Thursday, January 28, 2010

Never give in...

"Never Give In"

"This is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy." Winston Churchill

In the last few days tennis fans have been treated to an extraordinary display of "never give up, never give in." I won't bore the non-tennis fans with the details but in four important matches the player who dropped the first set came back to win. In some cases they were also down in the second set. For the women that would have meant game over and for the men it would have represented an almost insurmountable hole to climb out of.

Beyond the obvious athletics, it's the idea of never giving up that's struck me while watching the Aussie Open. We don't necessarily do it on a global stage like Li Na, Serena Williams or Roger Federer but every day we write our stories and books and sometimes we are rewarded..and other times we can get an unceremonious smackdown. It can be a rejection letter, a negative review, the non-invitation to the cool event. But we don't give up.

Okay we we're not fighting a war..and we're not even battling for a trophy and a huge check (well, maybe one day..)but we are all tested in this business.
So tell me, have you ever thought of giving up? And if you did, what did you do to get yourself out of it?


  1. I've been so impressed with those champions who believe in themselves so completely that they keep on fighting even when all looks hopeless. When I was young I was quite a good tennis player but was defeated by my own outlook. If I was down a set a voice would whisper "you can never win now." Later in life I'd tell myself, "one gamen at a time. Every game I have a fifty-fifty shot of winning." And I won more often. I certainly sent out my share of manuscripts when I was starting out and received my share of rejection letters back.

  2. I spent five years writing FULL TIME after I retired from the Air Force before I got my first sale last March. If we could turn my rejection letters into cash, we'd have enough to pay down the natl debt. Whenever I got discouraged I'd tell myself that the writing was its own reward (it was and still is). However, last year I landed two three-book contracts and sold a stand-alone, so I'm the poster child for perseverance. :-)

  3. Wow, Laura, that is a very impressive story! The part you aren't saying is that you probably became a much better writer over those five years. And so your chances for selling a book increased.

    This business calls for persistence at every level: finding an agent, selling a book, selling lots of those books, selling the next book...especially in these times, it's easy to get discouraged. Rhys has put her finger on what a psychologist would offer for advice: Make some big goals, but then set them aside and work on manageable steps. You'll get crippled if you sit at your desk thinking about how you must win the Edgar when you're just trying to hammer out a rough draft!

    PS I started writing my golf series because of my pathetic mental toughness on the golf course. Amazing things would go through my head--I must beat this woman, I must outdrive the club champion, everyone is watching me...etc, etc. I started thinking about how professional athletes manage to keep their cool, and lo, Cassie Burdette, pro golfer and amateur sleuth, was born!

  4. Hey Rhys,
    I still play tennis and I go with one POINT at a time. The big picture always seems more difficult than the small one.

    Serena looked so beat up last night, but she won!!

  5. Also, congrats Laura on your success!!

  6. Laura, Winston would be proud of you!

    I like Jan's one point at a time. One page at a time, one chapter at a time.

    Roberta also makes a good point about our writing getting better over time. One of the unfortunate equations in this business is that frequently a retailer will buy to your last book's sales without considering that 1) people can only buy what's in the store and 2) hey..this book is even better!

  7. I sold one of the first serious pieces I ever wrote to NPR...thank goodness, because it fueled me for 5 years of rejection. It's amazing how ONE bonafide publisher/editor/magazine/whatever saying YES! and writing you a check for your work is THE most powerful incentive and validation.

  8. Roberta,

    You're absolutely right about my writing improving. Not only did my writing get better, but I also became a better listener and observer overall (which is always helpful in inter-personal relations). Everything happens at the right time, I guess . . .

  9. Oh, giving up. Ah, I decide to give up ALL the the time. Briefly.

    Then I think--some wonderful thing is around the next corner...let's just see what that's going to be.

    And there it always is. Eventually.