Friday, 17 August 2012

Don't Give Up! by Jane Clarke

I reckon almost all of us who eventually go on to be published have had a moment when we’ve felt like giving up.  I certainly have.

For me it was after a couple of years of rejections when an editor who liked a story and hung onto it for 8 months finally got back to me with a ‘no’.  It was a very nice ‘no’ in a letter that invited me to send more stories - but I’d been so hopeful and my hopes were dashed. I’m sure the editor thought the letter would encourage me, but I was totally demotivated. So near and yet so far! The writing equivalent of missing out on a medal (it didn't have to be Gold) in the only Olympics I was ever likely to make the team. I felt I was disappointing my family (my perception, not theirs), it was becoming embarrassing to tell my friends I’d been turned down yet again, and I was dejected because a lot of 'me' was in the rejected stories, even if they did feature talking animals. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be, maybe I should just pack it in and clean the house.


I tried not writing for a while, but I missed the excuse for not doing housework – and most of all I missed those wonderful moments when you are lost in a world of your creation – moments that are not dependent on publication. So that’s why I carried on writing - and as I wrote, my voice and tone developed. I went on more courses, gritted my teeth and continued to send things out.  Not too long after I’d seriously considered throwing in the towel, I was taken on by an agent and a couple of publishers. My fourteenth picture book is out this month.


I'm writing this from the privileged position of being published, but I clearly remember how I felt then, and it wasn't good. So lots of sympathy if you have reached a point where you’re thinking of giving up. You're not alone as reactions to the 6 August blog post by the Steve Laube Agency have shown http://stevelaube.com/when-the-outlook-is-bleak/

If you enjoy what you do, keep going!   If you’ve been there - please share – and if you pushed through it, let us know why - or how. In the meantime, I’m off to practice for my hula–hoop fitness class. I've considered giving up as I'm by far the worst in the group. But it’s much more fun than cleaning the house... 




26 comments:

  1. Absolutely, Jane. I grew up by the sea and, instead of becoming Michael Phelps, I was terrified of water (something to do with older brothers holding me under, I suspect). At the age of 26 I went to swimming classes. By week 6 all the middle-aged women (everyone but me, for some reason) were swimming like fish. I was still in the shallow end, shivering. And then, suddenly, I got it.
    Don't give up, Jane - four years from now you'll be hula-hooping for team GB in Rio!

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  2. Thanks for making me laugh, Malachy!

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  3. Hi Jane. Thank you so much for posting this. Its good to know that I am not alone and I love hearing other people's success stories. All I can do is keep trying and the more I write the better I will get (hopefully). P.S where did you get the mug? :-)

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    1. Hi Jean,
      Hang on in there with the writing, and good luck!
      The mug's great, isn't it? It's from my pre-publication era and I've used it so much it's very faded.
      It was a present from my late husband who was very pleased with himself for finding such a perfect gift, so I've no idea where he got it, I'm afraid.

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    2. What does the mug say, Jane? It's too faded for me to read.

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    3. It says (tongue-in-cheek) 'A clean house is the sign of a dull woman'

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  4. Every time I think, right, that's it, I'm done trying with this publishing thing, I read another success story that tugs at me to get back to it... It's that or another idea pops in and refuses to be quiet! My last two rejections were positive ones, one writing to tell me that she took it to the editor (they thought it had a lot opf potential but their list was full for next two years), and another saying that they would like me to continue to submit further material... So near yet so far?!
    Thank you for posting this, it will keep me going for a little longer ;0)

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    1. I'm very glad if this has helped to strengthen your resolve, Schez. It sounds as if you've got the talent, so now it's down to your tenacity to keep going.

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  5. Great hula hooping! Glad you persevered because otherwise we wouldn't have books like Gilbert the Great.
    Must admit, I think it's increasingly frustrating and demoralising that nowadays there are so many silences. Hearing nothing is much worse than a 'no thank you'. It's the same with job applications and I feel sorry for my teens. I understand why publishers and employers do it, but that doesn't stop me loathing black holes. Gawd, this is getting depressing - perhaps I need to find a hula hoop!

