failure

Dropping Off The Face Of The Planet And Surviving

Since I haven’t blogged since, oh, December, I’ve strongly considered quitting blogging altogether. I’ve asked myself, is it productive and satisfying for me anymore? Is it a waste of time? Because it does take a significant amount of time. But then I realized it’s not only blogging I stopped doing — it was Facebook and Twitter and other social networks. I stopped marketing my books. I stopped talking about my books. I stopped writing. I stopped reading. I stopped CARING, honestly.

So what brought me to this state, you ask? Did I burn myself out? I have nine titles published. Why would I stop now? But I think losing my publisher when they closed their doors back in 2013 is still something I’m working through emotionally. I had a plan and it fell through. I fell through. My books fell through, and I hate to admit that I pretty much failed after picking myself up after the fallout — meaning I bounced back, but then I fell over and I’m still lying in a heap on the floor. I feel broken and I’m not sure how to fix it.

So I’ve survived. I got a job to help pay bills because heaven knows my royalties don’t cover all of those. I’ve stayed healthy. I’ve moved to a new place. My family is happy and I’m doing fine. But I feel like a huge part of me has been on hold for a long time. Just recently, I attended the Teen Author Boot Camp writing conference. I was on panels with some agents and really great authors. I got to talk to a lot of aspiring authors. I may have even helped some of them. That conference has injected a little bit of excitement in me to get up off my butt and start moving forward again. I have the Storymakers conference coming up, where I’ll be teaching a cover design class. I have a novel that is 3/4 of the way finished (that I’ve been trying to finish for over a year now) and can probably be queried once it’s edited. I think I’d like an agent now. I have a few thin plans that I hope will set a little bit over time.

I suppose this blog post isn’t anything special. It’s not. But it feels like a huge step right now because I’m making decisions again. I’m starting to care a little bit more. And that’s something worth shouting about. So yay! One step at a time.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, Blogging, 18 comments

When Your Worst Fear Comes True

I’ve heard this a lot lately:

“What was your latest book again?”

If I Forget You.

“Oh, yeah! I remember now! That one sounded good!” Lowers eyes. “I haven’t read it yet.”

Not that I expect anyone in close proximity to read my books right away (or at all if they aren’t interested in them) because I seriously don’t, but I think I kind of cursed myself when I titled and based a book on forgetting stuff.

When I put out my novel IF I FORGET YOU, I had high hopes for it, but many great fears, as well … all of which have come true so far, and I’m pretty sure most of it is my own error. I made some pretty massively huge mistakes, the biggest one being that I didn’t market it one bit at all outside of announcing that it was published and out there. Why did I not market it? First of all, I was afraid for people to actually read it because the main character is a lot like me and I didn’t want to have to stumble upon reviews that tore it apart. Secondly, I think I released it too soon after OUT OF TUNE. Thirdly, I wanted to see if not marketing a book at all makes any sort of difference in sales. A big duh to that answer, right? It’s because I happen to know several authors who don’t market at all and their books sell just dandy. But they aren’t me, and they don’t write in a genre that doesn’t fit anywhere (i.e. clean new adult with no steamy erotic sex). At least I like to blame it on those two things, but who knows? Other people write clean new adult and do fine, but again, they aren’t me.

If I’ve learned anything in this business, it’s that there is no magical formula to selling books, and while there is a lot of luck involved in financial success, it’s also a matter of putting yourself in good situations to create that luck. It doesn’t just pop up out of nowhere (even thought it seems that way sometimes when you’re getting green with envy over another person’s success).

The thing is, folks, I’ve reached my worst fear: a novel I put out there completely 100% bombed on pretty much every level outside of the fact that I think it’s well-written, some people I highly respect who have read it say they loved it, and I’m proud of it. But a book failing the way this one has sales-wise, and after losing my publisher and feeling very alone this past year, I’ve felt at the bottom of the barrel emotionally, financially, etc. I’ve reached a point where I’ve spent way too much money on this publishing thing and dug myself too large a hole to climb out of with just selling books. So. Worst Fear Come True right there. I’ve had to attain a part-time job now that has nothing to do with writing, so now I have less time to write, and if I look at it with the bleak vision I usually look at everything (pessimist by nature here), I’d have a good mind to quit writing altogether.

