November 19th, 2007

Cross posted to the Bradford Bunch Blog

Recently I’ve been hearing stories about writers doing rash things when they’ve been unable to sell their work. Quitting forever (is a popular one), but some people even hurt themselves physically over what they perceive as a failure. (I use the word perceive because I have a much different definition of failure than most people.)

On the happy flip side of this, one of my dear friends Lauren Dane has sold two books to Berkley Heat recently! I have watched her from the beginning, before she sold to Ellora’s Cave. Over the years I’ve observed her unwillingness to never give up, even when she thought things looked their darkest.
It took me ten years to sell my first book. During that time, I endured a bad agent relationship, and amassed enough rejection letters to wallpaper two rooms. I even I did quit “forever” once. I meant it, too, and didn’t write again for three years until I realized I was being dumb and I should be doing the one thing I loved, regardless of whether or not I sold. Once I started writing purely because I loved it, that’s when everything fell into place for me.

Of course we want to sell to publishers. Writers don’t want to exist in a vacuum. We want to share our words and worlds with other people.  That’s why we don’t simply just write for the joy of it and simply slip our finished product under the bed. We write for the the joy of it and try to sell that work to the world to read. And it’s a hard sell in most cases. Sure, once in a while you read about someone who never had to struggle, (and secretly we hate them. Heh.), but most of the time it takes years of blood, sweat, and commitment to finally break in.

It’s the result of art meeting commerce. It’s an uneasy match most times, and heartbreaking for those who have produced art that isn’t marketable.

The bottom line is that to pursue this path, you must have perseverance. Perseverance is not a guarantee that you will eventually sell, but without perseverance odds are you won’t. Writing is not an easy career path. Choose it because you love to write. Don’t choose it because you think you’re going to make a lot of money. You probably won’t. Choose this path because you love the “work” and, above all, persevere.

If you can keep an image in your mind of who you want to be and work toward making it real, chances are that, (with some stumblings and a few confusions here and there), you’ll succeed. It might take you ten years or longer, but you’ll eventually make a break.

Can you tell me about one time you really had to get your perseverance on?  How did you manage it?

7 comments to “Perseverance”

  1. I’ve been battling the “want to quit” and “want to keep writing” thing lately myself with the rejections that came in. I’ve been second guessing myself right and left. “Am I good enough?” ” Should I write this? Or write that because it may sell better/easier?” It’s been insanity. And so I talked to my friend Kate, and then to gal pal Lauren Dane, and figured out, I’m going to continue to write my story because it’s not necessarily the content that will sell or won’t sell, it’s my VOICE and the way I TELL that story that will make the editors want to share it with others because they know others will love it as much as they do.

    So, lately, I’ve been finding the will within myself to persevere in spite of the odds because I love to write. Absolutely love it. 🙂

    Great topic, Anya.

  2. Fantastic topic, Anya.
    I can think of a few times I had to get my perserverance on, but one time in particular stands out. I had sold my first book and I honestly felt like I was on my way. Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell another book to that publisher to save my life. It was a humbling experience, but it made me realize that once you’re published, you have to work very hard to stay that way.

  3. Great topic, Anya, as I just went through a “Why the heck am I doing this to myself when I could be, I dunno, staying sane????” bout a few weeks ago. I usually don’t let the downs of this business get to me, but there was a culmination of just one too many that day and I snapped. I wrote an email to my BF Sharron, ranting about what had happened, how I just couldn’t take it anymore, how I was “this close” to deleting all my work files, yadda yadda yadda, my life bites, nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms. You get the idea 🙂

    Simply writing out my anger/frustration/self-pity helped. Sharron and I exchanged a few more emails on the subject and we spoke on the phone. She reminded me that I enjoy writing too much to completely give it up, and that’s what ultimately brings me around when I go through these times.

    Thank goodness for friends in the business who can help you keep things in perspective.

  4. Marissa — It’s hard to keep “keeping on”. You sound like you have the ight attitude, though. 🙂

    Julia — Yeah, wouldn’t it be great if that first sale meant you had an “in” forever? Maybe in a perfect world. 😉

  5. Cathy — You are a fantastic writer! It’s only a matter of time, hon. Only a matter of time….

  6. LOL! this is timely for me!

    a solidly published writer, with books in the top rankings, recently told me her agent of five years periodically made her cry. She finally fired the agent last week. I think there must be a level of perseverance in just that – sustaining a combative relationship for the end results. Don’t know that I could do that.

    I go thru periodic “I suck” bouts – coming back to it after one of those is always tough.

  7. Very true and a great post. This is very timely.