“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett
I love this quote. Especially the last two words. Fail better. I have to remind myself of that all the time, as most writers attempting to throw their words into the world should.
Rejection. We writers are gluttons for rejection. More so than most people because we seek it out like kids seeking candy, only to find old Cepacol cough drops instead. Remember those? The nasty ones before cherry flavor? That’s what rejection tastes like when you see the winners on a contest list…minus your name. Or open the email from the agent you queried to read, “We are sorry, but we don’t feel your project is right for us at this time.” Your heart sinks a little and doubt burrows into your mind like a bug digging toward warmth. You reread the short story or manuscript comparing it to the last book you read. There’s good stuff in there, right? Just as good as this piece of garbage that I made myself finish because I spent $15.99.
Then, comes the haughty dismissal. If they had just taken the time to read it, they would know what they were missing. They obviously have no idea what they’re doing and are only interested in making money, passing up a gem because it’s not sentimental dribble that the world is intent on reading. Because the world obviously has no idea what good writing is.
Perhaps you end in a morose state. Tears or no tears, you fall into a lump on the couch and quit thinking.
Rejection hurts. Whether the company that you dream of working for passes you up, the guy that seems perfect breaks your heart, or the short story you emailed doesn’t make the cut. It all hurts the same.
Yet, after the deflated stage passes, writers persist. We pick up the short story with new eyes and figure out where the mistakes are. We read work by those more successful, not for entertainment sake, but for more knowledge and insight into the craft. We debate what part of our style works and what is lacking. We edit, add, and sometimes simply move on to the next story with new feelings of hope and love for the craft that has been our obsession for years. And we do it all with no guarantees that next time will be any different.
We do it because nothing is like the thrill of the perfect sentence. An amazing paragraph of description. A unique twist that came out of nowhere.
When we finish, we send our words into the world and wait. Perhaps for success. Perhaps just to fail better.