Expectations are killer!

But I’m not going to quit. I’m still writing. I’ve shifted my goals, let go of some hefty dreams that have weighed me down over the past four years, and turned my eyes to different horizons. I don’t know if I’ll ever reach the goals I’ve set. I’m halfway through a novel I believe in wholeheartedly, and I’m not stupid enough to believe I’m a bad writer or anything, but when I look back on the path I’ve traveled, I wonder if I’d set out on it again if I were to start all over. At this point in time, I’m not sure I would because this is just a tad bit soul sucking and it’s hard not to ask WHY AM I PUTTING MYSELF THROUGH THIS?

But like a friend of mine told me the other day after she read a blog post about what writing and publishing is like, sometimes you’re simply in the middle of a mountain meadow and you have no idea where you are, no idea if you even have a peak to climb after the ones you already reached and fell from, no idea which direction to turn. But you have to keep wandering, even if it feels aimless. Because eventually you’ll make your way out of the meadow if you don’t sit down and give up. And eventually you’ll find another peak to climb and you’ll think you’ve reached the top, but in reality there’s just another peak to climb. The trick is you usually have to go down first, and cross more meadows, then climb that peak just to find another one. There is no final destination.

So, it seems I’m in a meadow right now. A rather large one. With no flowers. But hey, I’m still writing and that has to account for something. I’m in the process of beginning to market my failed book and my other books, and I’m planning on being involved in many authorly things next year, like, gasp! conferences. All of that means I’m wandering, not sitting stagnant. One day I’ve got to make it to a spot I can at least see another peak, right?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, If I Forget You, 12 comments

On Jealousy

Authors-AnonymousLast night, I watched the movie Authors Anonymous. It was a movie I’d only heard of yesterday, thanks to a friend on Facebook. Since I had spent the day bent over the toilet and feeling like crap from some sort of flu bug, I decided a movie was in order, so I rented it. I’m glad I did because it’s an interesting, almost painful story that hit me in several spots. The story is about a group of unpublished authors who welcome in a new author to their writing group. But this new author quickly finds an agent, a huge book deal, and a movie deal. Jealousy — extreme jealousy — sets in with the rest of the group. One of the authors, a Tom Clancy wannabe, decides to vanity publish his book with no success at all. The other authors — well, watch it to see what they choose to do and where that leads.

What struck me so hard was that I could relate in the most painful ways to these jealous authors. All of us authors know, or have even been, that successful author. Those jealous feelings are familiar. Needless to say, the story ends in a way I predicted, but satisfyingly surprising, nonetheless. One of the themes was:

THE ONLY WAY YOU’LL GET ANYWHERE IS BY STICKING YOUR BUTT IN THE CHAIR AND WRITING EVERY DAY

Which is true, absolutely, but even if you get everything you want, it may not last, and it may not be what you thought it would be. Plus, there is something to be said about getting stuck and not writing and figuring out important lessons along the way.

One of the authors has a picture of herself with the quote, “The only way you’ll fail is if you stop writing.”

True, true, but you’ll find failures when you keep writing too. And as I’ve said in an earlier post, the problem with the advice “never give up” is …“Never giving up will guarantee you exactly one thing every single time — experience — and sometimes nothing more.”

And the thing that really struck me is how important it is not to let success go to your head. None of the characters in this film were black and white, necessarily. Some of their stereotypes were pretty typical, but I liked how the film explored different facets of their motivations. It’s a stinging satire, filmed in a mockumentary-type style. Not everyone will appreciate it, but I certainly did. The one author who wasn’t truly jealous … let’s just say I’m a little inspired to make a few changes in my own writing life.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me, All Things Publishing, Working With Other Writers, 15 comments

Failure Can Make You Bulletproof

A good online friend of mine recently shared a TED talk with me. It’s a talk by Elizabeth Gilbert, whom I admire greatly because I’ve shared another talk of hers from a few years back that I continue to listen to several times a year. This new talk — Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating (see video below) — is even more meaningful to me than Elizabeth’s first. In light of some of my recent publishing failures, none of which I can tactfully talk about here in public, I desperately needed to hear the truth she tells.

