I have two particular quotes circling around my head to keep me going this week.
“If failure don’t hurt, then failure don’t work”, and, “Ever try. Ever fail. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” The first is from a Boy & Bear song, and the second from Samuel Beckett. While the folk band and the playwright are worlds apart, both of their words have been really important reminders to me.
I got a few rejections, see. I also stopped writing for a few weeks. And I slipped into a depressive slump – rising early, avoiding my study, eating too much and not washing (clothes, self, dishes, everything). I’d sent off the applications before the depressive slump, but by the time the rejections came in I was in this place: “REJECTION + DEPRESSION = DEVASTATION AND DESPAIR”.
This has nothing to do with the rejections themselves, really. I mean, I was sad I didn’t achieve the things I was aiming for, but I was mainly just having some kind of bizarre, unnecessary existential crisis. I let myself sulk for a day after the second rejection, but then I started remembering Beckett and Boy & Bear’s words about failure.
It’s part of being a writer, and I suspect it’s part of being creative in any way. I think you need to get knocked back for things that matter occasionally. For me, these rejections have served as a wake-up call: What am I doing? What am I aiming for? Shut the fuck up, put your head down, and write. I was getting lost in all the extraneous stuff: numbers, other people’s opinions, hits, selling my work. None of this matters. What matters is that I have something to say, and I know that if I commit, I can say what I want quite well. I needed to refocus, or else 2013, “my year off study”, would fly by without me achieving anything.
I ripped everything off my pin board last night. I dedicated space to my ideas, my goals, and deadlines. I put up the names of places I want my writing to take me, and publications I’d love to write for. I put up all the article and story ideas I’ve had and decided to start another day, so that there’s always something for me to be working on. Today I’ve come home from my half-day at work, and (apart from a few episodes of Girls with lunch), I’ve stuck to my reading and writing routine.
I’m taking it one inch at a time, as Anne Lamott advises:
“The first useful concept is the idea of short assignments. Often when you sit down to write, what you have in mind is an autobiographical novel about your childhood, or a play about the immigrant experience, or a history of — oh, say — say women. But this is like trying to scale a glacier. It’s hard to get your footing, and your fingertips get all red and frozen and torn up. Then your mental illnesses arrive at the desk like your sickest, most secretive relatives. And they pull up chairs in a semicircle around the computer, and they try to be quiet but you know they are there with their weird coppery breath, leering at you behind your back.”
Lamott keeps a one-inch picture frame on her desk, which reminds her to only bite off an inch at a time, as a small assignment. This is the tactic I’m taking. Just small bits.
I fell down, but I’m getting back up. I tried, and I failed. No matter – I’ll try again…