So I totally failed at getting in two posts last week.
Sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
I wish I had some sort of grand excuse to give you—caught in the throes of writing ecstasy (true, if by “throes” you mean “grip” and by “writing ecstasy” you mean “sleep”); meeting with a slew of literary agents (don’t I wish); abducted by fiction-hating aliens (it could happen)—but I don’t have one. I wrote some. I worked my day job. I dreamed dreams that sound like they’ll make great story ideas until I start writing them down and have to ask myself if techno music constitutes a compelling villain (I’ve had this dream). The point is, I failed you, and for that I apologize.
But let’s talk failures for a moment, shall we?
Have you ever heard of John Kennedy Toole? If not, you can go ahead and consider yourself part of the reason he’s dead.
Toole is the author of acclaimed novel A Confederacy of Dunces. That acclaim, however, did not come until after his death. In fact, it was in large part because of the book’s “failure” during Toole’s lifetime—a failure measured in endless letters between Toole and a publisher that eventually led to nothing but disappointment—that he killed himself in 1969 at the age of 31.
I heard about Mr. Toole only recently, but his story is one I’ve been familiar with for a while, or at least the sentiments thereof. With 12 rejection letters in my inbox right now (and a countless number of queries that have gone unresponded to), how could I not be?
I have been asked what the hardest part of writing a book is, and my answer is the business side of writing.
This is the part where you take your novel, the child you have groomed and loved and sacrificed for, and give it to agents and editors who are more like as not going to sneer at it and say “No, I don’t want this; it’s not good enough.”
It feels like a slap in the face, and instead of the metallic taste of blood, you taste the bitter tang of failure.
The thing is, you can’t really measure failure in rejection letters in the publishing industry. This may seem a little counterintuitive, but at the end of the day, a book is a product, and just because a certain consumer or store has no need for a product, that doesn’t mean the product is subpar.
Had someone told Mr. Toole this, he might have lived to see his book’s success.
I write this all to say in the most roundabout way possible that you should forgive me my failure and not wallow in your own. As the old adage goes, you’re only a failure once you’ve stopped trying. I will continue to try to get two posts a week, and you should keep trying to achieve whatever goal you’re currently pursuing.
Keep calm, and don’t be a Toole (even though his writing is splendid).
If any of you want to share how you deal with rejections (of any kind), feel free to do so in the comments.