I ask because last Saturday’s Guardian (it was 1st April but I don’t think it was a joke) contained an interesting ‘What I’m Really Thinking’ piece (they’re always interesting, imo but this one is particularly so, because it’s writing-related).
It was called: ‘What I’m Really Thinking.. The Failed Novelist’.
UPDATE: There’s an interesting reply to the ‘What I’m Really Thinking..’ piece in The Guardian, telling the would-be novelist that she’s not a ‘failure’, she’s ‘a quitter’!
It’s a well-known fact that most people’s first novels don’t get published. And usually for a very good reason: they’re not very good. Writing a novel is a learning process. You get better with each one you write, or at least, that’s the theory. The author of the Guardian piece feels she has ‘failed’ because the two novels she’s written haven’t found a publisher.
Hold on a minute! Two novels written (actually finished, not just talked about!) AND an agent took her on so they must have had some considerable merit? I think that’s impressive. I don’t call that ‘failure’ – I call that ‘possibly-giving-up-just-when-you-were-on-the-verge-of-success’!
Perhaps the next novel she writes WILL find a publisher because everything she’s learned from the first two, will help to make the third that much ‘better’. And if not, there’s always self-publishing or diversifying or getting feedback or a mentor and going back to the drawing board and working on the two novels until someone does decide they are good enough to publish.
This ‘feeling like a failure if work is unpublished’ isn’t limited to novelists. I belong to a couple of Facebook groups for writers who target the women’s magazine fiction market (small and getting smaller by the day! The market, not the writers) and oh dearie me, there’s a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth in those!
Whatever happened to writing for fun? Or simply writing because you HAVE TO! (Regardless of whether it ever sees the light of day or anyone else ever reads it?).
As the writer of one of the comments underneath Saturday’s Guardian piece says, “We’re constantly told that we can do anything if we try hard enough, if we believe, if we really go for it” but that’s not actually true, is it? Not everyone can be an Olympic Gold medallist, not everyone is good enough to appear on X Factor and (gasp!) perhaps not everyone can be a published writer.
Part of the reason I blog is because it’s a way of publishing my work. I don’t get any money from it but I get the satisfaction of writing what I want to write and seeing it ‘published’. Being published is not a ‘right’ and if other people are to judge our work and pay for it, then being published is not entirely within our control. There’s an element of luck involved, sure but there’s also a lot of hard work and.. dare I say it.. talent?
What do you think? How do you define your ‘success’ (or otherwise) as a writer?