Dont Give Up

"Giving up" comes in many forms, if you are to have a good career as a professional writer of fiction, you have to beware of all of them.

Here are some of the ways people give up, and so end up failures:

They always put off new work, fearing new rejection.

They always seem to be "just too busy today. "

They wait for inspiration.

They claim they have too many distractions.

They get discouraged, lose confidence, and let fear block them.

They get angry and decide a cruel world is against them.

They imagine a conspiracy against them and their kind of work.

They blame fickle (or egregious) public taste.

They come to believe new writers don't have a chance anymore.

They say they always have bad luck.

They use up all their creative energy in complaining.

I left an extra space so you can add one additional form of giving up that you may have observed in someone around you.

Of all the kinds listed, it seems to me that one of the most insidious is the last on my list: complaining. Did it ever occur to you that it takes just as much emotional and creative energy to complain as it does to write a few creative pages? It's true. Complaining and excuse-making represents negative energy, but it's energy nevertheless. Would-be fictioneers who spend a lot of time whining about their plight are boiling off creative calories that might be better invested in the positive task of writing a new story. In addition, complaining creates a negative attitude that tends to feed on itself. Optimists - doers - have a chance. Pessimists-who do nothing-spend all their time defining the nature of their failure, sometimes even before it takes place.

Regardless of how hard your struggle as a fiction writer may become, as long as you are studying, writing, and improving, you remain "in the hunt. " The prize you seek may yet be yours. Your quest cannot be lost unless you choose to throw in the white towel.

If you find yourself getting stale or blocked or bitter, then, perhaps it would be well for you to recite some of the following litany. (One writer I know actually has some of these printed on 3 X 5 cards, and carries the cards with her so she can look at them several times a day. )

You can sell without an agent.

Publishers are looking for new writers.

Beginners Do break in every year.

You Do Not have to live in New York to succeed.

Your next story will be better.

Your luck is not worse than most.

Persistence will win out.

The struggle Is worth making.

You Do have enough talent.

Anything You still need to know can be learned.

Tomorrow will look brighter.

As a developing talent, every famous writer in the world today went through dark times when he or she had to recite truths like this and fight to maintain faith in them. Popular myth to the contrary, there are no "overnight successes" among good writers. Each and every one of them went through a long and arduous apprenticeship, and most of them probably suffered periods of doubt and even despair every bit as bad as any you might have. You must not slip into the habit of complaining or making other excuses. To do so is to give up, and among successful people that isn't an option, simply isn't allowed.

Finally, one more note about not giving up. When you have finished a manuscript and sent it off to a publisher, it may very well come back. It's not unusual for a story to be rejected a number of times, then find a home. I wrote a novel once that my agent sent to every fiction publisher we could think of, and all of them turned it down. A year or two later, a new publisher started business, and my agent sent it to an editor there. That new house bought it, and it was reasonably successful when published. I know of at least one best-seller that was rejected seventeen times before being accepted. It then sold a hundred thousand copies in hard covers.

Knowing all this, you must also guard against giving up too soon on any given manuscript. If and when it comes back, you must turn it around and send it out to someone else. If and when it comes back that time, you must have the persistence to send it out again. The process may take months or, in the case of book-lengths, even years. You must persist. Until the manuscript has been rejected six to eight times, it hasn't even been tried yet! Will you get discouraged? Oh my yes. Will you want to put the manuscript in the closet to save yourself additional postage and potential disappointment? Of course. Will you have self-doubts? Naturally. Will you refuse to give up-and send it out still again? Yes!

Thus you will persist with the submission of finished projects and continue to fight disappointment that might stop your future work. In the course of this ongoing effort, you may doggedly write more stories of the same kind, intent on perfecting yourself with this kind of tale. Or you may try a different kind of fiction-a different length, different genre, different style. Either approach is fine. Neither is a sign of giving up. A willingness to strive for improvement through experimentation is just one hallmark of a writer still in the fight, refusing to give up. And so is a continued effort in the same vein.

If you refuse to give up, and press on regardless of discouraging events, you will find after a while that the ongoing effort in itself gives you new strength and hope. I don't understand exactly why this is so, but it is. The only way you can really ruin yourself is by giving up-under any of the guises that such a surrender may take.

Keep going. Ultimately, nothing else matters.

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