Monday, May 26, 2008

Writing for Life...

"Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." –Thomas Edison (who reportedly had 10,000 failures before successfully creating the light bulb).

I'd been chatting with some of my writerly friends last week. We'd been dishing about our struggles and commiserating over the need for patience. There comes a time when the wicked truth descends upon every writer.

Writing isn't a hundred yard dash. Writing is a marathon. You have to stick to it. Page after page, scene after scene, chapter after chapter. Then comes the rewrites. But honestly, that's not where the real patience comes in. A vast majority of writers sincerely believe writing their book, THE First Book, is the finish line. Once written, the accolades will tumble in. Contest wins! The query will net 100% response! Agents will BEG to read the full! Publishing houses will start a bidding war! Ten days later, Bestseller List!!


On one loop, a troubled writer had received her first rejection and quite legitimately wondered if she should keep pushing forward or give up writing and stick with her established career.

One author responded with blunt-force trauma saying, in essence, if you have to ask then YES, Quit! Because unless you have not only the fortitude but also the determination, the passion, the absolute unrealistic stubbornness to WRITE-SUBMIT-WRITE until the day you are published, flee now while you can!


A noted author responded with her own personal story, which she graciously allowed me to repost for everyone here:

I wrote FIVE manuscripts before I sold, queried over 100 agents, had over 100 rejections, and never considered giving up. I often ask people when I speak, "IF you knew today that you would not sell, would you still write?" If the answer is yes, first, you're more likely to sell and second, you have the desire to write for the long haul, and perseverance is part of the publishing triangle (perseverance, talent, and luck.) Stephen King, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and many other bestselling authors were rejected countless times. Most authors have been rejected. It's part of the business.

I had one agent request the full of my first manuscript and wrote back a one word response: SUPERFICIAL. Ouch. Yet, she was probably right. She could have been kinder. She could have said, "Your writing isn't strong enough for my list." But she didn't. I could have quit, but luckily I didn't because now I have 8 books on the shelves, a novella, and a short story, have one book in production, and I'm contracted for six more books and two short stories.

Every book I've written is better than the last. If you want to be a writer, you have to keep writing.

Allison Brennan TEMPTING EVIL 5/20/08

Write ON. *grin*

"If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody." –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Here's the thing. Published writers don't have a special key to unlock the doorway to success. They simply knocked longer and harder until someone opened the gosh-darn door and let them in.

Another thing to consider… The journey is damn important. I know the thought of being published is the dangling carrot that keeps our mulish self plodding forward, one page at a time. But I believe writing is more than a means to an end. I believe writing is an act of self-discovery. Each page you write is a testament to your strength, your courage and your perseverance.

"Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance." –Samuel Johnson

While much credence is given to those who can do everything from Dance With The Stars to Surviving on Bugs in this Reality-Show driven decade, few of those characters could ever accomplish what we do. We Write Books. THIS is our mountain. Everytime we complete another novel, we are planting a flag. Visualize those flags fluttering in the breeze and feel a tingle of pride because We Are Writers. Damn, but we're lucky.

And believe me I know, the trek grows perilous. The rocky path is a chore to climb and too often we pause wondering which way to turn.

"When you come to the end of your rope, tie a knot and hang on." –Franklin D. Roosevelt

Try this for a mantra:

Success comes to those who persevere. I AM a success because I persevere.

Finish the page, the scene, the chapter (remember it's only a first draft). Edit your WIP until it shines. Submit until The Right Person opens the door. And remember, We Are Writers. And what do writers do? We Write!

Here's to another productive week... Go-go-GO!


Inspire said...

I think we all can honestly say we had no idea all that is involved in this industry. The initial joy when that first spark overtook us to write a novel can be overtaken in the details of submissions. I think of the old saying that you lose nothing by trying. If you give up you will never know if your goal could have become a reality. Even if you never get published, you will have stories to pass down to your children's children. There is a silver lining to every dark cloud.

Misty Evans said...

Wonderful essay, Chiron. I know perseverance is the key to all my successes. Thank you for reminding me that I only fail when I give up.

Chiron O'Keefe said...

Thanks, Rita (InSpire)!

You're so right. A silver lining for every dark cloud. Yet, as you said, few of us have little idea of just how much perseverance will be needed!! *snort*

I thought the other day how a first draft might take a full day or two to read through. Now, imagine a painting that took THAT LONG just to view!

The art of writing is like no other...

Thanks for stopping by!


Chiron O'Keefe said...

Ah, Misty, you're so welcome. It's true, the only way to assure our failure is to give up. What a dastardly thought!

Here's to a lifetime of continuing success!!




Thank you for sharing this. It came at the right time. I really needed to read it.

Thank you, again.

Besa Kosova

Sandy said...

You're so right it takes preseverance. I've even learned of a lady who recently sold after 27 years of writing. I've been writing for 19 years to sell. This is not a career for the weak.

Thanks again for a great inspiring blog.


Jill James said...

Chiron, so inspiring. I loved the image of flags waving on mountaintops. My son went to SCORE at one time, for tutoring help. They had little Alp mountainclimbers at their name holders. Each task completed correctly was a step up the mountain with prizes for reaching the top of each mountain. As adults we sometimes forget we still need that thrill of completion or accomplishment to keep going a little bit more until we reach the top of our personal mountains.

Chiron O'Keefe said...


I'm so glad the words hit home this week. Thanks for being here. You keep writing!!


Chiron O'Keefe said...

Wow, Sandy,

27 years is a new record. *grin*

I'm so proud of you for YOUR perseverance. And with your Sale, those nineteen years paid off. You Are A Published Author. *bows*

You're welcome, by the way. And Thanks to You, for contributing even more inspiration!


Chiron O'Keefe said...

Hello Jill!

What a fabulous and unique method for encouraging learning! I bet your son loved it.

I too love the image of those flags fluttering in the breeze. You're right, we do need to remember the Thrill of Accomplishment as we continue our trek upward.

Here's to the view from the top!

Thanks so much for stopping by...


deboradale said...

Wonderfully inspiring as always, Chiron. I saw myself in all parts of this post. The writer wondering if she should still be writing and the writer insisting she'll never give up... must be the Gemini in me. ;-)
Write on, is right!

Chiron O'Keefe said...

Hey Debbie!

Love that Gemini energy! *smile*

I think most writers teeter between highs and lows, as we struggle between the manic optimism necessary to continue on in this crazy business and the fear and worry that creeps in. Yikes! As the saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would do it. However, WE ARE WRITERS. So, no matter what, we'll keep writing!


Thanks for stopping by!


PS... Love the recipe on your blog!