I have this saying: If you believe you are destined for greatness, then how can you fail?
I believe that I am destined to be a great writer. I also believe I am getting close to where I want to be with my writing, just not with the success I still believe can and will happen one day.
Having said that, how can I fail? Easy: if I do nothing to pursue greatness then I will never become great. Does that make sense? Let me repeat it. If I do nothing to pursue greatness then I will never become great.
Have you ever wanted something so bad it hurt? Maybe it was the love of another person. Maybe it was a job. Maybe you wanted to win at something. Maybe you wanted to accomplish something you didn’t think you could, and after you tried, failing hurt as bad or worse than that desire for accomplishment.
Did you give up when things didn’t quite go the way you wanted it to that first time? What if that person you really liked didn’t seem to notice you? Did you say, ‘that person is out of my league?’ Did you admire from afar and never truly try to win that person over? What about the job you wanted? Did you put in an application and a resume for it? Did you follow up after putting in the application and submitting the resume? Or did you just cross your fingers and hope they liked you enough to call you back for an interview? What about competition? What if you lost that first time you played a game and gave up? Would you accomplish anything by quitting? What about that thing you wanted to accomplish but didn’t succeed in doing so the first time? Did you say, ‘it’s not worth it?’
If you did any of the above, then that is how you can go about not achieving greatness. Here is a little secret that so many people close their eyes to (and I apologize if I offend anyone with this statement): So many people get an idea in their head that if they do something then they will be great, but then they don’t think about how to actually go about doing it and becoming great in and of itself. They get delusional about how things work and then wonder why greatness hasn’t been achieved when the effort to achieve it is not put in. Truth: In order to create, do something, or become great you will suffer. By suffer, I don’t mean fires of Hell suffering or putting a sack cloth on and sitting in the road as a tornado looms. What I mean is if you work hard enough at something you will have setbacks. It is just part of the business. Even when things go well at first, you will have setbacks. And those setbacks hurt.
Since I am a writer, let me use this as an opportunity to state: writing is difficult when done right. No, I don’t mean just the writing aspect of it, but the entire package. Writing, editing, proofing, researching publishers, submitting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, waiting, did I say waiting? Yeah, waiting. Then rejections, researching some more, submitting again, waiting (X12). Then acceptance at some point! Yay! Then comes more editing, marketing, more editing, more marketing, and all that other stuff that comes after a book is released.
IT IS HARD WORK.
This brings me to today’s title: D is for Determination.
Determination is what leads to greatness. No one who failed and quit became great. No one. Doctor Seuss became great after he had been rejected time after time. Henry Ford failed miserably before forming Ford Motor Company. Michael Jordan didn’t win a championship until his eighth year in the NBA.
Failure is inevitable. It is what you do after you fail that defines how great…or not…you become.
How about a little story about me and when I first started trying to get published? When I set out to get my work published I was kind of stupid about it. I had these grand notions that I was a pretty good writer. I had great concepts. I had great vision. One problem: my writing sucked. I hated writing growing up, so I didn’t really pay attention in school when it came to that particular subject. Naturally, I wrote like a third grader with the way I put sentences together. Oh, wait. I’m sorry. Third graders could write better than I could.
Still, I set out to get published. Here is a truth that would have made most folks give up: Before I received my first acceptance letter I was rejected exactly one hundred times. Take that number in. One hundred rejections. I was determined. I didn’t want to give up until I had gotten at least one acceptance. It was frustrating and at the time I didn’t have many stories I could put out there, so I would read the rejections in hopes of gleaming something from them that could help me figure out why my stories weren’t accepted. Most of them were form letters that didn’t help.
Then it happened. A little place on the web called House-of-Pain.com picked up my story, Diane’s a Whore and Simeon’s Payback. It was a vampire story and up to that point, the best thing I had written. I had done it. I had gotten my first publication and it felt awesome. I was excited. I was thrilled. I was bitten by the bug that comes with acceptance. It’s like a drug and I wanted more of it.
Then something else occurred, and I will keep this short. A while later I received a rejection from an editor, who in his letter said, ‘Stop writing. You are not good at it. You should never write another story.’
Ouch. Burn. As the kids these days like to say, ‘You got roasted.’ That stung. That hurt. That made me sit back and ponder if it was even worth pursuing anymore. Then I got mad and determined to prove this guy wrong. I spent several years working on various things I needed to do to become a better writer. I paid attention when other writers talked about how to do something and then I asked questions. Then I worked for months on each thing I needed to learn to make myself better. When I felt I was better at one thing, I switched gears and worked on something else.
I was determined.
Was it fun? Not particularly. But did I need to do it? Yup. Am I better for it now? Absolutely.
When you want something—and I mean really want something—then go after it. I would rather try and fail over and over again, than to never know if I could have succeeded because I didn’t try. And where has this gotten me? Well, with reviews like this one (for A Stitch of Madness):
The stories, oh, the stories. I can’t write anything about each one that hasn’t been so eloquently written in these other reviews. So I’ll tell you about the writer, A.J. Brown, in my own words and from my own perspective; I am a horror fan who is also a writer. Brown is a writer’s writer (emphasis added: boldface type that’s also italicized and underlined). Stepping back from the stories themselves, here’s a thing: Brown can write in a feminine point of view. Is that rare for a male writer? Well, Stephen King mastered it in “Carrie” but I don’t think he’s done anything since that had what I am talking about (sorry Uncle Stevie). It’s that subtle sense of mixing the testosterone-laden hard-driving spinning of a tale with the softly-whispered voice of an innocent. This art is at its most beautiful and horrible in the story “Stitch”. It is an art that Brown has mastered. (1) I want Brown to keep writing for the rest of his life, and (2) I hope he outlives me.
The reviewer wants me to continue writing and she wants me to do so while outliving her. I’m to assume she means she doesn’t want me to pass before her because she wants to keep reading my work. That, to me, is high praise. That also speaks of determination paying off.
Never give up on your dreams. Never quit because something is hard and you failed at it. As Alfred told Batman, ‘Why do we fall sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.’
That is determination at its heart: picking ourselves up.
Just my thoughts.
Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.