Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors

pier-1467984_1920
Image courtesy of Cleverpics via pixabay.com

Monday, July 23, 2018
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Mars Retrograde

As usual, this will focus on how failure affects us as authors, in our work and life. Some aspects can be applied to other parts of life, but the focus is on our art.

The first way to deal with it is to define it.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “failure” as:

Definition of failure

1a omission of occurrence or performance; specifically failing to perform a duty or expected action 

  • failure to pay the rent on time
(1) a state of inability to perform a normal function 

  • kidney failure

 — compare heart failure 

(2) an abrupt cessation of normal functioning 

  • a power failure
c a fracturing or giving way under stress 

  • structural failure
2a lack of success
b a failing in business bankruptcy 

  • He was trying to rescue the company from failure.
3a a falling short deficiency 

  • a crop failure
4one that has failed 

  • He felt like a failure when he wasn’t accepted into law school.

 

But do you?

I sometimes feel I fail if I let someone else down. If it’s because I was thoughtless or disorganized, then it’s on me and I damn well better find a way to make it right. But sometimes it’s because the other person put an unfair expectation on me and I wasn’t strong enough to say no right off.

Sometimes I feel that I failed if I don’t get an acceptance from a market or a publisher or a grant to which I applied. Yes, I failed to get that particular slot. Most of the time, though, another opportunity comes up that I wouldn’t have been able to accept if I had landed the previous one. Also, because I’ve worked on the publisher side of the table, I know that acceptance is more than just a well-written book: it’s about fitting the tone of a particular publisher, and fitting into the needs of a particular list. Most traditional publishers and some of the smaller publishers have to balance their list so it appeals to a spectrum of readers. If they have too many of one kind of book and none of another in any particular season, they will lose readers that season, and might never regain them. It’s about where your piece fits into the bigger picture, not just your piece.

Many organizations that give out grants expect you to apply (and fail to get an acceptance) over a period of years before they take the application seriously. This always angered me, even when I worked for such non-profits. But many organizations want to see that an artist can sustain work over a period of years before giving that individual money. They don’t want someone who will use a day job or another excuse not to work, or to accept the grant and not meet the requirements of the work that needs to be produced.

None of that knowledge takes the sting out of those refusals, or alleviates the sense of failure.

How do you deal with it?

Acknowledge that you feel angry, sad, whatever. Don’t get on social media and rant and rave against the publisher, agent, or organization. It’s fine to admit disappointment, but don’t attack. Save the venting to do in person, privately, with people you trust. Because there IS a need to vent; there’s just no need to do so publicly. Your feelings are your feelings; they are valid. How you choose to handle them has consequences.

If there’s any feedback, step away for a few days, and then re-visit it with a more objective sensibility. What can you learn from this? How can you apply it positively moving forward?

There are certain publishers and/or organizations that are not a right fit. Just “getting published” isn’t enough. It has to be a place where you have a positive working relationship and both the writer’s and the publisher’s needs and goals are met. Sometimes what starts out as a promising relationship deteriorates. It’s not that one side is “better” or “right” — it’s simply that the needs of both parties aren’t being met, and it’s time to part ways (hopefully amicably), so you can both move on to a better situation. That’s true in any job situation.

I think it’s often harder for artists to deal with failure because what we do is so personal, so much a part of ourselves. It’s difficult not to feel that it’s a rejection of us as human beings.

If something we wrote doesn’t sell well or sell at all, we feel we failed. After a period of time, we can look back. Could it have been structured better? Used stronger language? Have you learned something in the interim that makes it work now? If it’s a sales number, what can you learn from that book’s campaign that you can apply to future promotions? We are pushed to think in terms of immediate large sales numbers, instead of a steadily growing readership. There are plenty of books I’ve read with huge opening sales numbers — and I’ve never read anything by that author again either because I didn’t like the book or because the author never managed to get anything else done, feeling the pressure.

But there are a lot of competing needs and agendas out there, and we’re not all compatible.

When it comes to finding the right agent or publisher, I often compare it to dating — it’s unlikely you’ll find your soul mate the first time out. You need to meet a lot of people and date around. Finding the soul mate for your work is similar.

