On How Getting a Novel Published Isn’t Just About Persistence

The post first appeared on www.aerogrammestudio.com.

I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when I was seventeen and was unwell for a number of years. I had an operation when I was twenty-four, which finally awarded me some control over the illness.

With my new found health, I felt like I wanted to ‘start my life’ and decided to start sending my writing off for publication. I had been writing since I was eight years old and had an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from Melbourne University. But, at this point I’d had no publications.

Things moved fairly quickly for me and within a year, I had three short stories published and was speaking to a publisher about my novel. Although, that specific book wasn’t accepted, the attention from the publisher gave me the confidence to write another one, The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew, which was accepted by Sleepers Publishing and was released on July 1st.

I’m not mentioning this to show off – seriously. I’m just hoping to show that, at least the way I see it, I had a pretty easy run in terms publication. I didn’t have to push through challenges and keep going despite all odds. I didn’t play out some filmic success story. I just did what I loved and the publishers have done the rest.

I honestly don’t think I have the resilience to handle years of rejection. The only thing that would have gotten me through being constantly rejected would have been a ‘dream’, in that when I get published I wouldn’t have to worry about making friends, or gaining respect, or earning money.

Often when I hear others speak about what the dream of being a writer is – it’s that they get to stay at home, tap away at whatever they’re writing whenever they feel like it, and do whatever they want for the rest of the day.

This isn’t what it’s like to be a writer, it’s what it’s like to not have to work. When I was a younger, I did see being a writer in this way – as an escape from a life of office work. I guess I thought I’d be rich from my writing and receive a lot of validation, so, even if I didn’t ‘do’ anything all day, I could still feel productive and valued.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that a large part of the reason I pursued writing was to feel like I’d ‘done’ something with my life. I certainly did and still do feel the pressure to achieve.

Social pressures are very real. So much of our sense of self is built through socializing, to think of ourselves as complete, unattached individuals is a little far fetched.

Personally, I don’t think I would have been okay without addressing these pressures – without pursuing what I love, without trying, without ‘doing something’ with my life.

I’ve met people who don’t seemed fussed about what they do. And I’ve met some who feel uncomfortable being single, while for me, I have no problem with it.

There is never a blanket way we need to live, but I think it’s important we address our personal anxieties and wants in life, even if we can acknowledge that these pressures and wants are social constructions.

Being a writer was something I really wanted and I felt it was crucial I accept that, rather than pretending it’s not something I cared about and growing up to regret never making an effort to build this career.

But, there’s a nasty flip side to this train of thought. In following ‘dreams’, we can become demoralized if we don’t ‘achieve’ them. It also belittles ‘regular’ jobs. To strive for a dream as a writer and then work in an office is considered a failure.

I work in an office and have for a while and will for probably all my life – despite the fact that I’ve published a novel. And I see no shame in it. Yet, every time I got to a literary event, it’s like an unspoken shame to admit that you don’t make any money off your writing. There’s a feeling of embarrassment about it – at least the way I sense it. But, you know, maybe I’m projecting and I’m not as comfortable with my office job as I tell myself.

Anyway, back to it – honestly, if I’d continuously had my stories knocked back, I wouldn’t have kept on trying. I would have stopped sending work for publication, written for myself and become a teacher – something I still think of doing, alongside being a writer.

Sometimes, ‘giving up’ isn’t failing, it’s getting on with our lives and realizing we don’t need the affirmation of the world to feel worthy, we might just need the love of a few. I sometimes think that never giving up is a sign of confidence, while, at least the way I’ve experienced it, whenever I’ve locked myself into a goal with blind determination it’s because I’ve been so desperate to feel accepted.

As I’ve mention previously on this blog that a lot of the emotional needs I was seeking through writing, such as affirmation, acceptance and love, I was far better off seeking from the people close to me.

It seems on the surface that to quash someone’s dream and tell them to be practical, is mean. It’s as if I’m standing on some elevated platform where I’ve ‘made it’, and I’m gloating while telling others not to try. I understand why others would go for it. It really is fun and rewarding being a writer. It isn’t necessarily overrated and, sure, it’s worth a crack. And, yes, some may get published and make a lot of money and earn a lot of respect.

But, to trap ourselves in an endless loop of rejection seems unfair. I know to stop trying when we don’t succeed with something can seem like ‘conformist’ thinking, while pursuing our ‘dream’ against all odds is some sort of liberation and true freedom, a show of strength and confidence in being who we are. But this ‘dream’ business is just a marketing technique, it’s an ideology like any other.

Writing is such a beautiful and inspiring activity. I only feel truly awake when I’m in the midst of a story. Going about my everyday business with constant company of beloved characters, is – not to be too romantic – euphoric. I love the craft of writing – the structure of a story, syntax, character development, metaphor, pacing – it’s all so enveloping and rewarding.

But, the ‘dream’ promise that comes with getting a story published is a whole other thing from the craft. It isn’t real.

Personally, I think we should keep trying to get published for as long as we are enjoying it, remind ourselves that it’s fun and not something that we have to do, take long breaks from it, pursue other interests, pursue relationships and face up to and accept many of the anxieties we may be trying to suppress by focusing blindly on ‘succeeding’, such as, the fact that most of us will need to have a job for the majority of our lives.

I think if I’d kept on trying to get published while being constantly knocked back, I would have become bitter, jaded, reclusive and resentful. And saddest of all, I probably would have learned to hate writing. And, knowing myself, it’s just something I wouldn’t have put myself through.

