I have often wondered why some aspiring writers give up very early – often after the first setback, while others plug on for years and years and finally are published. One of my friends, a very successful author now, was unpublished for something like twenty years, another tried for eleven years before she got The Call, another for twelve.
And yet, I also know a very talented woman who gave up after her first rejection. And lots of others who've never actually submitted a manuscript.
Thomas Edison said: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." ~
What is the secret? What determines success versus failure? I think, primarily, it’s a matter of self belief. If deep down you can believe you are a writer, you will plug on no matter how many rejections come your way.
Perhaps the writers who gave up had memories of past failures that held them back. Most people operate out of personal history, but when you’re aiming for an important goal like publication, you have to operate out of imagination rather than memory.
I remember being astonished that I actually knew deep down that I could write these books. I’d never had that kind of self-confidence about anything else. I had no idea where this certainty came from, but I could imagine becoming an author and seeing my stories on the shelves in shops. That belief, that vision was, without a doubt, the one thing that kept me going when I got rejections (and yes, I had four rejections) or bad feedback from competitions I’d entered. (I had my share of bad scores, too) I had my husband’s support, which was wonderful, but if I hadn’t also believed in myself, I wouldn’t have kept going.
On this subject of self belief, let me give you an example from the Olympic Games.
Until 1954, it was believed that humans couldn’t run a mile in under four minutes. Doctors, athletes, coaches… everyone… believed it was physically impossible. And then on May 6th in 1954, an English athlete called Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
Since then, 20,000 people have run the mile in under four minutes – even schoolboys. What has changed? People’s thinking has changed. Not their bodies. Their thinking. They now believed it was possible.
OK… back to those aspiring authors who gave up. Another possible problem for these writers is that they have spent too much time comparing their progress with the progress of others. It must be very discouraging to see other people being published when you’re still getting rejections. It can be discouraging for published authors to see their friends winning awards or making bestseller lists.
But the thing is, the going isn’t quite so tough, if you keep your focus on your personal goal. You have to accept that each of us has a different path and keep your focus on your stories, your characters and your love of writing.
Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goals.
OK, that’s my sermon for today. I’m actually on deadline, so I’d better slink back into my cave.
Just remember, you've got to believe in yourself and that means not paying too much attention to what's happening to everyone else. Now go for it!!!