Wednesday, August 6, 2014

IWSG: What if I Fail?

This was originally going to be a much more depressing entry, but fortunately for all of us, I read some stuff that brightened my mood earlier today.  Seriously, it's much better that way.  I was going to open up with lyrics from Social Distortion's 'Ball and Chain' - "I'm born to lose, and destined to fail".  Aren't you glad I didn't do that?

....damn it.

I think a lot of us have realized that some people just don't know what to say to writers.  Someone recently told me that, even if I never make it as a writer, I'd have spent my life with an amazing hobby.  I laughed it off, because really, there was no other acceptable response.  I know they meant well, but seriously, a hobby?  No.  Keeping universes in my head is not a hobby.  Creating worlds is not a hobby.  Agonizing over the lives of fictional people is not a hobby.  It's an obsession.  :P

It's also the only thing I've ever well and truly wanted to do with my life.

I've talked about failure before.  I've accepted that I might fail, that I could spend my entire life writing stuff that nobody ever reads.  It's one of the few things that scares me on a gut-tightening, mouth-drying kind of level.  But there's a real difference between acknowledging that possibility to myself and having someone else bring it up.

Maybe it's just superstition - like not saying something aloud if you don't want it to happen.  Hearing someone else say that I could fail makes it more real.  And let's be honest here - I don't exactly have a great track record.  I had one short story published by a small-press magazine back in 2007.  Absolutely nothing since then, though part of that is because I hate writing short stories.  So while I might be obscure instead of completely unknown, that's not saying much, not in this business.

I know that self-publishing is an option, but I don't want to do that.  While I know that my duties as a published writer will be more than just writing and editing, I don't want to have to handle every single aspect of publishing - there are people who are much better at all of that than I am, and I'd rather they do their jobs via an actual publisher, not via me paying for their help as I fumble through the process.

So, yeah.  I'm 35 now.  I could die, in 30 or 40 or 65 years or anywhere before or in between or beyond, without getting anything published again ever.  I'm pretty sure I hit the million-word mark years ago, and I'm surely well on my way toward two million.  And with everything I write, with every plot I put together, with every project I finish and either set aside to edit later or abandon and lament, the question hangs over my head.  Every year, every month, every day, it hangs a little lower.

"What if I fail?"

For the record: I don't plan to find out.

24 comments:

  1. GOOD, cuz you're not going to. And who are these people telling you that you might fail? Stop listening to them. In fact, muzzle them. You're a talented writer, and you're going to succeed. I just don't know exactly when. Wish I did, LOL.

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    1. I wish you did too. :P But thank you. And I know the person saying it didn't have any ill intentions, but like I said, they just don't know that's not something you say to a writer.

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  2. I've managed to take the prize in the fail category (2012, baby, no one failed as hard as me--okay, there might be some, but I certainly got an honorable mention), and it ain't pretty. I've also snatched the win from the jaws of LOSER (More on that at Con), so I'm in the privileged category of having that feeling of "Holy shit. I did that, and the awesome will now rain down on me," as well as the "well, if I'm never seen in public again, it'll be two decades too soon."

    But in publishing, I can honestly say, none of it matters. Yeah, you heard me: it doesn't matter. Fail is not what you think it is. Failure is giving up. Yeah, it's not enough to have the coolest hobby on the planet, but publication is not the end all. I have personally seen good books die in obscurity (published by the big five with a big contract). I've seen shit books land on the NYT. Does it mean anything?

    Nope.

    Hater's gonna hate. The only--no, I mean it ONLY--thing that matters is that you write the stories you need to tell. Yes, you can tweak them to be more commercial, but the stories will live beyond you, so they'd better be the mark you meant to leave on the world.

    Case and point: a recent study found that people were more tolerant of different races after reading Harry Potter. That's right, read HP and be more accepting of all the humans on the planet. Think that just happens? She told the story she wanted, and they have marked the world.

    Are you working on the next HP? statistically, probably not, but your stories should be the unequivocal distillation of the essence of you. Anything less and you're selling yourself short and holding out on the rest of the world. What if your words could have the same affect on the world, and you didn't write them out of fear?

    Besides, you're at the wrong question. You're asking if you'd rather succeed or fail, and the question you really need to ask is would you rather fail as you, or succeed as a fake?

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    1. I understand where you're coming from, but the thing is, I've always written what I've wanted to write. I don't follow trends, I don't try to predict the market, I just pull things out of my head and do my damndest to make them work as stories. If I want to write dark fantasy with horrible insectoid monsters or a portal fantasy that goes into a deity mausoleum or Snow White and the Seven Samurai, I'll do it.

      What gets me is if anyone will ever read any of it, because writing all this stuff that hardly anyone reads *feels* like constant failure.

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  3. I agree with Rena: don't be afraid of failure. You will never fail in one case only - if you don't try. If we try, we all fail sometimes, even the greatest. I love this quote about failure: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm."
    - Winston Churchill

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    1. I collect quotes, and that's a good one. ^_^ Thank you.

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  4. You only fail if you quit, so just don't quit. Keep after your obsession.
    And really like the Churchill quote above.

