“Writing is like lying down in the road and asking people to stop and look at you, and today, I got run over.”
This line, spoken by the young Lawrence Durrell, is from the PBS production of “The Durrells In Corfu”. Lawrence has just hosted a public reading to celebrate an early piece of his writing and no one, other than a confused and elderly man unknown to him and a small cadre of close family, attends.
He is, understandably, crushed. But not so crushed as to give up!
I have no idea if this is a quote actually attributable to Durrell, but it made me laugh out loud and I like it.
Writers, it’s that time of year again. Time to sit up straight, give final touches to our manuscripts, toughen our skin, and send our young ones out into the world. Time to kiss them goodbye, wave, and watch.
Do they sink or swim?
How does it feel when they sink?
And how does it feel when they swim competently down river under their own power and skill, into welcoming arms?
We won’t find out unless we submit our work.
Or at least, share it with others who can read our work with open, intelligent minds, give us helpful feedback, and take us a bit closer to the act of submitting.
I am looking forward to a fall busy with a good deal of submitting. I am coming out of what has been an uncommonly difficult last couple years, and an extraordinarily difficult last six or so months replete with family deaths and other challenging events, and my writing life has, predictably, suffered.
I’ve written on the topic of submitting and rejection before, which, if you follow my blog, you know.
It’s a topic near and dear to me as a writer, a topic that I feel does not garner the attention it should given how daunting and complex the process of submitting our work is. I admire all writers who expose their work to the critiques of others, and find myself drawn to contemplate and explore the challenge of being a submitting writer, the burden we share in just getting our work out there and into the hands of readers.
Here, for your pleasure and inspiration, are several bits on perseverance in the face of failure.
–The wisdom of Rocky (from the film Rocky Balboa, 2006). As apropos to the challenges of submitting manuscripts as it is to all of life, something I know now in a way that I did not before.
“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
Here is a link to the scene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D_Vg4uyYwEk
For Rocky-lovers, the rest of the scene (love the last line!):
“Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!
“I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.
Don’t forget to visit your mother.”
Can’t recall how I stumbled onto this TED talk given by entrepreneur Leticia Gasca, but I like it a good deal.
Not only does it shed light on the often cut-throat world of business–and it’s good for writers to be reminded that we have no corner on rejection, loss, and competition in the wide world–but it shows a bold entrepreneur openly wrestling with different aspects of failing.
The inevitability of failing. The shame and humiliation that can sometimes accompany failure. The tendency of most, in all walks of life, to cover up and deny one’s failings, sometimes for years.
And yet the sweet liberation that comes from openly acknowledging and sharing how hard it can be to succeed.
In any field. At any time. For anyone and everyone.
How common–de rigueur, really–it is for meaningful success to be preceded by arduous rounds of failure and loss, rejection and setbacks.
And, importantly, how much we can learn and share from our failures, not just making success for ourselves more likely the next time around, but also allowing others to learn from our setbacks and losses, and thereby, as Gasca points out, encourage creativity, innovation, and growth in our respective fields.
We all stand to gain from hearing more about the struggles of others, and by sharing our own struggles in any endeavor.
—Fall Down Seven, Stand Up Eight
Don’t get twisted up, as some have, by taking this quote too literally. The point of this saying, attributed to the Japanese, is clear:
One must fall, and fall often and sometimes hard, in order to finally remain standing.
Should all of this scare us away from our writing, from sharing it, and submitting it?
Deter us from attempting to accomplish much of anything in life that involves a high probability of rejection, loss, failure, and frustration?
Not at all.
It seems absolutely true–as our parents told us–that little in life that is worth working toward does not involve risk. If we cannot handle the possibility of rejection, we might as well hang up our hats and reconcile ourselves to a life spent on the sidelines, channel-surfing until something better comes along.
And that, among other awful things, is absolutely boring.
Keep on writing!
And keep on submitting!