When I was little, I read a book called Caddie Woodlawn and in it, one of the characters said “If at first you do not fricassee, fry, fry a hen.” Of course, he actually meant to say, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” but he misunderstood and mangled the words.
For some reason, that stayed with me, and for years I would intentionally say “fry, fry a hen,” when I really meant the other.
That saying could be the mantra for my life. As early as twelve I started submitting my writing for publication and collecting rejection slips. I kept them all, most of them in a small wooden box. I’ve received over three hundred rejections. Many of them were for poetry, a few for short stories. I also submitted several of my novels and have rejections from both agents and editors. Now that I’m indie published, I’m not getting rejections from editors but I do get the occasional bad review.
Rejection hurts. Even after all this practice, it still cuts just as deep. I wonder why they didn’t like my story, I wonder if I could have caught their eye if I’d done something different. I wonder whether it’s my prose or my concept, my vampires or that I just caught the reader on a bad day.
But I never think about giving up. Sometimes people ask me if I’ve thought about giving up, and it surprises me every time. Don’t they understand that if I give up, I won’t succeed?
“Try, try again” could be my mantra, but it isn’t. Neither is “Keep your nose to the grindstone.” The sentence that kept me going for years is one a fellow author once said to me–“Every published author is an unpublished author who didn’t give up.” Think about it. Everyone starts out unpublished. No one is born already published. And if you’re unpublished and you give up, then you will always be unpublished. But if you’ve made it to the point of being published, that proves you didn’t give up.
It does not follow that every unpublished author who doesn’t give up will eventually be published. There’s no guarantee at all. But there is satisfaction. How many people can say that they worked their whole lives to achieve their goals in spite of repeated rejection? Not too many, because so many people give up. A lot of people don’t even start in the first place. They say,
“It’s too hard.”
“There’s too much competition.”
“I’m not good enough.”
They let thoughts like these stop them.
I’ve had thoughts like those, but I put them aside. It’s too hard, so I cut the job into small pieces that aren’t as difficult. There’s too much competition, but I know that a lot of that competition will winnow itself out by giving up. I knew I wasn’t good enough, so I got a Master’s degree in writing for the sole purpose of improving my skills.
Not giving up means finding a way no matter what. Some things are too important not to, even when you have to fight yourself to do it. It’s one thing to deal with the conscious thoughts like the ones I just mentioned and quite another to deal with the thoughts that are so deep you don’t even realize you’re having them. They lurk in your subconscious and block you. We call it writer’s block, but it could also be called self-sabotage.
You consciously want to do something but can never find time in your schedule. Or you make up excuses–I’m going to buy a new computer soon; I’ll wait and start writing after I get it so I won’t have to transfer the files.
No excuses. If you really want it, you’ll find the time. You’ll start now. You won’t stop working at it until you succeed.
I know this first-hand. I’ve suffered from writer’s block. I’ve dealt with fear of failure as well as fear of success. I can make excuses like nobody’s business and fill up my schedule so there’s not a spare minute.
I also realized I was doing all these things and bit by bit I stopped. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast but I’m no longer blocked. I make time to write. And I won’t stop.
Now, I’m talking about writing, as I often do, but everything I’m saying can be applied to other dreams as well. Every successful entrepreneur is a brand-new entrepreneur who didn’t give up. Every big-name actor is an unknown who didn’t give up. Every person who reaches the peak of Mount Everest is a regular person like you or me who didn’t give up. It doesn’t have to be grandiose, either. Every senior-level data analyst is a junior-level data analyst who didn’t give up.
Don’t give up on your dream. Make the time for it. Work through your obstacles. You’ll have good times and bad, times when you work on your dream non-stop and times when life rears up and you can’t even touch it for a few months. Through it all, hang on. Don’t give up.
I didn’t give up, and a little over three years ago I started an indie publishing company. I now have over forty short stories, novellas and novels published, I’ve hit the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists, and I’m very, very close to being able to quit my day job for good. The dream never ends–it just changes. Right now I’m working on reaching the point where I can write full-time, permanently. When I reach that goal, I’ll find another. And no matter what, I won’t give up. I’m just going to fry, fry a hen.
Consideration: What one accomplishment in your life do you hold dear because you fried your hen?