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    1. As I said, I have no plans to quit, so no worries there. ^_^

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  5. Mason, I think many writers have the same concerns that you have, but I think you need to ask yourself why you write. Getting published traditionally is great I'm sure, especially for authors who don't want to deal with the logistics of independent publishing, but I think that writing is really about connecting with readers. And you don't need a traditional publisher to be able to do that. If you publish traditionally it just means that someone else thought your story was good enough to be published. If you publish independently, it means that YOU thought your story was good enough to be published. I have published independently and it has truly been a rewarding experience. I have connected with readers and met some pretty awesome writers in the process. So no matter what happens, whether you get a traditional publishing deal or not, just remember that your writing career is really in your hands. And if you ever need some pointers on indie publishing, there are many authors, including myself, who would be willing to give you some guidance. Okay, I've rambled long enough, lol.

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    1. I appreciate that, and I have researched self-publishing. I was considering self-publishing the book I wrote before TAW, and learning about that is what led me to understand why I don't want to self-publish. I went into it above, so I won't repeat it here, but self-publishing isn't for me.

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  6. lol my entire post just got deleted by the sign-in process. Le Sigh.

    Anyway like I said before - you only fail if you give up! Strive like you're born to succeed! Publishers are, in as much as I can tell, a bit behind the times to be honest. I read a lot of self published eBooks (well... some) and while many of them are written badly they're good stories and lots of them get great reviews and positive feedback, it might be a way to get a leg in if you had a couple little eBooks to capture fans with. I'm not sure what publishers think of them though. I'm reading one now actually, I can see where a good editor might have tightened it up some but honestly, reading a story I sometimes just don't care if there's a wonky sentence every now and then. As long as it isn't painfully bad like some of the are though rofl.

    Your writing is way above the standard already, your stories are amazing and creative. I bet there's an audience out there who'd love your writing!! If publishers don't see it that way - well I have to say it really is their loss, who knows what's going on in their heads these days.

    I know self publishing, particularly on amazon E, isn't instant success though - it can be a real drain on an author because you're on your own with regard to promotion and you're really having to deal with the customers directly and their reviews early on can be crucial if you get a troll or someone just wanting to take down a rival I guess. The good thing about it is the reader can download a chapter or two for free - which I do often - and thus you might get more people because I tend to not worry about the cost when I can get a free sample, it means there's no risk. So I just download samples of things that sound fun and if they turn out painfully bad, no skin off my nose at all :)

    I don't know what I'm saying any more so I'll go, I know you're good enough to sit on a bookshelf, I really do - I really hope some publisher can see that soon. I also think it'd be good to have a look at the other options, just so you know what your options are and their pros and cons in terms of what you will personally get out of it. If it's not for you, it's not for you.

    Anyway keep at it! I want that signed copy, after all :P

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    1. Thank you. ^_^ Part of the problem with the publishing process is that it's so subjective. I haven't had trouble finding people who like my work, only problem is that none of them have been in the publishing industry. That's why I've send out so many query letters to agents, and need to do another round soon - the more I send out, the better chance I have of finding someone who loves my work and believes it'll sell.

      No luck so far, but of course, I keep trying.

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  7. Also everything Rena said is amazing and makes me want to write a bunch more stories :3

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    1. Yes, Rena gives good advice about all this and she's usually right. ^_^

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  8. Lol! Glad you didn't start with 'born to lose, destined to fail.' Way too dark ;)
    I think the question of maybe failing is normal. And we could. Maybe. But if we do what we love, are we really failing? As the others said, I think it comes more down to why we write. If it's for fame and money, *hahaha* wrong business (most likely). When I feel like it might be better to stop and that little failure voice gets louder than usual, I simply ask myself if I'd ever stop writing anyway. The answer is an easy no.

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    1. That is true, I'd never stop. But it feels like I'm not doing it right, so to speak, if I'm not getting my stories out there.

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  9. For the record: You won't. Fads fade, but true talent remains. There are more options open to writers now than ever before. Finish your work, polish it until it shines, and get it out there in front of agents and editors. Then see what happens.

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    1. That's what I'm working on. But thanks. ^_^

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  10. Oh, I have a massive fear of failure in every aspect of life. That's why I keep myself so busy I can't dwell on it. LOL

    You're not alone. :)

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    1. If I didn't know that before, I do after this entry. ^_^ And yeah, staying busy helps, I just have a job that only requires half of my brain, which means the other half sometimes spends all day fretting. Hence, this entry. Eh heh heh.

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  11. Excellent plan: Have no intention of failing.

    For the record, I was over 40 when I got my first book published traditionally. It doesn't mean you have to wait 5 more years. But it does mean there is no deadline. When I was 35, I was still growing as a writer. I still wasn't ready. Granted, I also had small children and I wasn't really working at improving my craft at that time. It really was a hobby.

    Now it's NOT a hobby, and I'm still growing. I don't have any smash hits. I haven't gotten on any best seller lists.

    But I'm not finished yet either! :D

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    1. That is encouraging - it's really rare in this business for people to be successful while they're still young. I keep telling myself that, every year. ^_^ But congrats on getting started, and here's hoping you're never truly finished.

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  12. Failure is a choice. =) The only people who truly fail are the ones who quit. I'm all for keeping at it until you get where you want to be. You know, there are a number of small pubs that would probably consider your work. Don't sell yourself short, eh?

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    1. I have considered some, yes. I just need to do some more research - the only one I know much about is Entangled, and while TAW does have romance in it, I don't know if I want to go with them. But it bears looking into.

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