Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Think I Can, I Think I Can

by Shannon Baker

I admit, sometimes I need a little inspiration. Once in a while (daily) I doubt myself and wonder just what makes me think I can do this thing called writing. Even though I know almost every writer has times of doubt, sometimes I think everyone else is confident and fearless. For those of us who don’t always feel like Super Man or Woman, here are a few tidbits to pump you up.

One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill, a man famous for failure. He flunked 6th grade and lost a handful of elections, in fact, every race he attempted, until he was elected Prime Minister.

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.

Among a myriad of failure to success stories I have collected, here are a couple of blubs I plagiarized from the InterWebs. (It’s not a sin if I confess, right?)

J. K. Rowling: Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels, she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination. Did you know that this author of the Harry Potter phenomenon (which has sold more than 400 million copies), was rejected by twelve publishers? In her own words: “So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable.”

Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published and the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

Jack London: This well-known American author wasn't always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.

One story close to my heart is that of Mari Sandoz. She was a famous Nebraska writer, publishing from the mid-thirties through the mid-sixties. She grew up in the same isolated and rugged region of the Sandhills where I spent twenty years. Her controlling and abusive father ridiculed writing; she married and divorced in the 1910’s, and pursued her writing through poverty and illness. By her own account, she received thousands of rejections over the course of sixteen years. Yet, she kept writing. Kept sending it out. In the end, she had a slew of award-winning books and I can tell you, they are amazing.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that I can't win if I don't play and for every great writer, there are hours of self-doubt, angst, and ultimately, seat in the chair. They did it. We can, too. I’m ready to climb back into the cab and fire up the old engine.


Vicki Doudera said...

So true, Shannon, so true!

The quote I have on my desk is from my friend Tess Gerritsen. It says, "Never give up. Finish the book. Write all the way to the end."

I.E., I think I can!

Lois Winston said...

If you've never read it, I highly recommend PUSHCART'S COMPLETE ROTTEN REVIEWS & REJECTIONS. It's a real eye-opener and hugely motivational for those days when we doubt our own abilities.

Beth Groundwater said...

What an inspirational post, Shannon! Thanks for the uplifting message.

Robin Allen said...

Great post, Shannon. It's easier to keep going when you're doing something you love. All of your examples did just that.

Shannon Baker said...

Just look at the folks who've responded. All of you know a thing or two about staying motivated!

Kathleen Ernst said...

I just read an interview with Carolyn Hart in which she says that during her teaching days, the one message she tried to instill in her writing students was to get over the fear of failure. Thanks for a great post!

Shannon Baker said...

Good point, Kathleen. Sometimes I mutter the immortal words of Dory (the Ellen DeGeneres character from Finding Nemo) "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming."

Melody said...

Thanks for the encouragement! :)

Linda Hull said...

Mari Sandoz was a friend of my father-in-law's. I think there is a museum in the sand hills dedicated to her that he had something to do with getting started.

Shannon Baker said...

Linda--that is so cool!

Darrell James said...

Excellent post, Shannon! History is filled with failures who have gone on to major success. I guess it says the only thing that counts is persistence. Thanks for sharing.

Terri Bischoff said...

Funny - I don't write, but when I first started, I really doubted my ability to do this job. I mean really, who am I to judge? But I kept at it and ignored the insecure voice and listened to the one that said "this ms is great!" Seems to be working thus far.

now, with an insane amount of submissions, I use the mantra, "just keep swimming" in order to not get overwhelmed with the volume! :)