Today is certainly not the first to involve literary disappointment. By 5pm I will be sad, but that maudlin state undoubtedly will be short lived. That’s the problem when you enter contests and someone else wins. However much I could sit the night before and imagine myself as successful, the harsh reality of modern publishing is that inevitably you have to do an awful lot of work for little to no return. For all the sweat and angst expended, there are thousands of people doing the same. If gambling has taught me anything, it is that odds are not worth knowing, because they won’t ever help in the end. What you need, like it or not, is the patience of a saint and the ability to keep bashing your head against a wall until you die.
I’ve also discovered it helps if you’re rich too: the poem I submitted yesterday (for a contest I’ll hear the results of in December) politely asked for an entry fee before I could enter. The next mentorship I’m considering asks the same for each poem submitted, up to a maximum of six. In this case it’s a sure fire means of raising cash to pay for the mentoring, but I can’t help but feel that somewhere, something is not right. I haven’t really investigated the world of novel submission yet, but even the thought of this currently is enough to give me the vapours. Now I’m serious and capable of a finished manuscript, it will be 2018’s task to get that bandwagon finally rolling.
Of course, all of this is simply sauce for a metaphorical goose. I don’t need to expound on the health benefits of writing and that the significance of doing so is continuing to outweigh the desire for critical acknowledgement, but these bills won’t pay themselves. So, whilst I write blogs and essays, poems and fiction need to start pulling their weight considerably more than is currently the case. Throwing work at contests and mentorship chances could end up driving a lesser woman to madness is all I ever get as feedback is silence: ‘no correspondence will be entered into’ is the equivalent of a door slammed unceremoniously in your face, multiple times.
Yet, I know only too well that to be successful, that failure is essential. You must learn from every poem, grasp the significance of each unsuccessful attempt, and hope exasperation can be kept to a minimum. The belief must be that if you are truly good enough, eventually, someone will notice. However, would I be more attractive as a writer if I paid to submit six poems to my mentorship scheme as opposed to, say, only three? Do I have to ensure I hit a specific word count for a story to show I ‘understand my genre’ or can I just write from sheer love of the task? A lot is expected from authors in the modern world. Knowing how to social media successfully is probably quite a way down that list.
What is becoming apparent, at least from behind the screens I now inhabit, is that failure is relative. I’m never lost for things to do of late. There’s never a day where I ponder what there is to be done. Boredom has become utterly non-existent. As I sat yesterday afternoon between two guys at the Gym, both of whom were using lighter weights than I was, it became apparent that success isn’t just relative but increasingly subjective. I can’t confidently handle a mountain bike, yet doing upright rows with 16kg weights is second nature. Everybody has to start somewhere. Not stressing about outcome allows process to become habit, and fear to no longer hamstring your progress.
Yesterday’s poem was possibly the most personal thing I have ever written, and by doing so an important mental block has shifted. I am no longer afraid of allowing genuine, unfettered emotion a release through my work. This ultimately will never be anything other than a Good Thing [TM] and knowing this means that in the next few weeks, nothing and nobody is safe in terms of subject matter.
I am ready to deal with disappointment, however it decides to manifest.