I often tell the story of when I wrote my first book. I finished it, printed off the manuscript, put it in a nice envelope, addressed it, put the proper postage on it, then promptly let it lie on my desk for the next two weeks. The editors had already expressed interest in it, but I couldn’t get myself to put it in the mail. Why? I think that I told myself that as long as I didn’t put it in the mail there was no chance of them saying no. Never having submitted it was better than facing rejection.
Suffice it to say that I eventually did put it in the mail, and it was the first book that I got published. The first of many. But even though I have had many books, stories and articles published since that time, I still dread rejection. And I still deal with a fear of failure.
I answer questions on the website quora.com on a regular basis. A couple of days ago I had someone ask me what to do when they have been praised for their writing ability but can’t bring themselves to “take the next step.” I assumed that meant to get published. I encouraged them to accept the fact that failure and rejection is all part of the territory, and the sooner you accept that, the sooner you can move on with your writing career. But that’s a insensitive answer to a sensitive question. Rejection hurts. But it’s reality too.
Maybe that’s what I’m thinking about right now with my current project. Like that first book, I have been laboring long on Tesla’s Ghost, only to stop on the 1 yard line. I have ONE more chapter to write, the climax of the 1890s era, but I don’t seem to be in a hurry to write it. Perhaps subconsciously I am thinking that unless it is perfect the whole project will be a failure, and so I don’t want to risk it. But that’s ridiculous. I already know that I will be going through several drafts before it is seen by anyone.
And so, as hesitant as I feel right now, I suspect that soon, perhaps as early as this afternoon, I will sit down and write out my final chapter. And it will be imperfect.
But it will be done.