Stephen King wrote a book called On Writing that’s half auto-biography and half an advice piece for getting published as a fiction writer. One thing he says that’s always stuck with me is the fact that he got something like 200 rejection letters before someone finally decided to publish “Carrie” and he kept every single one of them. Apparently he found them motivating because they reminded him that at least he was doing everything he could to get his work out there.
I’ve always found this anecdote to be great motivation in the face of rejection (like now, for example, as I contemplate a rejection for one of my own recent submissions). I find it acts as kind of antidote to the nonsense myth that shows like American Idol or Britain’s Got Talent perpetuate, that finding an audience is a matter of having a ton of natural talent and just getting the chance to be discovered.
Sure, raw talent helps, it might even be a requirement, but the most important ingredient to artistic success as far as I’m concerned is hard work and persistence. There is no such thing as an overnight success and I feel like a lot of people waste a lot of time and angst sitting around waiting to be discovered because they’re not willing to go out and pound the pavement a little, as though if you have to work to convince people to listen to you, it mars the purity of your talent. Or something.
When you really dig into the stories of many people’s careers, I imagine you’ll find that success is mostly a lot of thankless effort punctuated by one big break that wouldn’t have happened without the afore-mentioned thankless effort.
Sure, getting published is about being at the right place at the right time, but the more places you are and the more time you spend there, the more likely it is you’ll stumble over that magic opportunity. And the more work you put in, the more of the little baby steps you’ll be able to take that will give you access to those spaces where people are more likely to get noticed. And nobody is going to drag you into those places, you really have to take it on yourself to find them and then wriggle your way in.
In other words, screw American Idol – hard work gets you noticed and real artists make their own luck. Your best friend when it comes to getting published isn’t Simon Cowell, it’s you.