There’s no need to dramatize or villainize if something doesn’t work out (although, in the first flush of hurt and disappointment, we will). Happy yippy platitudes too soon to the hurt are counterproductive. But then, take a step back, look at the positives, and apply what you learn moving forward.

As a teacher, that’s the most infuriating aspect. When a student REFUSES to apply a correction moving forward. We all start somewhere. We all have things we need to learn. When something is explained (such as the difference between a possessive and a plural) — learn it. APPLY IT MOVING FORWARD. Don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again and expect someone else to fix it.

The only true failure is REFUSING to learn from something that didn’t work and refusing to apply it moving forward.

Most other situations are disappointments or setbacks that can be overcome.

–Acknowledge

–Create objectivity

–Learn

–Apply

And then go on to create something wonderful!

Published in: on July 23, 2018 at 4:50 am  Comments Off on Mon. July 23, 2018: Dealing with Failure #UpbeatAuthors  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fri. Dec. 20, 2013: Solstice Blessings

Friday, December 20, 2013
Waning Moon
Jupiter Retrograde
Sunny and mild

Busy day yesterday, working on the novella and a couple of scripts. Got some reading/research done, client negotiations, grocery shopping, and finalizing the insurance switch. This insurance plan will serve me much better than the previous one.

Have to finish decorating the house for the holidays — I’m behind on EVERYTHING. I’ve done some ecards, but the bulk of the cards will be for the New Year rather than Christmas/Yule.

The NMLC got a grant to partner with me on the play. So that’s two yeses on grants for this project, one no, and one from whom I’ve yet to hear. Looks like it will be happening. Now I have to write the darned play! 😉

This morning, had to be out of the house early to take my mom for her bloodwork, and then head further into Falmouth to the Credit union, picked up a few things on the way back, and hit the library. We are so blessed to have such wonderful, vibrant libraries on the Cape.

Looking forward to the Solstice tomorrow, and having a thoughtful, creative weekend.

Devon

Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 11:41 am  Comments Off on Fri. Dec. 20, 2013: Solstice Blessings  
Tags: , , ,

Thurs. Sept. 12, 2013: Yes, There is Such a Thing as a Stupid Question

Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013
Waxing Moon
Sunny and warm

Yesterday was a tough day. Painful. Best I could do was to stay quiet. My heart is still sore today.

It was, however, a good writing day. I got big chunks of projects B & C done — probably close to 6K. Project C is written too lean at this point — I’m trying to get plot, character, images down. I have to layer in sensory detail, because my primary protag relies on his senses and those details will make this piece unique and immediate.

Tried to read a book yesterday — premise was terrific, setting was superb, and the writing was so weak that I was frustrated. It had all the elements, and the writer didn’t have the skills to pull it off. Disappointing.

Had a grant meeting in the evening. Quick and nothing I didn’t already know. Always amazes me when people ask stupid questions that are answered in the packet. If you can’t count six weeks from the date of application, and don’t understand the concept of “six weeks”, maybe you’re not qualified to apply until you gain some cognitive skills.

I have an early morning meeting today, so I’m going to try to knock out 1K and then head out.

Onward!

Devon

Published in: on September 12, 2013 at 7:14 am  Comments Off on Thurs. Sept. 12, 2013: Yes, There is Such a Thing as a Stupid Question  
Tags: , , , , ,

Tues. Sept. 3, 2013: Hellish Weekend & Jeremy Renner Saves This Writer’s Bacon in a Dream

Tuesday, September 3, 2013
Waning Moon
Sunny and humid

A Hell of a weekend. A good lesson in not letting the b.s. get you down.

Friday, I had a fairly light workday. I was waiting for what I’d been assured was good news on a big contract that would take up most of my time in the upcoming months. I was clearing things off my desk, preparing to actually HAVE a holiday weekend.

A little after 5 PM, the news came — I did not get that contract. I’ve been jerked around all summer with assurances about how much they love my work while they went and hired someone with no practical experience, no track record of meeting deadlines, but with more degrees.

