Thursday, June 9, 2011

On Success and Failure.

A few years ago I stopped celebrating successes in my career. The idea was simple. I no longer wanted to be batted around by failure. I didn't want to have to take it so personally. But that meant, it seemed to me, that I couldn't take success too personally either.

The publishing industry is deeply subjective. I learned this early -- as an editor of a small literary magazine called THE GREENSBORO REVIEW. I'd love a story that others railed against. They'd love stories that pained me. We talked each other into and out stories, a give and take.

Over the years, rejection and I have gotten to know each other extremely well. I invite it in, offer it a beer. We sit at the kitchen table. Used to be, we'd talk and talk and talk -- and fight. We had so much to say to each other. But now, after all that talk, we've run out.

And success? Well, even that first time, when the auction closed on my first novel -- and it had gone well and I was sure that my life was going to change (it didn't, not in the ways that mattered: see previous post) -- I didn't feel success as much as relief.

More recently, I reversed my decision to neither brood about failure nor celebrate successes. I decided instead to take the celebrations where I could -- a little joy, a little nod to recognize it -- and rejection, well, I can't help it. I nod to it too. First off, it doesn't always sit there in silence. It still has lessons to pass on. And, moreover, after all these years, it'd be rude to ignore it. We go back so far -- and steadfast friends are hard to come by.