Aug 10, 2012

Failed First - Kathryn Stockett

Ever heard of The Help? Even if you haven't read it or seen the movie, chances are you still have heard of it.  And many of you may be aware of the story behind it, but when I'm feeling frustrated over progress or myself, I really like to revisit the interview with Kathryn Stockett.

First, it took her a year and a half to write The Help (stop beating yourself up Tasha!).  She shared her enthusiasm when she received her first rejection, took the advice given and went back to work.  Over the next few months, she queried again and the rejection number jumped to 15.  Obviously this is hard to manage for everyone and the spouse takes you out to dinner after 10 rejections rule probably helps a bit, but it starts to hurt. 

While her dedication and perseverence up to this point are remarkable, it's the next part of her story that demonstrates her tenacity, dedication, and I would even say trust in herself.

A year and a half later, I opened my 40th rejection: “There is no market for this kind of tiring writing.” That one finally made me cry. “You have so much resolve, Kathryn,” a friend said to me. “How do you keep yourself from feeling like this has been just a huge waste of your time?”

That was a hard weekend. I spent it in pajamas, slothing around that racetrack of self-pity—you know the one, from sofa to chair to bed to refrigerator, starting over again on the sofa. But I couldn’t let go of The Help. Call it tenacity, call it resolve or call it what my husband calls it: stubbornness.
 Have you been on the racetrack of self pity?  Maybe over a scene you don't know how to write, a character who needs to be tweaked but you don't know how, all of your friends get agents and you are still trying to finish the good for nothin' low down dirty rotten freakin' manuscript to even have the chance to share a rejection story?  This the key to Kathryn's whole story, her advice for every single one of us.

The point is, I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected and put your manuscript—or painting, song, voice, dance moves, [insert passion here]—in the coffin that is your bedside drawer and close it for good. I guarantee you that it won’t take you anywhere. Or you could do what this writer did: Give in to your obsession instead.

How are you going to give into your obsession this weekend?

15 comments :

Miranda Hardy said...

That's an inspiring story. It does make us feel better to see dedication and perseverance.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's right - can't succeed if we quit! That guarantees failure.
I'll be working on revisions for my third book this weekend.

S.P. Bowers said...

I never get tired of reading that interview. I'm not obsessing this weekend as it's going to be full of ill children and housework but next week I'll hop back on the wagon.

Bish Denham said...

Isaac Asimov said something similar:

You must keep sending work out: you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its heart off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.

Tonja said...

I loved The Help. It's absolutely one of the best books I've ever read. Thanks for the inspiration. I thought it was dinner after every 5 rejections....

Elaine said...

Thanks for posting this, Tasha. I'd heard something about Stockett but I'd never actually read the article. Just what I needed!

Emily R. King said...

Thanks for sharing, Tasha. Great advice here. I'm trying to give in to my obsession. I hope it pays off!

D.G. Hudson said...

What Bish and Asimov said.

Jenilyn Collings said...

Wait, I get dinner after 10 rejections? I've been doing this all wrong then. :)

Lisa Regan said...

I seriously love that woman. I have read so many amazing interviews with her. The book is one of the best I've ever read. It gives me goosebumps every time I think about how successful she became after so much rejection! She is a wonderful example for struggling writers. In fact when I was on subs and really down and out, one of her interviews brought me back up!

Ink in the Book said...

Persevere and never give up on your dream.
Easy said. Hard to do. Right?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I'm feeling pretty up this weekend but I think most writers at some point in their career feel like giving up. Hope this story inspires some people not to.

Diana said...

I've never read her interview, but just from the few snippets I read in your post, I'm already inspired!

Livia said...

The Help is one of my favorite books and movies. I love how it's so inspiring and uplifting. It touches on an touchy subject however it's also eye-opening. Since I loved The Help, I can't wait to reading Stockett's second book!

Kelley Lynn said...

I love this story. And its so true. The only way to surely fail is to give up.