Month: May 2012

Why You Shouldn’t Fear Failure

The problems of failure feel like huge ships crashing into cliffs. They feel like rot. I think when we start out with a dream and our ideas are sparkly and wonderful and exciting, it is easy to forget about failure. It is easy to forget that failure is what shapes us and makes us who we are. And when we get going and our little engine is chugging along and all seems well and fine and dandy, nothing can get us down. We have plans and nothing will stop us. That track laid ahead will curve just the way we want it to.

Until it doesn’t.

An author’s book might bomb even though it was published with a huge publisher. A dancer might break their ankle and never be able to dance the same again. A huge actor might pick the wrong role and become a laughing stock forever. Any number of things can go wrong. Those are all big things. Small things happen too. In fact, it is often the small things piling up on top of each other that can bring us down even more than those big things.

Neil Gaiman gave an incredible keynote address to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. It is a speech filled with love and honesty and, well, failure. The speech is not a failure, but Gaiman talks about failure, and he talks about it in a way that you know he has been there despite his success. And so people listen to him because he has been there and he has delicious, beautiful things to share. But the very thing he says about doing what you want to do even though you have no idea what you’re doing, is what makes failure so wonderful and not so problematic after all. Because from what I’ve seen, many who fail get up again. They get creative, and those who get creative eventually succeed more than they would have if everything had “gone right” the first time around. And “the problems of success”, Gaiman says, “can be harder, because nobody warns you about them.” Things like not believing your success even when it stares you in the face with all its glitter and sparklies. Or fearing that someone is going to reveal you as a hack. Or, worse than anything else, believing you don’t deserve it and subconsciously creating a way for yourself to fail after all that success.

I think that beyond any of the problems we might face, whether they be problems of failure or success, there is the art we create. In a way, it stays in its own little bubble, whether it sells or not, whether it stays in a drawer or not, whether it makes it to a household name or not, whether it is praised or booed off the stage. It is always what it is and nothing changes that. The work is done. Something was created. Neil Gaiman says in his speech: “The things I did because I was excited, and wanted to see them exist in reality have never let me down, and I’ve never regretted the time I spent on any of them.”

I haven’t either, even if they fail in every other expectation.

But Gaiman’s biggest failure in heeding advice, he said, was that he worried. He did not take advice to enjoy what he was doing. He worried instead, and he missed a lot. “But there were parts of the ride I missed, because I was too worried about things going wrong, about what came next, to enjoy the bit I was on.”

How many times have you heard that? To enjoy where you are at? Well I need to hear it a lot, apparently, and I’m sure many others do, as well. STOP WORRYING. Stop biting your fingernails. Stop wondering how big you can make it. Stop berating yourself for not getting to the greener grass. STOP IT. STOP IT. STOP IT. Just enjoy where you are. Success. Failure. Knowing. Unknowing.

Do something with you creativity. Fail. Enjoy it. Get up. And live.

And by the way, I highly recommend listening to Neil Gaiman’s speech. You won’t regret it.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive, 0 comments

What Blogging Has Become

Well, this is about what blogging has become for me, at least. But it’s also where I think blogging is headed. My friend, February Grace, wrote a blog post this morning about blogging and how she thinks it might be going the way of the Dodo. While I think blogging has definitely slowed and become seemingly less popular than other forms of social networking, I don’t believe it’s going to die or has died. For me, at least, blogging has become a personal corner more than a network. In fact, I don’t see it as a network at all anymore. Some blogs are an exception, like book-review blogs aiming to network readers. But my blog is a writing journal and place to post updates and news about my books for those who are interested. And that’s pretty much it. If I mention other books outside of my own, it’s usually in my newsletter. I don’t think this is selfish, and I don’t think it’s inappropriate. I think it’s what blogging started out as, and somewhere along the line Blogger decided to create this thing called “Friend Connect” where you can follow other people’s blogs and it shows how many followers each blog has. While I think this little gadget is quite handy and great, it also seemed to create an entirely new level of blogging that expanded into networking. 

I do believe the word “blogging” came from “weblog”, and to me a log is an official, consistent recording of events. I like that. I like that my blog can be that instead of a networking site. I will hold giveaways, yes, and occasionally share things that are network-related, but for the most part, I just want my blog to be more of a weblog these days. It feels so much more doable. I greatly appreciate readers here, as well as those who take the time to email me in response to posts. It does mean a lot, but lurkers are more than welcome too!

The sad thing is that I think a lot of bloggers are feeling their readers drop off more and more. Less comments, less hits, etc., and taking that personally. Heaven knows I used to. But I think it’s a good thing to instead look at it as a good change – a time when blogging comes with less pressure and can be more personalized. I think that’s a happy, happy thing. After all, there are countless other social networking options where we can network. It’s nice that blogging, for those who like it, can become a quieter corner of our online world.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Blogging, 0 comments

A Sequel for The Breakaway?

michelle-d-argyle-the-breakaway-coverEver since I first wrote The Breakaway years and years ago, I have had friends and family interested in knowing more about how it might end beyond the conclusion I gave it. If you haven’t read the book, the ending is bittersweet and not what you might expect, so I think a lot of readers get very attached to the characters and want some more wrap-up with them at the end. For me, the ending does wrap everything up, but there is definitely more that could happen.

