I personally think that it's one of the bravest and smartest things a person can do, to take steps in order to...
make their life what they want it to be.
And in a way, isn't that what all of us writers do? We're trying to make a living doing what we love. We ask, in other words, for the blessing of creating for ourselves our own little heaven on earth. But if you've chosen this path (or, more correctly, if it's chosen you) you'll know that it's not always smiles and roses. It's hard.
So hard that you may find yourself at the point of quitting often. I know I do. Almost daily.
In order to go on we need encouragement and inspiration, and loads of it, from people who have walked this path before us, and met failure with grace and inner strength, never giving up until they succeeded. And, boy did they succeed.
I return to these lists (you can find a million of them online, by doing a simple search) every time I feel discouraged, or think that it's taking me too long to get where I want to be. I mean, if those guys had these unbelievably imbecilic things said to and about them, and they still persisted, little old me sure can do the same.
My favorite rejection letter, out of all that I've read so far, is this excerpt from one sent to Oscar Wilde: "My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir."
The manuscript in question was Lady Windermere's Fan. I think Mr. Wilde would have enjoyed reading this response immensely. Then again, maybe he had to struggle with feeling inadequate or insecure at times, like the rest of us. Nah, he couldn't have.
H. G. Wells was told about The War of the Worlds that it was "an endless nightmare." The publishers did not believe it would “take". They actually said that they thought the critics would say: ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’ as soon as it came out.
Jane Austen was pressured by her mother and all her peers to marry for her own and her family's financial security after her father's death. She lived on funds provided by her friends and family, and kept on writing. The publisher who first received Pride and Prejudice 'declined' it and returned it to her by post. She sold her first book, Northanger Abbey, to a publisher who didn't sell it until she offered to buy it back from him six years later. During her lifetime she self published three of her books. Yes, you read that correctly. Miss Austen was a self published author, ladies and gentlemen.
Emily Dickinson, the gifted poetess, was told that her poems were "quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and were generally devoid of true poetical qualities."
The lovely and beloved L. M. Montgomery was rejected by five publishers. After that, apparently she got so discouraged that she buried her manuscripts in a hat box for two years. Thankfully for all of us, she took them out again.
Louisa May Alcott was told to "stick to teaching." Ooookay.
The beloved Chronicles of Narnia were rejected for years before C.S. Lewis signed with a publisher. I can't even think of my childhood without memories of Lucy, Peter, Eustace and Jill. I wouldn't have become the person I am if it wasn't for this man's writing and perseverance until he succeeded.
Beatrix Potter was self published too. After The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected by everyone she sent it to, she published two hundred and fifty copies with her own money.
...And here is the famous "No Thanks To" dedication of The Enormous Room by E. E. Cummings.
You know why these literary giants kept on writing, in spite of the rejections, seeming failure, and abuse? Because they couldn't do anything else. Even those who were told that their style was the problem, that their books were too short, too long, too dark, too weird, even they didn't change their writing. This was who they were. This was how they existed. They couldn't turn it on and off in order to please others or make money, or even to succeed, no matter how badly they might have wanted that. And aren't we all glad they kept at it, without compromise.
Some parting thoughts.
How many times a day do you think about quitting?
So far today, I’ve thought about it 3 times. A few hate comments, a few thoughtless words, a bit of loneliness, a bit of stress, a bit of being ignored, and it gets to me. Some people never think about quitting, success just comes natural to them. But for those of us who struggle to keep going through the hard times, here is something I realized: I won’t quit. Even if everyone hated what I was doing, even if no one read my work, even if I had to deal with nothing but discouragement and rejection (which isn’t at ALL the case, by the way, I’ve been so incredibly blessed with friends and passionate readers all over the world, it boggles my mind). But even then. You know what? I’d still write. I’d still work my fingers to the bone on a keyboard, wear my eyes out until I saw spots. Why? Because it’s my passion. It’s why I get out of bed in the morning. It’s not what I do, it’s what I AM. I’m a storyteller. And if I don’t tell stories, a part of me will die. The important part. So, whether anyone reads or not, I’m here. And I’m writing.
All images copyrighted © M.C. Frank (find them on my instagram account)