About a month ago, I was told that I shouldn’t get my hopes up about something personal. I won’t elaborate about that subject because, as I just said, it’s personal and I don’t share everything with you, my faithful readers. I felt mildly defeated after hearing that. It’s only natural to feel that way.
Here’s the interesting thing about the human spirit: it’s fairly durable. “I get knocked down, but I get up again. You’re never gonna keep me down,” Chumbawamba said in their immortal song Tubthumping. For those young enough not to know that song, I’d advise skipping that one. It’s useful for this instance, but really that’s about it.
The way I see it, you have three choices when faced with defeat. Here they are:
- The simple one is to quit. Sometimes the task you’re up against is just too massive for your abilities. There’s no shame in it, I’m sure we’ve all been there.
- This one is easy to guess because it’s the opposite of the last one. Don’t quit. “Never give up, never surrender,” is the slogan of the fictional crew in the movie Galaxy Quest (1999). We’ve all been there too. You think to yourself, “okay I failed. But I’m sure that if I just put in another two percent effort, I’ll achieve it this time.”
- This next one is a bit different from the first one. It’s this: Put it on hold. It’s technically not quitting if you focus on other ventures. Right? Sometimes that’s the best choice. Sometimes you aren’t ready, but you know that after some growing-up, time, money, or some other factor you’ll be able to come back to it. Maybe the next time you’ll be successful.
Now, depending on what you’ve put your hopes in, one choice may be more feasible then the others. Since this is Mastering the Craft, let’s put these choices into a book related situation.
So there you are, you’ve finished writing your first book. You’ve pumped so much blood, sweet, and tears into it over the years that it’s now become more like your child than a bunch of words on a page. Sending out took a lot of mental effort and you can’t wait to hear back from the publishers. “I’ve sent it to four different publishers. Surely one of them will accept it. Right,” you ask yourself.
It’s okay to talk to yourself, you are an author after all. It’s what we do.
Months go by and you’ve stopped checking your inbox every ten minutes. You’re eating Ramen Noodles, you’re a poor artist after all, when you hear your email notification ding. Throwing the chicken flavored noodles down onto the counter, you open up that email from one of the publishers. Even after reading it three times, it’s the same result. Rejection.
“That’s okay, there’s three other publishers that could say yes,” you say as you dive back into your Ramen.
Four weeks go by and you’ve been rejected from every publisher. Now what? Let’s go through the choices I mentioned above. You could quit. There’s really nothing lost other than your blood, sweat, and tears. Oh, and the crazy amount of time you spent working on that turd you call a novel.
Maybe you decide to invest time into another round of edits. You catch several things that the publishers caught. Now you’re ready to send it off to another round of publishers. Maybe they’ll say yes?
You weren’t exactly sitting on your thumbs while you were waiting for your response. You were busy working on another novel. In fact, it’s turning out to be a better one than the first. Maybe rejection was for the best. You don’t want your debut novel to be a dud, right? Maybe after you’ve gotten this whole “being an author” thing under your belt, you can come back and revisit that dud of a first novel. Maybe you can polish it after a few years and send it off again.
You might be thinking, “Why are you talking about this subject?” Well, like I said at the beginning of the column I was faced with these three choices. I could quit my attempts and not have lost too much. I could try again and see if there’s another outcome. I could put the challenge on hold and try my hand at something else. I was contemplating this conundrum when three things happened at the same time:
- The song “Never Give Up” by For King and Country started to play.
- I talked to a friend about the subject.
- I opened my Bible, at random (I’m not making this up), and Romans 8:25 caught my eye. It states, “Now if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.”
I realized then, that I couldn’t live with myself if I simply quit. I could move on with my life and try something different, but I’d always live with that “What if?” hanging over my head. So I’ve decided to keep at it and see if my perseverance will eventually win. If you think I’m crazy, then you might be right.
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said an unknown person.
Sure, I know the odds. I know that what I’m trying to do has about as much chance as a snowball in Hell. But that’s what I thought when I sent my publisher the manuscript of my first novel. Because I took that initial chance and had hope about my writing career, I’m now the published author of three books and four short stories.
Sometimes you have to put your hopes into what you’re trying to accomplish. It’s what poker players call “going all-in.”
Sometimes it pays off and you’re rewarded for your efforts.
Sometimes your hope is shattered when you fail.
In recent years, I’ve experienced both results. When you win, you feel invincible. When you lose, you feel like you’ll never be able to put yourself in that position again.
I’ll end this week’s column with a quote from the film Rocky Balboa (2006):
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done,” spoke the Italian Stallion, portrayed by Sylvester Stallone.