To say I was devastated and heartbroken is an understatement. First of all, I am the best person for the job. Period. End of story. I have the skills, the creativity, the ability to meet deadlines; they even said my proposal was so perfect they didn’t need to change even a comma. Yet they gave the contract – -which means the MONEY — to someone who has no practical experience, but a string of letters after the name.

That throws the rest of my year out of whack — I’ve got to scramble financially and find work to replace this. It wasn’t something that could be layered onto anything else — it would need my full attention, so I held back on long-term projects that would conflict. That was MY stupidity, and I’m paying for it dearly now.

Hurt, angry, frantic. That was my Friday night.

I didn’t get any sleep. I was too upset. I couldn’t pretend it was okay, because it wasn’t okay, not on any level. And I will NEVER believe them again until the check has cleared – -this is a big name house with a solid reputation. The fact that they fucked me over in this way means my price just went WAAAAY up in anything related to them in the future. I already know the person who beat me out for the gig can’t meet the deadlines or deliver solid work — they’ll find it out. Cold comfort to me, who has to find a way to pay the bills over the next few months, but, ultimately, I have to trust that the universe will find a far more interesting way to sort this out than I ever could.

Also, pretending it doesn’t bother me when it does would just make me sick. And I’m angry at myself for trusting them — although I trusted the person who set me up with them in the first place, because that’s what she’s paid to do. Don’t bullshit me with the talk of future projects. I need something NOW.

I was up before 5 AM on Saturday, and between 6:30 in the morning and about 4 in the afternoon, I wrote another book proposal and sample chapters. This is a book that I want to write, a book I’ve wanted to write for awhile, but was put aside for the moment when this other project came up. So I sat down and powered through it.

I was exhausted by the end of the day, but happy with it. It’s something I know well, something about which I love to write, and very practical.

I could have spent the weekend wallowing in my anger and self-pity, but I decided to take the frantic momentum and turn it around. I wrote something important to ME, something I want to do, and that also has huge market potential, so it has the best of both worlds, for the right partner.

I put it aside on Sunday, and made some notes on an idea I’ve been playing with for awhile. An idea that is FAR out of my wheelhouse, a huge stretch/leap for me in my work. But I’ve found the voice and it feels right.

I did 994 words on it Monday morning. I like where I’m going with it. It’s so far out of what I usually do, and in a POV I rarely use, but it’s working, and I love it.

And I pitched some article ideas — got to jump right back into the water, get back on the horse, all those cliches, right?

I had to stop then, because I had to drive Costume Imp back to Providence, so he could get his bus back to New York. The bus, was, of course, delayed, but I’m glad we got off Cape early, because by the time we returned, there were backups coming over both bridges that looked interminable. Plus, on the way home, we took a detour to Target.

Over the weekend, we gorged ourselves watching TORCHWOOD: MIRACLE DAY on demand. I can never get enough of John Barrowman and Eve Myles anyway, and their chemistry is terrific. But this show is one of the most terrifying, relevant, and best written shows I’ve ever seen. It was wonderful to be able to watch the entire season in just a couple of days.

NEWSROOM wasn’t on this Sunday, so I wound up watching the end of THE BOURNE LEGACY. I’ve seen bits and pieces over the past weeks, but still haven’t sat down and watched the whole thing from start to finish. I should — it’s got Jeremy Renner in it, and he’s one of my favorite actors. I liked his work well before HURT LOCKER and most people even knew who he was.

But anyway, note to self: don’t watch THE BOURNE LEGACY right before bedtime unless you want it to invade your dreams. Actually, it was the actor AS an actor, not as one of his characters who invaded my dreams. I dreamed that I wrote another show for the National Marine Life Center, but the actors didn’t show up for rehearsal, and I couldn’t find them for the performance. Which was sold out. For some reason, Jeremy Renner wandered past as I was running around looking for my actors, stepped in and cold-read all the roles in the entire script, bringing down the house.

Which he is totally talented enough to do, but since we’ve never worked together, I don’t know why he would! Even though it was a dream, I’m terribly grateful to him, and woke up with some solutions. I spent so many years working with actors, I don’t usually dream about them. Too much of a busman’s holiday. But if my subconscious wants to personify itself as Jeremy Renner, who am I to argue? 😉

I’m sure other people have dreams about Jeremy Renner in quite a different context!

