I’ve been to a lot of book launches and signings in the past few years. Almost all of the authors who have spoken at these events have said one thing — Never give up! Their message is usually one of comfort and peace to the audience, which is bound to contain hopeful authors wishing they will one day be up there launching their own published book. They go home, their hearts filled with hope and a little bit of jealousy and a lot of motivation to just keep going. They think, If I keep going — if I never give up — I will get that. I will get exactly what I’m working for.
Unfortunately, that’s not how it usually works. At least, my little pessimistic brain and experiences have summed it all up as such. Never giving up will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time — experience — and sometimes nothing more.
If you work hard enough, it’s not going to guarantee you an agent or a big publishing deal or a best seller. It’s not going to guarantee you a lot of money and happiness. Hell, it’s not even going to guarantee you an equal amount of what you put in. Especially if that’s the reason you’re never going to give up.
I’ve watched some of my author friends work their fingers to the bone, certain that if they hit the right formula with marketing or self publishing, or tried hard enough, they’d be a best seller — never to become a best seller with that book, or the next books after it. I’ve watched some friends query for years and years and years, finally get an agent, never sell a book with that agent, and then finally leave that agent only to start over again at the bitter beginning. Never giving up.
Me and Sara B. Larson at her launch for her debut DEFY. Sara never gave up.
And I’ve watched myself start out on almost every endeavor, absolutely certain that this is the one project that will get me exactly what I want — and discover that the only tiny point of “major commercial success” I’ve found so far was on the book that I didn’t do anything for, the one I had very little faith in, the one I just gave to my publisher on a whim because it was sitting there. So I foolishly decide that if I have little faith in anything and repeat that process, maybe I’ll get lucky and see that kind of success again. Yeah, right.
The truth is, life isn’t fair. And it’s incessantly unpredictable. Hard work sometimes gets you nothing but experience and bloody knuckles and a whole lot of frustration. Some authors never sell more than a few copies of their books a month. Ever. No matter how hard they work at it, and it’s not because their writing sucks or they aren’t trying hard enough. They’re often the ones who never stop trying. Some authors don’t hardly try at all and they hit all the jackpots one after the other, making it look easy. And some authors work their butts off and do finally get exactly what they want. For a minute.
But most of us? Most of us are the ones who follow that advice and never give up and find one small success for every ten, twenty, thirty failures — and then forget about those small successes because they seem so freaking far apart. They lose their luster and brilliance, like so many gold coins gathered in a dark, dusty bag at the bottom of our pocket. I imagine that over the course of time, however, that we sometimes dump out those coins and realize that we have gained something, and it’s worth more than we realized. I imagine that no matter the outcome of our “not quitting”, the experience we gain is far greater than those pieces of gold. I imagine our friends’ pieces of gold often look brighter than our own, especially when compared to one another. I imagine, however, that it’s not the actual pieces of gold that sparkle, but the glasses we’re wearing that determine their brightness. And I imagine, going one step further, that it’s the “never giving up” that gives us better glasses to see with.
So the problem with the advice to “never give up” is that I think it so often implies that you’ll get exactly what you want if you follow it. But that’s almost always never true. What you do get is often a quite different version than what you imagined, filled with disappointment, but also satisfaction and some sweet, sweet happiness — usually enough to motivate you to tell others never to give up either.
Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.