{Thanks for reading -I just wanted to mention that I was lucky enough to be a guest on ABC Radio National’s program Books and Arts daily last week where I discussed my book and blog. It was an out of studio interview where we went around Caulfield to places I mention in my novel and that have sentimental value to me. Naturally, we started at Glick’s. If you want to listen, here’s the podcast . http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/booksandartsdaily/eli-glasman/5562824

61 thoughts on “On How Getting a Novel Published Isn’t Just About Persistence

  1. wow – very interesting informative Post. I almost remembered when I was student at the Hebrew University in Israel and we will have the pleasure to talk more about those topics. Congrats!!

  2. Congratulations! Its very inspiring to read of another author’s success! Enjoy it, and I hope you have more success with more books in the future!

  3. Eli, I am hoping Ballarat Books have my copy in. I can’t comment on this last post – if I did I’d write pages. It is all so real and perceptive. Well done, I am really looking forward to reading the book. Maybe one day you’ll write a manual for non-jewish old men.

  4. Congratulations on being published. I understand how you feel about still keeping a day job and writing because it makes you happy and not because you expect to get rich…

  5. I think people who intend on having a “career” of writing are mostly unrealistic. There aren’t many JK Rowlings or Stephen Kings… most writers don’t make enough to live off (at least to a reasonable standard). Congrats again on the publication…

  6. Congratulations on the release of your book. It was comforting to read this honest post. Every writer’s journey is so different. I think I’ll persist for some time longer before giving up. Brief spells of success keep me going, so I hope to continue writing as long as I enjoy it.

  7. Reading about your incredible journey to publishing your book was inspiring, it’s awesome that you got your book released, very well done! I have also nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award for being a great guy :)

  8. My view is that if your goal is $$$ per hour worked, instead of writing just get a job at McDonald’s or the local equivalent – it’s likely to pay more. Writing should fulfill a desire to perform a craft with dedication and excellence, and if others like the result, that’s a plus. Don’t bend to please the multitudes. I’ve had >100 serial publications and two novels and two collections in ‘print’- not self-published. But still my writing income isn’t enough to keep me in coffee beans. I’ll take that tradeoff. [terencekuch /dot/ net].

  9. Wise and honest words sir. I’m reminded of the quote from “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn, “There is no one right way to live.” I’m surprised that you didn’t mention self-publishing. After years of rejection, that’s the route I chose. Now I have an eBook in the Top 20 on Barnes and Noble. And while I’m not gettin’ rich, it sure is nice to have real, live, actual people read what I’ve slaved over. My goal as a writer is to write at least one book that is somebody’s favorite book. For me, writing success isn’t about money or validation; it’s about sharing an experience with readers.

  10. Hi Eli,

    As mentioned, I have a lot of respect for anyone who does ‘make it’ as a writer, but also, as a fellow writer, for someone who simply loves to write and makes that the priority over everything else.

    In my experience, I’ve found that the times I’ve been happiest writing are the times I’m writing ‘just for myself’ and not to gain recognition or admiration, like you speak of. (Trust me, I’ve been there, done that, too.)

    I think all writers have that internal urge and intense craving to get words out onto paper. Being a published writer is amazing, no one is going to deny that, but like you so humbly put it, lots does come down to luck.

    I think the most all us writers can truly hope for is to continue to feel that drive and energy to put words to feelings and emotions we’ve been able to experience but could never really make sense of, at least not verbally.

    I think as long as we are writing because we truly love the experience of writing, then whether or not we become ‘published’ writers is really not that relevant. What is relevant is that we are honing our skills and doing what we truly love and what we ultimately feel most fulfilled in.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. Congrats once again!!

    Chanee @ 47dresses.com

  11. Appreciate you dropping the links at the beginning.

    This was a very inspiring story, the overall message is how I see the world. Being myself a very but very novice writer this post was inspiring. I like the sentence where you said, I´m paraphrasing here but something to the effect that it´s not a linear thing where we all have to fit the mold. If I understood you correctly. Like the sentence of feeling pressure by your peers for being single(had to chuckle at that one since it happens to me, and I´m quite happy being single still can´t figure out the obsession by some people to marry me). You are lucky and hard work and talent of course to getting published, but as you said you work in an office and chances of living only of writing are very slim for most of us. Very few people can say that they earn a good living out of writing. How many hundreds of millions of writers there are and how many actually only pay they´re bills and by just writing. When people tell me to follow my dream(writing), I think to myself, yes I´ll follow it but I´ll follow the dream realistically. So I don´t hit myself too many times against the wall.

    Great post, and also your own personal story. Overall, just inspiring to read.

  12. Had to autocorrect myslef I wanted to say “That life is not linear for everybody, and that we do not have to fit a certain mold” referring in part to what you said about going to writing groups and feeling emabarrased about not living out of writing.

  13. This must be a very exciting time in your life. I wish you all the best success with the book.
    I went to amazon to procure a kindle copy (mobi) of your book and it states that Kindle titles are available to US customers. There isn’t an option for me to buy it. Do you know of other sites that offer a mobi format for non US residents?
    Cheers bud..

  14. Hi Eli! Exciting indeed to see the book in stores. I’ll go on a mission to track it down here in Fremantle. Buying an e version just wouldn’t be the same :) and, great to see you were on Books & Arts Daily – I’ll have a listen.

  15. Pingback: Place, time and writing | equineocean

  16. Just listened to the audio podcast of your book walkabout. Amazing how similar your writing “voice” and your real voice—just as imagined! Thanks for linking; I thoroughly enjoyed the literary tour and look forward to reading the book!

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