Saturday, January 19, 2008

When failure tastes like chicken

It's not you, it's me

I've had a few "just friends" conversations. Both from the giving and receiving end. There is no good way to say it. No good way to get it.

This is a big, red stop sign, punctuated by a red, hot poker. You aren't going anywhere. Stop trying to rev the motor.

Freelancing doesn't feel much different. Every time I send out my resume, my writing, my cover letter that's equal parts wisdom, equal parts wit, I'm courting that prospective client.
Basically, I'm saying, "I think I like you. Do you like me too?"

They look me up and down, consider it, and either introduce themselves or pivot on their heel and saunter off - flipping their hair (if they're female) or flipping you off (if they're male).
You just want a chance, a first date. Nothing overly elaborate. You aren't asking for a commitment, at least not yet.

This is a simple dinner of 500 words or so, maybe a sidebar for dessert. And at the end of the night, maybe a warm handshake and a phone number.

Too often, however, it's silence. It's complete oblivion. They don't know you. They don't want to. If you keep loitering, they'll block your emails and tell all their friends in gym class that you're lame.

Rejection sucks. And if you're working it right, sending out 20-plus inquiries a week, that's a lot of rejection fat to swallow. Soon, it starts tasting like defeat, which happens to taste a lot like chicken.

Before long, you'd rather skip the whole process, take a vow of writing celibacy, and forget about this freelancing gig. Maybe you aren't cut out for it.

Maybe so.

Or maybe you love writing too much to quit, maybe writing is everything you never knew you always wanted. Maybe failure - like success - is just part of the process, a real, necessary, refining, defining, illuminating, transforming, reforming, educational part of the process.

I'm not much for peppy sayings and motivational ranting. However, this quote from Thomas Edison, just seems to say it all, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

He knew failure, almost always, almost without hesitation, arrives early to the party without a hostess gift. It will come. But that doesn't mean it must stay.

Just so we don't feel alone, here are a few people who knew failure and rejection, but didn't stop until they also knew success:

- The Beatles - recording company turned them down, didn't like their sound, said guitar music was on its way out.

- Lucille Ball - dismissed from drama school, saying she was wasting her time and too shy to show her best.

- Michael Jordan - cut from his high school basketball due to a lack of skill.

- Walt Disney - first cartoon production company went bankrupt.

- Bill Gates - dropped out of Harvard University.

- Abraham Lincoln - suffered 12 major failures before elected President.

- Ludwig van Beethoven - his music teacher said as a composer he was hopeless.

- Steven Spielberg - dropped out of college, finally earning his bachelor's degree 33 years later (after an Oscar and a few successes like, oh, a little movie trilogy called "Indiana Jones")

- Albert Einstein - thought to have mental handicaps as a child.

- Marilyn Monroe - dropped by 20th Century Fox because producer thought she was unattractive and couldn't act.

- Barbra Streisand - debuted in a stage show that opened and closed in one night.

- John Grisham - first novel rejected by 16 agents and 12 publishing houses.

- Henry Ford - first two automobile companies failed.

We, my writing friends, are among the greats. So go on. Fail.

Just don't let it have the last word.


(Posted on The Writers Bridge, www.writersbridge.blogspot.com, to freelancers, writers, and anyone unwilling to give up.)

3 comments:

Jason said...

Thank you for the encouraging post.

http://www.writersdigest.com/#

Tara Lynn Thompson said...

My pleasure.

chris wilke said...

yep, success surely is the getting up and trying again after each failure...