The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

N is for "Never Give Up"

I heard a story once--not certain whether it's
true or apocryphal. It's said that Winston
Churchill was asked to give the commencement
address at a British school. He mounted the
stage, looked out at the audience of fresh
young faces and said: "Never. Never. Never.
Never. Never. Never. Never give up."

And sat down.

It's never, ever, ever been said better. In life,
you should choose an occupation, a career,
a livelihood that you feel that strongly about.
Me? I'd rather fail as a writer than succeed
at anything else. I've typed my fingers bloody,
cried myself to sleep, wrestled with my demons,
read until my eyes were bleary, sought out
any and all advice or help I could find, wherever
I could find it.

All because what I wanted, more than anything
in the world, was to be a writer. Most people
can't handle rejection, not realizing that
rejection, in any arena from getting published
seduction to sales (and aren't they all really
just the same thing?), is just a numbers game.
You have to get rejected twenty times for
every "yes" you get. Or thirty. Or fifty.

The person who wins is the one who gets
up to the plate one more time after his
heart has been broken. Who gets back
on the horse after all his friends are wincing
and limping back to the bunkhouse. Who
asks yet another girl to dance after a
dozen have said "no."

It's a numbers game. When you start
collecting rejection slips, keep a scrap-book.
Paper your walls with the little suckers.
Consider every "no" a victory--you are one
of the few with the guts to keep going after
it gets tough.

And make no mistake, it's going to be tough.
Even writers who seem to have utterly
charmed careers have their personal struggles,
I promise you. They just don't wear their
hearts on their sleeves. You see the finished
product, not the hell they went through to produce it.

You must believe that your efforts will be
rewarded, if your goals are clear, you work
to the edge of your ability, tell the truth,
continually improve your circle of allies,
and have faith.

Go back over everything I've taught you
about the Hero's Journey. It is the combined
wisdom of all the world's elders, condensed
to comprehensible form. While nothing and
no one can promise you success, I can
absolutely guarantee you failure:

Just roll over and give up. That'll do it.

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