According to the Official Thomas Edison website, the inventor tested over 3,000 filaments before he found the right combination. That’s at least 3,000 failures, and yet he continued to press on. What a testament to the sheer determination and passion toward one goal.
Over the last few weeks, the gremlin of disbelief decided to pitch a tent in my writing backyard. The cause? I shared a short story with a writing friend, who gave it a thorough review and … ripped it apart. There was nothing wrong with his edits; they were spot-on and direct. And that’s what I wanted. If the intent is to submit a piece for publication, it is usually advantageous to make sure the writing doesn’t suck. “That was painful,” I wrote back. “But it was worth it.”
Shortly thereafter, the gremlin drove down his stakes, set up a fire and proceeded to brew a pot of bitter coffee. “You can’t do this,” he said. “You’re too old. You’re too far behind. You’ve got too many other responsibilities to devote the time needed to develop a writing career.” On and on, that little voice haunted my psyche, tormenting me.
But I refused to listen.
My writing has taken a long journey. I’ve read a lot, written much, and learned a ton by working with others. During this whole process, I’ve held fast—at times with white knuckles—to the belief that writing is my dream. Every day is consumed with it. I can’t even watch a movie without trying to envision how a certain scene would have been written on paper, or how the plot would have looked in between a pair of coverboards.
To combat the gremlin, I reminded myself about other writers. John Grisham reportedly spent hours before each day, before hanging the OPEN sign outside of his law office, grinding away on his first book. Stephen King actually threw away his initial work on Carrie, and it took his wife to resurrect it from the trash can. J.A. Konrath wrote nine novels (Nine!) before Whiskey Sour was picked up by Hyperion. There are countless writers, current and deceased, who slogged through some rough years, probably fighting some of the same gremlins. Why should I be any different?
So, what did I do after the review? I accepted it, told myself that it was a fair edit, and I went back to the desk. Since then, I’ve cranked out two short stories, and I’m working on a third (thanks to a challenge from my good friend, Greta). I’ve also continued to work away at the book, though the smaller pieces have admittedly taken some time away from the larger pursuit.
The passion to succeed is too strong to just give up. If Mr. Edison can find success after all of his failures, then so can I.