Wednesday 5th April 2017
I usually stay away from debate on the internet. It’s not that I don’t care about certain causes, but I figure I have only a certain amount of mental energy and I need most of that to work on my own projects. I figure it’s also better for my sanity.
But every so often something comes along that pushes me into full rant. Warning: I’m about to get a bit salty!
Several days ago there was an anonymous article on the Guardian from a novelist who was quitting after her second novel failed. I really didn’t pay much attention to it. It’s sad when anyone decides to quit something they’ve put a lot of effort into, but I was left feeling that they didn’t really understand failure.
But what’s surprised me over the last few days, and particularly today, is the number of people who seem to agree with her.
Putting all that ‘hard work and emotional investment’ only for it to be a ‘failure’. Gah! I just don’t know where to begin.
Firstly, define failure? What? You decided to be a published writer because you thought you could be rich? You’d have a better chance betting on horses. I mean… seriously! Who the fuck goes into writing with the intention (rather than the wish) to make money.
And just because a book didn’t sell well does that make it a failure?
Then there’s the concept that all that hard work was wasted. Seriously, if that’s your thought you deserve to fail as a writer. You’re all about the destination and not the journey. If you learnt nothing about yourself or your writing through the process of writing a book then you have to be a pretty shitty writer.
I’ve seen people comment that it’s easy for writers who have made it to go on about hard work and keeping at it when they are in a privileged position but I really cannot get over how dumb this is.
If someone wants to win the Olympics, no one promises them a gold medal. If someone starts a business there’s no guarantees it is going to succeed. And yet writing somehow is different? Is it because people think it’s easy? Some people think they are entitled to success and that it’s all some ploy by the man to stop them earning riches from their writing.
If someone asks me whether they are a real writer or not, I’d tell them to pretend that I’d told them they had no talent and would never have any talent. If they say, “fuck you, I don’t care, I’ll write anyway” then they’re a writer. If they say “well I’ll give up,” then they’re not.
I don’t like being harsh on people. I want to see people succeed but when people say that they’ll probably have to self-publish because a normal publisher won’t touch them, I want to laugh at them. Do you seriously think self-publishing is easier?
And again, I have no problem if someone wants to go and make a little book and run off 20 copies for friends and family to say they’ve written a novel. But if people seriously think they are going to make an ebook, put it online and think that they are going to sell a load of copies without a shit-ton of hard work, they are seriously deluded. Self-publishers are some of the hardest working people I know.
People want the glamour, they don’t want the hard work, and for that alone I don’t think they deserve to succeed.
It doesn’t matter if you are an athlete, a businessman, or a writer, the path to success is paved with failure. And whilst I know in the heat of the moment it’s easy to feel self-entitlement and self-pity, you have to move past it. You have to pick yourself up and carry on. Or you stop. Your choice.
If you think publishers are some golden gatekeeper who are being mean by holding people back, then you are going to have a rude awakening when you face the market. The market does not care about you. It doesn’t give a shit about your sob story, all it cares about is whether you have what it judges a good book. That’s what they judge, not what you think. They don’t give a damn about your opinion.
So if you’re there moaning about how you feel entitled to success you’ve already lost, and rightfully so. You think all those writers who have made it did so without working their arses off without any guarantees?
I have the greatest sympathy and support for anyone having a bad day but seriously if all you care about is the destination rather than the journey, you’ll never learn anything, you’ll never improve, you’ll fail (and not in a good way).
Gah! I was just glad I was in the office today so I couldn’t get on Facebook as I think I would have upset a few people.
I was also training people at swordfighting tonight. We did a lot of thrusts and cuts to the face, which is always fun (we were wearing masks). Still impressed with how my students are progressing. They’ve now gone beyond analysing the moves I’m teaching to analysing themselves. There was some really good feedback at the end.
Of course, with the office visit and training, there was no time to write today. That’s a little annoying but I kinda expected it. Plus, I’m still putting together the next chapter. I think I have a rough idea of the flow but still need to tighten it up a bit.
I have a busy day tomorrow but am hoping that tomorrow evening I can get started on it.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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