Obviously, I’ve got some anxieties about remounting the play.

Upon coming back home yesterday, another idea blazed across the brain (because Ideas come in batches, always). I wrote an outline, and this morning wrote 4707 words (18 pages) of this project.

So, I’ve got two priority projects to juggle, plus the fantasy trilogy, plus getting the play up again, plus finding enough work to pay the bills for the next few months.

Which means I better get back to it, huh? I’ve got two book reviews to finish today, some contracts to resend, work on the play, work on the grant for the next play, invoicing for previous articles, and a final polish on the proposal I wrote on Saturday (that I still love) that I intend to have on my agent’s desk by the end of the day.

Power on.

Devon

Friday, October 30, 2009

IMG_0705

Friday, October 30, 2009
Waxing Moon
Neptune Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Cloudy and cold

Important: If you get an email supposedly from me that has nothing in the subject line or just “Re:” and blank, don’t open it. I received an email this morning supposedly from my publisher with such a header. I opened it, saw a “prayer” — which is not something she’d send me — and then the line “there’s a virus in this message.” I deleted mine immediately — Macs don’t get viruses, so I’m not all that worried. But in case it somehow grabbed my address book and sent out reproductions, be aware.

Really struggled with the writing yesterday. Part of it was because I didn’t feel like it. Part of it was the noise problem. Part of it was that I was simply struggling. Oh, well.

I need to get over my worries about the grant proposals and just print them and get them out. Either I get them or I don’t. There’s no middle ground. But there’s absolutely nothing if I don’t at least try. I feel the playwrighting grant is solid. I’m waffling on the sample choices for the fiction.

Thanks for all the happy birthday wishes for my mom. She had a great day and thanks all of you. And invites you to come visit once we have the house on the Cape.

Was offered a gig for which I’m totally wrong, so I’m putting together a list of recommendations for the potential employer of really great people.

A few days ago, a friend sent me a submission call for a steampunk anthology. It sounded really interesting, the deadline’s not until April, it’s only 25K. Yesterday afternoon, the characters and the basic story came to me, so I jotted them down. I have to clear off “The Misappropriation of Talent”, “Lake Justice”, another 2500 word piece and the Christmas story before I can start it, but at least I can outline over the next couple of weeks. Steampunk is right up my ally, melding history and fantasy and wild west! I get to pull out all my research on steam trains — yippee!

So that has to be slotted in to next year’s roster. Depending on which grants or residencies come through or don’t come through, that roster may need to change. Plus, I have to keep up the deadlined, contracted stuff.

Sorted all the little post-its for 2010 and got them into the actual calendar. I have to confirm one more set of dates, and then I can start looking at where I need to fill in and book some additional bits.

Worked on my presentation for Monday — I’m speaking at the place where I used to attend middle school! And I’ve been invited to a local Election Night party, since we’re having some local elections and some of my friends are running.

Had some questions regarding the grants, was pleased by the quick response, but the answers didn’t really help. So I’m just interpreting as best I can and hoping for the best.

Working on my Christmas lists.

I’ve got a neighbor who lost her job a few months ago and has been really struggling. She had a hard time holding a job before the recession. She loves being a victim. I try not to engage too much, because my philosophy is “if something in your life doesn’t work, change it. Own your life. Stop blaming everyone else.” Anyway, I found a great, legitimate site for jobs in the arts and sent her the link. If I was looking for a full-time gig, there are at least 3 dozen I’d go after on that one site. THREE DOZEN. All I got back was an argument about why the first job on the list was a stretch. Heck, if I only applied for jobs in which I felt comfortable, I’d never grow. If I like the organization, if it interests me, I create a pitch to show them that they can’t live without me. And it often works. Her attitude is just frustrating. But it’s her life, not mine, so all I can do is step back.

Anyway, I feel much better today — it was so nice to wake up and not feel like my head wanted to explode. I’m off to print the grant proposals, do the final polish on the paperwork, and finish both “The Misappropriation of Talent” and “Lake Justice.”

Better get going.

Devon

Published in: on October 30, 2009 at 6:34 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,