The Era of Isolated Failure

I want to talk a little bit about rejection, perseverance, and the impossible weight of discipline. But first, I’m going to talk about sports.

I’m terrible at team sports. I don’t know what it is about my particular mental twist, but that thing that happens when you’re trying to do something, and everyone else gathers around and encourages you to do that thing… doesn’t work for me. It actually makes me want to quit. There’s some kind of scar on my emotional state, a twitch in my mental bits, that recoils from encouragement. I am literally only capable of succeeding in isolation, and only as a result of self-directed determination. I am a creature of isolated perseverance.

This is why I’m a writer. There is nothing more solitary, nothing more personal and isolated, than writing a book. You will spend day after day, year after year, bleeding onto a page, reeling narrative and false humans out into the darkness, with no one to tell you if what you’re doing is right. And when you do get feedback, it’s entirely subjective and quite possibly wrong. I have a dozen readers for my works-in-progress, and they come back with different perspectives on everything I give them. You have to learn to weigh their opinions. You have to cull. You have to evaluate.

But most of all, you have to learn to trust yourself. You’re your first reader. At the end of the book, you’re really your only reader. Because you have to write the book you want to read, as well as the book you want to write. Writers-in-forum, a species of writer that’s really nothing more than a negotiated opinion, spend a lot of time talking about what sort of book you should write, what sort of book will sell or not sell, what sort of book the genre needs or what sort of character the readers need. But the writers-in-forum don’t know shit about your book. They don’t know shit about you. All they know is the public forum. And writing is a solitary task.I’m asking you to write the book you need to write. And expect it to get rejected, because it’s probably a terrible book. And you’re probably a terrible writer. But if you buckle down, ignore the endless waves of negative help, the writers-in-forum and their negotiated opinions, and write the book you need to write? The book you want to write? You might stop being terrible.But probably not. So get used to isolation. And get used to determination. Because the only difference between you and the writers you admire is how much they’re willing to fail in hermitage, and how strong they are in the dark, alone, without praise and without attention. We all go through the era of isolated failure. People only notice you once you start to succeed. And after that?It’s all light. But we’re born to darkness.

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