When Failure is Not an Option.

To help celebrate the release of her Totally Twins series, Aleesah Darlison is embarking on a blog tour.  Today, I’m honoured to have her as a guest blogger to talk about rejection and perseverance.  Thank you Aleesah!

One of my all-time favourite quotes is by American actress, Mary Pickford (1893-1979). I keep her words of wisdom taped beside my computer where I work every day and I’ve often used them to motivate me through the tough writing times I’ve faced.

‘If you have made mistakes… there is always another chance for you… you may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.’

I get a lump in my throat every time I read that quote. It’s so brilliant, so inspiring, so true. And every time I read it, it makes me want to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep going.

I’ve been writing for children for about four and a half years now. During that time, I’ve received over 400 rejections. It’s true, I kid you not. Following the advice of Di Bates, well-known Australian  children’s author and mentor to many aspiring writers over the years, I keep a record of all my submissions to publishers, competitions and magazines in a detailed spreadsheet.

To me, 400 rejections equals 400 failures.

How do I deal with that?

Well, I try not to focus on the failures. They’re all learning experiences. They’re all the attempts I’ve tried to improve my work. And the more failures you have, the more triumphs you are likely to achieve. It’s a numbers game. Right?

What I focus on instead, are the triumphs. The acceptances. Sure, they were non-existent at first and even now I’m a (newly!) published author they seem only to ever trickle in and I still get loads of rejections. But I don’t let them get me down. Not for too long, anyway. There’s always an element, no matter how brief, of grieving the loss of another publication-hope. There’s always that hint of ‘what’s wrong with my story?’ or ‘what’s wrong with me as an author?’.

But you can’t give in to those feelings. They will only hold you back.

Besides, writing is such a subjective field. What one publisher hates, another will love. If one publisher rejects your manuscript, well, it’s an opportunity to send it to someone else.

Believe this, it’s true.

Of course, there were times when I doubted I’d ever make it. There were times, as I watched friends and members of my writers’ group get published and I didn’t, that I thought I’d always be lost in the world of nearly-published, that I’d be forced to spend my life living on the periphery and waiting in vain hope. But I kept going. I had to. All I wanted to do was write. Whether someone published my work or not, my stories still flowed. What else could I do, but keep trying?

Are there sacrifices? Definitely. Like sunny days spent inside my tiny office tapping away at the computer instead of sunbaking by the pool. Like long, wintery nights spent inside my tiny office tapping away at the computer instead of being tucked up in bed. Like hours missed watching my children grow and laugh and frolic. That’s probably the one that hurts the most because I know how quickly their lives can rush by into adulthood. Still, I try to find a balance and still I know I crave this life of a writer so much that I must make it happen. The sacrifices, for me, if balanced well, are worth it.

My first book, Puggle’s Problem, was released in July 2010. It’s a picture book about a baby echidna, a puggle, who can’t get his spines. My second book, Totally Twins: Musical Mayhem, was released in September. It’s about identical twins, Persephone and Portia Pinchgut and is the first book in the Totally Twins series. Both books are selling well.

Now I’ve achieved my dream of becoming a published author, I probably spend less time writing and more time promoting my books. I’m ‘on the circuit’ as an author friend said to me, conducting school visits, author talks, appearing at festivals, running workshops, organising book launches and tours, and driving my own publicity. True, the marketing side of this ‘business’ steals writing time from me, but it’s become a crucial part in the modern author’s artillery to help establish your name and stand out from the crowd.

And I can’t say I don’t love it. Being able to talk to children and adults about my work, having them as enthusiastic and passionate about the stories I write and the themes I address in my books, is amazing and delightful and totally surprising. It’s kind of addictive in a way, this performance side to being an author and again, I must find a balance. I must find some way to fit it all into my life.

I don’t want to think about the wasted years not spent driving myself towards my writing goal. I’m no teen-author, that’s for sure, I’m not even a twenty-something author. But I still have a few good years in me and a few good stories, I hope. So, I won’t look back at the failures or the lost years, I’ll only look forward to the next submission I make and to living in hope that it will be a ‘yes’ this time.

And next time you receive a rejection don’t dwell on it too long, for your time is precious. Just remember my 400 failures and remember Mary Pickford’s words:

‘…this thing we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.’

Aleesah writes picture books and novels for children in the fantasy and contemporary fiction genres. She also reviews books for The Sun Herald. Aleesah’s stories have appeared in the black dog books Short & Scary anthology, The School Magazine and Little Ears. She has won numerous awards for her writing. In 2009, she was awarded an ASA mentorship and was runner-up in the CBCA (NSW) Frustrated Writers Program.

To find out more about Aleesah, visit her website at: www.aleesahdarlison.com.

Next stop on Aleesah’s blog tour is Susan Stephenson’s, The Book Chook blogspot at: www.thebookchook.blogspot.com/ where Aleesah will talk about ‘What’s the Go with Pokemon?’

Images courtesy of Aleesah Darlison

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