Make no mistake about it. Writing is hard, sometimes impossibly hard, shit.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re writing to make a living, writing for the fun of it, or writing because we can’t just not write.
It’s still hard.
There will be times when our stories reek like three day old fish at the bottom of a waste bin. Everyone will steer clear of what we’ve written, pinching their noses to avoid the stench.
Okay, maybe not as bad as that. But I know we’ve all written some pretty raw articles at times. At least most of you are smart enough not to hit the ‘publish’ button.
You’d think I would have learned that by now, but nooooooo.
It’s a given we’ve all failed and laid down a much-less-than-decent story from time to time. It’s just the nature of this fucking beast we call writing.
We will fail.
We will fail because of a host of various reasons. Some physical, some because we’re new to the game, but most times our failures will be internal.
Sometimes it’s the shit you can’t see that fucks you up the most.
The failings I’m talking about are more psychological. Although we’re supposed to be a bunch of enlightened, intelligent artists we inexplicably punish ourselves on a daily basis. We flagellate ourselves with spiked whips of self doubt and feelings of inferiority, shame and inadequacy. We eventually become our own toxic, worst enemy as the rejection letters and emails pile up.
But what’s worse than the moment of failure is the realization as we’re beating the shit out of ourselves we have to make a decision.
Every freaking time failure happens.
These decision points in our writing career are without doubt the most defining times in a writer’s life. Without giving us a second of notice our recent failure prompts us to make a snap decision between giving up or continuing to write.
It really doesn’t matter how many times it happens. It could be only once. It might even be a hundred failures ago, but when it happens we always have to make that damned choice. A choice that’s pretty simple if you stop to think about it, but probably one of the most difficult choices we as writers ever have to make.
It’s right up there with King Solomon ordering a palace guard to slice a baby in half.
Either we give up and walk away, or we continue to fail.
If as a writer, you give into the urge to free yourself from the pain I for one, hope you’re strong enough to walk away and never look back. Some of us have already experienced moments of temporary insanity (or is that temporary sanity) and tried to walk away. But after getting back on our meds we realized how crazy a thought quitting was and we kicked it back into high gear.
I’ve said it before, the allure to write is so strong, so very strong.
Allure hell. It’s an addiction.
Actually, it’s even better than cocaine.
…(Oh wow, did I just say that with my outside voice?)…
Ahem, that was over forty years ago folks when I was young and very, very stupid. The point is, should you choose to fail again, then remember you’re making a decision to once again put yourself through the wringer. Once again you’re galloping through the valley of death and into the breach.
Hello self doubt and Impostor Syndrome my dearest old friends.
See, there’s no way to free yourself from having to make the decision. Each rejection letter you receive, every time you check your stats and discover Medium hasn’t curated an article, each time you notice how bad the number of views, reads and claps suck.
Each time it happens you’re forced to choose between failing or giving up.
My dear friends (yes you are and I’m so glad to know each and every one of you) the path we’re on is littered with fallen comrades, those who have given up. They tried, I swear to God they tried, and yet they just couldn’t handle the constant failure.
Many of them were so close, probably just a single article away from success, just one more submission query to a publisher. And yet, the last rejection they received demolished them so bad they told themselves they had no choice but to walk away.
So do you.
But listen to me now.
All of us need to stay the course. Failure teaches us how to be better, even if the lessons are so intense we want to rip our brains out of our skulls. Failure helps up learn how to tighten our prose, how to better reach our audience with well-crafted, more powerful writing.
The rejection letters strengthen our resolve to revise, reedit and rework our story. The crickets we hear after mailing out hundreds of queries teach us forbearance. We learn the business of better writing. We learn to understand the business for the monster it is.
Our failures teach us how to be strong; fearless in the face of adversity. We learn to spit in the eye of failure and tell it, “Give me the best you got asshole, ’cause I ain’t going nowhere.”
Each failure we experience gets us that one baby, sometimes giant, step closer to success.
At the end of the day (a starting point for all my nocturnal brothers and sisters) we all need to fail, and fail, and fail again. Because if we don’t, if we don’t fail to succeed…
…we never fucking will.
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