I’ve often forgotten how to get back “home”, as Elizabeth calls it. She makes it clear that your “home” has to be that thing you love more than yourself.

That thing for me? Writing. More than anything else, writing transcends me in every way possible. When I go to that creative place, I am able to see myself and ultimately step beyond myself … and share that experience with others. Without writing to explore everything I am and believe in, I would be a very, very, very lost and lonely soul.

Failure has the ability to make you bulletproof. Despite hitting what I consider darn near close to rock bottom … and knowing I can hit it again even harder in the future … I’m still fiercely devoted to my writing, probably more now than I have ever been. And I’m not going to stop. I may fail in many ways, but never at writing. So how could I possibly quit and not consider that the biggest failure of all?

Elizabeth Gilbert was once an “unpublished diner waitress,” devastated by rejection letters. And yet, in the wake of the success of ‘Eat, Pray, Love,’ she found herself identifying strongly with her former self. With beautiful insight, Gilbert reflects on why success can be as disorienting as failure and offers a simple — though hard — way to carry on, regardless of outcomes.

click here for video if it does not appear

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Think Positive, 9 comments

IWSG January 2014 — The Problem With the Advice, “Never Give Up”

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeI’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.

michelledargyle_sarablarson_defylaunch_kingsenglish

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.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group, 30 comments

IWSG December 2013 — Sick and Tired of Thinking This Isn’t Worth It

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I stood on my porch and stared out at the snow, felt the dropping temperatures creep around me, saw the icy roads and the cars driving by way too fast, and I felt despair in the pit of my stomach and thought, Why am I doing any of this? Why am I making myself miserable over writing when so many other things in life make me miserable? Like snow and winter and cold. I might as well get rid of the things I have control over. Right? 

Right.

Except, then I read this lovely post from Cassie Mae about mediocre being extraordinary. At first I thought, gosh, if she thinks she’s mediocre, then what am I? She was wildly popular with one of her self published books, then she got an agent. She has published with small presses and big presses now, and she says she’s still mediocre. So if she’s mediocre and has done all that, then where does that put little tiny me, who now has no publisher anymore and has decided to just go at it on her own — small sales and all? Does that make me below mediocre or just mediocre right alongside Cassie? Who the heck knows. But as I stood and looked out at winter today, I finally realized none of it matters anyway, whether we believe we’re mediocre or not. In the end, it truly doesn’t freaking matter. I read this study awhile ago. 268 male Harvard undergraduates were tracked from classes 1938 – 1940, collecting data at regular intervals during their life for the next 75 years. The conclusion: Love really is all that matters. “A man could have a successful career, money and good physical health, but without supportive, loving relationships, he wouldn’t be happy (‘Happiness is only the cart; love is the horse.’).’

So why the heck am I so hung up on all these little things that will, yes, give me the cart, but not pull it? I should be more hung up on how happy I’m making my husband and my family than anything else. And honestly, I haven’t been doing that lately. I’ve been more worried about sales and publishing and writing and figuring out how to make this career work so we can pay off debt and … what? Not have debt anymore? What will that accomplish? Sure, it’s important to pay it off, but it’s not going to make us any happier than we are. There will always be something we’re working toward. Right now debt just happens to be it.

I’m sick and tired of thinking this isn’t worth it, that I need to be on top to make it worth it, that I need to reach such-and-such numbers to make it worth it, that if I don’t reach certain goals and milestones by such-and-such time, I’ll throw in the towel and call it quits. Whatever. I’m done. I want to write and whether I succeed or fail with the numbers, I’m going to do it anyway. It is worth it to me. I’ve become a better person because of it. I’m braver than I used to be, and I’m getting braver every step of the way. And that’s pretty dang awesome.

