all make it big. The myth of the writer being “discovered” and rocketed to fame has poisoned us and made the reality hard to accept. That reality is that even good writers, even excellent writers, struggle to get published.
Being a writer means being unread and unappreciated and it means clawing your way to the top. It means writing late at night after a long shift at the job that pays for your writing habit and being told “no” over and over. The years are littered with rejections and dreams deferred. I suspect a lot of very talented people give up. The pages disappear into a desk drawer and they move on.
But some of us are crazy enough to stick it out. We hang that rejection up where we can see it because it’s a challenge — it dares us to persevere. Somehow, we get the idea that this is part of the lifestyle we’ve chosen. This is how we pay our dues.
Someday, I hope to see my name in print. Not because I got lucky or because I was “discovered,” but because I worked hard to get there and saw every rejection as an opportunity to improve my craft.
— 30 —
I’m a writer. And writers write. Often, it’s hard to get writer’s to shut up. So, someone came up with the idea of a microblogging service that lets writers make their unending stream of consciousness available to the masses. It’s called Twitter and you should totally follow me: @jonnyeberle.
6 responses to “Failing With Style”
Thanks for the reminders! I l enjoyed the heck out of this post, if only because it made me feel less alone to know that other writers have to give themselves these talks, too. 🙂
Thanks for reading, Leta! I’m glad my attempt to reassure myself was reassuring for you, too.
Cheryl Strayed recently spoke about the misunderstanding of the “overnight success stories” of writers. She spent years putting in amazing, hard work before receiving international acclaim over “WILD”. People keep saying she came out of “nowhere”, but if she came from nowhere, then nowhere is a place where countless fantastic writers live and dwell and work.
“A lot of people have said I came out of nowhere, but nothing could be further from the truth,’ Strayed says. ‘My success this year is built on a million smaller successes — things like the fact that I found my way to college and stayed. That I kept writing when it would have made sense for me to be more practical about how to earn a living.”
That is absolutely true. I’ve never known a successful writer who didn’t put in an extraordinary amount of effort and talent into their work for years before their success. From the outside, though, people do appear to breakout from nowhere.
I really like that quote. Thanks for sharing!
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