Yesterday, a writer friend reached out and wrote, “Specifically, how do you handle thinking about opportunities that have gone south? I keep dwelling on all the chances I’ve had at the big dance —chances that have all started out promising, then fizzled for one reason or another. I mean no disrespect, but I know your career has had lots of ups and downs…yet you keep zipping along, making fresh starts. How do you keep from being discouraged? Because I’m feeling kind of discouraged at this point. Any insight you can provide will be much appreciated.”
Earlier in the day, Deb and a neighbor joined me on our weekend morning walk and a similar subject came up so it’s clearly a worthwhile topic to explore.
When I shifted from my day job at Weekly World News to fulltime freelance, I was advised that 80% of my time would be spent seeking work and the remainder actually doing the work. We’re out there selling ourselves constantly – partly it’s why we blog and chat and do conventions and book signings and so on. You need to throw something like five times as many projects out there as there is time to actually write one. Salesmen chase five times the number of leads to bring in the one real sale so it’s all the same.
The difference is: writers are selling pieces of themselves. These are our ideas we’re pitching and we’re invested in these, excited by their possibilities, and would be thrilled to write any of all of them. This is why a rejection of any sort can bring your world crashing down. It can feel incredibly personal, even when it is not. An editor changes jobs, a licensing deal comes to an end, a tie-in program is canceled for low sales, the market conditions change, and so on.
Of course I’m not impervious to this. I get discouraged a lot but I have so much going on, so many ideas to pursue, avenues to explore and contacts to reach out to that there is always the next pitch or idea. And as the song goes, “I pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.”
Thanks to self-publishing in this digital age, if someone is not paying me to write, I know I can write for myself and release it through Crazy 8 Press. That’s an avenue that didn’t exist two years ago and really opens up the possibilities. There are no guarantees the work will sell, but it certainly beats sitting around moping. While it awaits an audience, I can always be working on the next project.
Right now, my contract work is done for the year. I have some more work to do on the After Earth bible and I have pitched to some people and await word from others. I have several ideas for Crazy 8 Press percolating in the back of my head so once the student teaching ends, I won’t be bored or stuck for something to do.
In a lot of ways, there are more options now than ever before so there is no real reason for long-term discouragement.