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    1. Thanks Paeony. Yes, those long silences are horrible. Get hula-hoping, it'll cheer you up.

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  6. Yup. You have to stick with it ... well done. And congratulations on Knight School. (I wrote lots of stories about knights for my son when he was little, but never did anything with them.) He'd have loved the look of this one when he was five!

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  7. you look pretty good, Jane! It's the glacial time-scales that used to get to me but I've reduced the nail-gnashing with just doing other stuff. Just keep swimming - what other choice does a writer have?

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    1. Hi Addy! Yes keeping busy definitely helps reduce the nail-gnashing.

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  8. I've been there Jane...but the house wasn't tidier when I stopped illustrating and writing. If anything, the opposite. And something missing. I've had about the same number of books out as you have and yes, every book feels like starting over again. But I totally agree with you - if you enjoy what you're doing, keep going. And here's to hula hooping too!

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    1. You're right Bridget, it does feel like starting over every time in terms of the possibility of rejection, but once you are published you feel justified in taking to time to keep on trying. Pre-publication that was something I struggled with.

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  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Hi Bridget, thanks for posting. Your comment got posted double, so the double was removed by blog admin.

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  10. Great post, Jane - it's always helpful to us 'on the other side' to know that published authors had their down days too.

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  11. Thanks for the uplifting post for us pre-pubbies! I don't have such a lovely mug, but I did consider a sign for my door - 'beware, creative spirit within', though my mother would see right through that. I'll have to hand her a hula-hoop next visit!

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  12. I've been on both sides - no, three sides of this fence. I was a wanabee, and it took me almost eight years to get published, but they were very productive years creatively, so the waiting didn't bug me that much.

    I was then regularly published by major publishers for over twelve years, culminating in the sort of glittery book launch you might have dreamed about, but within the next year or so, most of my books went out of print, including the one that was so expensively launched (at present they're being republished as ebooks, and we're slowly working our way through the list).

    So suddenly, I was starting all over again after years of being an established and respected author, and believe me, that was HARD - much, much harder, I think, than the original hoping and waiting. Yes I'm currently well-published, but the temptation to give up, especially in the present climate, has been overwhelming. Believe me, that familiar and soul-destroying publisher's silence is more of a killer when you've had so much of the opposite.


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    1. Thank you for sharing the view from all three sides of the fence, Enid! There is a perception when you begin that being published will somehow confer a magical happy-ever-after job status - but for most of us, that turns out not to be the case at all. Your success shows us how important it is not to give up at any stage of the game. Would you consider contributing a guest blog on Starting Over?

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    2. Jane - what's Starting Over? Clearly not p/b Den. Do email me if you'd like to. E XX

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    3. Enid - I suspect Jane was inviting you to contribute a guest blog on Picture Book Den on the subject of 'Starting Over'.

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  13. Thanks, Jane. I feel heartened! And I'm currently trying Zumba (as opposed to hula hooping) and I'm by far the worst in the group. It should get easier but at the moment, it makes me feel completely inadequate. Probably not a bad thing to feel -as long as it's not too often. I'm going to try and stick with it. I don't care at all about being the worst in the group -I just want to feel like I'm beginning to improve and that one day I'll be able to do it as well as I can... Thanks. This has lifted my Zumba -and writing- spirits! Clare.

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  14. Thanks for your post. Every writer needs to be reminded once in a while. My favorite way to remind myself about the publishing biz is to say to myself "It's all subjective." and then I feel better. I have been writing seriously for 3 years, actively participate in SCBWI and a local writing group as well, and even have my online critique group support. I just sent in my 44th submission to yet another agent, but I'm still hopeful. : )

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  15. Keep on going, Lucy - and good luck to you and everyone who has read and/or commented on this post.

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