This post is about not giving up. It takes a little background information before we get to the not giving up part.
The Dresden Files is an urban fantasy book series that I love. It’s set in the world more or less as we know it. Harry Dresden is the only openly practicing wizard and we follow his adventures as he tries to save our world without getting himself killed. If you like fantasy adventure, it’s definitely a series to read.
But that’s not why I’m posting this video here. Whether or not you are a fan of Jim Butcher or the Dresden Files, the first half of this video is well worth watching. Because I know the very great majority of readers won’t click through to see the video, I’m going to try to sum up some of the salient points. You’d really be better off just spending the 13 minutes watching.
Relevant portion: 19:00 – 33:00
letting go of the notion of how smart you are
Jim talks about how he created the Dresden Files. He was taking a genre fiction course in college and thought that he knew more than the teacher. He had a degree in English Literature and she had only published 40 novels. He’d taken the course twice before and written two really awful novels. This time, he decided he was going to show her just how wrong she was and did everything she said – and wrote the first book of the Dresden Files.
He had a ridiculous plan for a series of about 20 novels (he’s currently on #15 I think) that he just didn’t know couldn’t possibly sell. Comparing himself to Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, he said since he didn’t know it couldn’t be done, he just never looked down and kept on running.
thinking outside the box
He got a letter of introduction for teacher’s editor. She had it for 2 1/2 years. While he was waiting, a friend suggested, he needed to start making contacts with the business – go meet them face to face, talk to them. So he started going to conventions and meeting authors and editors.
Story about sneaking into a discussion session, Lesson: It never pays off to be a jerk. It’s not right and it’s not smart. Don’t do it.
He started focusing on editors who publish the kind of things he wanted to write and went to a convention with Laurel Hamilton. He got her attention by asking questions no one else was asking – instead of asking questions about her book, he asked if she liked Buffy and Babylon 5. She invited him to lunch and introduced him to other editors and they liked Buffy and Babylon 5, too. He got many offers for representation. People who rejected him before offered to represent him because they got to know him.
not giving up
On the way to that conference, Jim blew out tire 5 miles from nearest phone in the middle of a winter storm at 3:30 in the morning. The lock nut on his tire would not come off.
He was ready to give up – was going to miss plane. “I’m done, this is not going to happen.”
“You know what, if you had a character in a book who was acting like this, you would drop an anvil on him immediately. The character feeling sorry for himself. Harry Dresden would not stop at this point. Get your ass back out in the street and get that tire changed.”
Lesson: “You know what, maybe I just need to start pushing a little harder.” Unstoppability makes the difference.
It listens better than I can summarize. And clearly, I’m not writing about writing an urban fantasy novel.
How do you get to where you want to be? First, let go of the idea that you know everything. Anyone think that may be hard for me sometimes? I really did try to listen during the month of #lmwlchallenge although I had some automatic gut rejection of a lot of what Sarah was saying, other people pointed out some of the good. I realized I was having this reaction and I went back and listened again. A lot of it was reminders of stuff I knew and I first rejected it because it was not new. It really took slowing down and going back and listening to some of the folks that have commented here to start sorting out what might be useful from those automatic reactions.
Think outside the box. I am still in that process, I think. Part of the challenges and ideas I hope to be exploring are about trying this stuff from a different angle. Not necessarily something new, but put together in a different way. I hope.
Unstoppability. I have given up in the past, at least for a while. Sometimes that’s not a bad thing because I was on the wrong path. Other times, well it sure didn’t help me. I lost a whole bunch of weight and I really thought that even if I never lost another pound, I was so much better off that I would never gain that weight back. I could be happy there. Then I gained it back. Slowly – it took time to gain it back. At any point during that time I could have done something different, but I didn’t. I had given up, I thought I’d do the same thing and it’d be different this time. I thought that I’d start tomorrow. And here I am, back at the beginning and part of me doesn’t want to try. Okay, I can make that choice but then I’d better learn to be happy right here. To get to where I want to be, I can’t stop. Try something different, keep trying, keep going.
And that’s why I’m recommending this interview video. Watch it, tell me what you hear.