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.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group, 29 comments

IWSG November 2013 — Taking Really Hard Risks (and Not Backing Out of Them)

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I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m the slow tortoise with five boulders strapped to its back, limping up a mountain. I’m moving upwards, or at least sideways, which is something at least, but it’s slow and sometimes I look back and second guess my choice to pile on those boulders. That was a risk, and one I’m not sure will pay off in the long run even though everybody else with boulders on their back told me it would be worth it — and also that a lot of other people have told me the boulders are unnecessary and I would do better pouring my time, energy, and money into something more lucrative. If you ask some of my friends, they’ll tell you I’ve come awfully close to hurling off the boulders so I can head back down the mountain and live once again without such risks piled on top of me. No more writing. No more spending precious time and money on things that are never guaranteed to succeed according to the world’s measure of success. I mean, wouldn’t waitressing or a cashier job be more secure? It’s especially tempting to quit when little hares are bounding past me, giggling as they chomp away on cupcakes and talk about unicorns. I don’t know who these hares are, if they’re a figment of my imagination, or if they really do exist. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Maybe they are the ones who took more risks than me, or they’re simply luckier or more talented. What matters is remembering that even if I get rid of the boulders, I’ll still have to pay for them (with little or no reward since I’m not following through with them). So I might as well follow through, you know?

I’m a “once you start, you should finish” kind of tortoise.

And sometimes … sometimes when I’m trekking up the mountain, which I’m not even sure is a mountain more than a flat, wide field where no direction is wrong as long as you keep moving, I almost feel like I’m one of those hares bounding along. I’m pretty sure I’m delusional at that point.

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.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group, 24 comments

IWSG September 2013 — Two Reasons Why I Haven’t Quit

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeMany of you might have read my post yesterday about my publisher closing their doors. I didn’t talk too much about my emotional turmoil over the whole thing, but I’m not sure it’s the greatest thing to dwell on, in all honesty. I’ve decided what I want to do, and the point of this post is to say that quitting is not in the decision I made.

Now, I’ll admit that quitting crossed my mind, but not for very long. When I considered throwing in the towel and never writing again, I ended up with two very strong reasons why I should not do such a thing. Yes, I boiled it down to two because sometimes when you’re freaking out, simplicity is the best medicine.

I Am Alive and Anything is Possible

This might sound a little cheesy, but it’s true. As long as I am a breathing, functional human being, anything is possible. I was listening to the radio yesterday about a football player who had to have his leg amputated. The man seriously didn’t give up. He said, I will be back on the field someday! I promise! And he totally did it. He got a prothetic and he’s back on the field playing professionally. He says it hurts every single damn second because the prosthetic grates against his bone, but his love for what he’s doing makes it so that it doesn’t matter.

That, you guys, is something to learn from. Sure, stuff hurts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and as I told my seven-year-old daughter the other day, You can do hard things. She kept saying she only wanted to do easy things because they were easy, and I stopped and I thought about that. I thought, well, if you only stick with the easy crap, there sure isn’t much payoff, is there?

Even if I Haven’t Meant to, I’ve Made a Difference

My writing — this thing I do that causes pain and joy at the same time — really does make a difference in so many ways. Even if it’s just a difference to me. My publisher might close their doors, but I’m finding another way to share my stories. That way might fail at some point, and if it does, I’ll find another way. THIS IS NOT ABOUT HOW I AM PUBLISHED. THIS IS NOT ABOUT INSECURITY OR INADEQUACY, OR MONEY, OR WASTING TIME ON SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T MATTER. Because it has made a difference for good in my life, and I haven’t given up yet.

You never know what your example will inspire in someone else, what your words can do to change another, and where your motivation will lead.

As I told my husband when I was considering walking away from all of this — “If I quit writing, what else would I do that I love just as much? I would probably find something, sure, but then I’d probably want to quit that too because anything I love as much as this will require the same amount of effort, pain, and dedication. So why not this? Why. Not?”

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.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group, 39 comments

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