Since The Breakaway’s release, I’ve received dozens of emails and tweets and FB messages asking about a sequel for the book. At first I was a little defensive because I kept thinking that maybe my ending wasn’t enough for people. They were disappointed or it wasn’t written well. That may be the case for some readers, I imagine, but the more I’ve thought about it and talked to my publisher, I’m seeing that it’s more because readers enjoyed the story enough to want more.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are very few sequels I enjoy, and so far in my writing career, I have had no desire to write a sequel to any of my stories. But with The Breakaway, I have always had in mind what happens to Naomi and Jesse  beyond the ending I give them in the novel … I’ve just never really shared that with many people, and honestly, over the years I’ve altered what has happened in my head. First it was a tragic ending, then very happy, then bittersweet again. The fun thing about writing is that while you have control over the story and your characters, it’s not always as much control as you want to admit. I’m the kind of writer who allows the story to control itself and guide me, the writer, to where it needs to go. The Breakaway has definitely taken its own course.

Because I’ve always had in mind how The Breakaway expands beyond its current borders, I am quite open to sharing that expansion with others. The question is how do I want to share it? The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m comfortable with writing a long short story or novella and sharing it with fans. At the moment, my publisher is open to this idea as well, although the idea may not be cost-effective for them. In that case, other options for publication are available.

Now that I’ve rambled long enough, if you are a fan of The Breakaway and are interested in a somewhat unconventional alternative to a “sequel”, make sure you sign up for my newsletter so you’ll be updated when and if this short story will be released. I’ll be open right now and say that it will probably not be available until 2013 because I have to finish my current novel before I can begin anything else. Good things are worth waiting for, right?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Books, Pieces, The Breakaway, 0 comments

What It’s Really Like on Release Day

Today is a big day for me, but in reality, it’s not a big day at all. It’s a big day in my mind. My novel, The Breakaway officially releases. It’s a big day because for most authors, any day their book releases is a big day. Some authors have big launch parties. Some go on tour. Some hit the NY Times bestsellers list that same week. Most, like me, don’t really do anything except write a few tweets and FB posts and a newsletter announcement to announce the book. I might go out to eat or something. Most of the work I’ve put into my blog tour is already finished and it’s simply up to the people involved to post their reviews/interviews/posts.

The truth is that unless you are some really cool exception, your release day is pretty darned quiet. Most launch parties and tours happen after the fact, and most people won’t read your book until after it’s out. So while there may be a little bit of hype on that huge release day (special thanks to anyone who helps spread news about the book today!), I’ve found that any time a book of mine is officially out there, it always feels a bit anticlimactic. This is silly since I don’t expect much anyway, but I think it feels that way because it is a HUGE FREAKING DEAL in my head. So big that fireworks should be going off. A novel is a deeply personal, blood-sweat-and-tears project. It should feel like a huge deal. It is a huge deal!

But in publishing, it seems, it’s rare for things to happen all at once, especially on one day. Traditionally publishing is a painfully slow business. There is so much waiting, waiting, waiting, for everything. There are little spikes of excitement, I’ve found, but they rarely snowball into anything super-exciting. It’s like, WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WRITE. QUERY. SUB. SUB. SUB. SUB. WAIT FOREVER. WRITE. WRITE. WAIT. Agent! Book Deal! Publisher! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. TRY TO WRITE. WAIT FOREVER. Cover! WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WRITE. WAIT. WORK. Edits! WAIT. EDIT. WAIT. EDIT. WAIT. More edits! WAIT. EDIT FOREVER. WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. Blurbs from Awesome Authors! WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WAIT. Oh my gosh, I get to hold my book! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. Release day! WAIT. WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. Oh, look, good reviews! My book on a shelf! WAIT. WAIT. WRITE. WRITE. SUB. WRITE. SUB. WAIT FOREVER. Another book deal! And then we start over. Of course, individual mileage may vary for every author, but my point is there is a freaking ton of waiting.

And, honestly, so many of those exciting things get buried in all that waiting and writing that I often tend to forget them and what they were like. Keeping a journal with lots of exclamation points is helpful. I think the biggest highlight for me is getting my book delivered to me, and I finally get to hold it, touch it, read it. For me, then it is real. I don’t think I’d fare well with eBook only. It’s so intangible. So getting my physical book is probably one of the most exciting things – even more than release day. Getting my final cover is also very exciting and memorable.

But…I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again and again. Nothing beats the excitement of finishing the first draft of a book or a very long and intense revision. To me, that’s why I keep doing any of this and endure through all that waiting. And nothing beats receiving an email from a fan you have never seen or heard from before, or even fans you do know, telling you how much they loved your book. Magic, I’m telling you. People reading your book, especially years after it’s released, is magic.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Books, The Breakaway, 0 comments