It’s a nasty word that F word. No one likes to hear it, especially if it’s being applied to them, but sometimes we just have to face facts and admit that we have failed. Of course, we can’t fail unless we have some measure of what success means, and the higher our idea of success, the easier it is to fail. Aiming high is a risk, but if we don’t aim high, we may be limiting ourselves.
Failure is subjective. One person’s idea of success may be another’s idea of failure, so on a mental level, we can sidestep it quite easily by changing our idea of success, but on an emotional level, it’s harder to wriggle away from.
Warning: the rest of this post may be uncomfortable for some readers.
Last night I felt like a failure and it was a strange feeling, kind of liberating in a way because once you’ve failed there’s no where lower to go, but it’s also a heavy depressing feeling especially if you consider that the last five years of your life just might have been a waste of time.
Generally, we don’t like to talk about failure. The online writing community likes to support and inspire each other and that’s great, but the truth of the matter is that some of us will fail, but I can tell you that at the same time as being miserable, it isn’t so bad. I’ll tell you why in another post. For now let’s look at why I feel like a failure.
My initial aim in writing Lethal Inheritance was to write something not only good but also something that would help millions of readers understand their mind and find mental peace and clarity. I did that. The fact that Debbie Golvan wanted to represent me proved to me that it was good. My beta readers assured me that it also achieved my aims in helping readers at least become aware the power of their mind. However, I have failed to get it to millions of readers. In fact, I have failed to get it to any readers apart from the beta readers and the publishers who have rejected it.
The nasty truth is that most writers also fail to find a publisher. (Apparently the figure is that only 5% do) We all like to think that we will be one of the ones who do, but it really is much more likely that we won’t. Those of you who have read this blog for a while will know how close I have come to finding one and how supportive some of my rejections have been, but after 2 years with my agent, I still don’t have a publisher. Is it any wonder that I’m feeling like I might be wasting my time?
Yes, I can publish independently through Catapult Press and I will if the few remaining publishers don’t come through, but the American agent Debbie often works with also rejected my manuscript which cuts off our hopes for picking up something from the US market. So it’s not looking good. I also know that Indie publishing won’t get the book to the same numbers of people as it would with a traditional publisher. I also know that it’s bloody hard work for little return. Yeah, I’ve failed at that as well. (I’ll do another post on the details)
This feeling has sapped my desire to write but I’m still at it, writing blog posts and working on my magical realism montage of scenes. Why, because I can’t not do it and because once you’ve failed things can only get better. Also, I love what I write. What I’m writing now is even more outside the box and though some people will love it, others will undoubtedly misunderstand it. I’ve always been an artist of one kind or another and it’s always been the way with everything I have ever done. Why did I think this would be any different?
I’m sorry if I’ve depressed you. This is simply reality. But I’m okay because really there is nothing to do. I’m happy just being and I’m going to put my work out there for those of you who will enjoy it despite its faults.
I’d really appreciate your comments, even if just to know that there are real people out there.
Novel Girl says
Aw, Tahlia, don’t feel like this. You are living the dream. Most people sit their bottoms in a job that they hate, and then they end up hating their lives. You explore your passions and make the most of your life. There’s nothing to be sad about!
Make goals for yourself on what you need to do to achieve what you want and then make sure you fulfill each one.
Tahlia Newland says
I think I’m way past the idea of trying to achieve anything at this point, but thanks for the thumbs up, as you say, I’m living my life the way I want to (always have) and that’s something to celebrate. It’s just a pity it doesn’t give me a living. At least as a performer I made a living.
Tony McFadden says
So that feeling of self-doubt currently residing between your ears needs to be grabbed firmly by the throat and flogged to within an inch of its life.
Don’t discount independent publishing too quickly. Smashwords gets e-copies to every major distributor in the market except Amazon, amazon themselves provide a very easy e-path through kdp, and create pace gets the paperback copies to everywhere also. I’ve even got paperbacks copies sold by Canada post on their website.
The freedom independent pubbing gives you is fantastic. Sure, you have to do your own marketing and advertising, but realistically, unless you’re mid list or better you’d have to do the same with a traditional publisher.
Give it a crack. I’m starting number six. Getting pretty good at it. If you want any tips, let me know.
Tahlia Newland says
I love your first paragraph, Tony. It reminds me that in the end that’s all this is, the old self doubt that all artists have to face.
I haven’t discounted Indie publishing. I’ll do it again, but like you I’m going to keep writing and get more books out there before I put effort into marketting. Thanks for your support.
Tahlia, you’re intelligent and you probably know more about the writing industry then you did when you first decided to write. That is not a waste of time even if it sometimes feels like it. Rejection is difficult. No other profession is so full of rejection. Can you imagine those wanting to be doctors continuously failing the final medical exam in the hope that one day they might learn enough to pass? Most would give up on the first or second attempt. Writers manuscripts are rejected all the time – even Harry Potter! Perseverance is a major attribute of a successful writer. Look at The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth. Numerous publishers rejected it, but one accepted it and this proves the majority of agents and publishers don’t know everything. Just say ‘what would they know’ and move on. Rather than viewing it as a failure full stop, see it simply as a hiccup. ‘After all, tomorrow is another day.’
Tahlia Newland says
Thanks Justin. I was an actress and a dancer too and there’s a lot of rejection in that business as well, the difference now is my age I think. Kind of been there, done that – for 25 years already. Part of me can’t be bothered anymore. The thought of submitting to the US publishers mysedlf without an agent is just too daunting. I really can’t be bothered which is why I will self publish if the last couple of publishers my agent has in line don’t come through.
Tahlia, I love the honesty of this post and am with you in embracing the reality of publishing – and even sometimes wondering if it’s a watch-what-you-wish-for scenario when it comes to ALL the work involved in pushing the sales and meeting new deadlines if then contracted to write x amount of books in x amount of time. I’m sorry to hear about the American agent, but I’m happy to hear that all of this hasn’t killed your spirit to write. At the risk of sounding like just another blog community/crit group enabler, I still think good things are to come for your book. Perhaps stepping away for a bit will bring some clarity as to the best mode to introduce it to the world. I know that in this biz even the hardest of work doesn’t necessarily pay off, but I think what keeps me remotely hopeful is the abundance of crap out there that manages to get published. 🙂 I also feel better when I consider that The Help was rejected 60 times and The Night Circus about 30 times. Not that it ensures if I submit a like amount that I’ll get published, too, and have a movie made of my book to boot, but simply that even the successful have felt the humility of rejection and many people out there didn’t like THEIR book either! 🙂 My mode right now is just writing for the love of it and helping others with their work, so that’s also what helps me find peace in “failure.”
Tahlia Newland says
Peace in failure. That’s a nice term, and I am peaceful about it. Like I said above, it’s okay. Thanks for your faith in my work, it’s great to have people who appreciate what I’m doing and support me in continuing with it. I also believe in ‘Lethal Inheritance’. I know in my heart that it’s not only is good, but that for the right people it’s extraordinary, but I’m not going to wait another 2 years for some traditional publisher to come to the same conclusion. Thank goodness authors have options.