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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some Things Are So Important That Even to Fail is Glorious

Back about 1957-58, I happened upon a novel that so impressed me I’ve continued to read it over and over every few years since. It was Ayn Rand’s, Atlas Shrugged, a novel about “the death, and rebirth, of man’s spirit.” I won’t tell you about it except to recommend that you get a copy and settle back for a long, and likely painful, read. Published in ’57, it could have been published today and the message would be the same.

About forty years later, I realized the world was almost the same as what Atlas Shrugged had portrayed and I felt the beginning of a story coming into my mind that simply had to be written. I wasn’t a writer, and I never had a thought about getting published. I just felt a story that had to be told. I wrote in bits and pieces over the next ten years and eventually my first novel, SANCTION, was born (June, 2008).

The writing went fairly well; the publishing, difficult; but it all got done. But, I’ve heard from so many writers, and have felt the same things myself, that brought out the questions, “Why did I do this? Why did I go through all this?” SANCTION is selling well, but I’ve still wondered whether there was any real value in the whole process. Was it worth all the pressure and stress? Even if it goes on to sell a million copies and leads me into several more novels, or if it simply dies out and fizzles, why would I (and you) go through all this?

Hence, the title of this little article: Some things are so important that even to fail is glorious. It’s a little quote I’ve had for many years and it came back to me several times over my years of writing SANCTION. I think it should apply to any of us (you) considering writing a story (or trying to) that has been floating around in your mind for some time.

Do you have a bunch of handwritten children’s poems and stories you’ve read to your kids over the years, and wonder if other kids might enjoy them? Have you read libraries full of mystery or romance novels and said, “I have those same stories inside? I could do that.” How about a historical review of some obscure figure that really impressed you for some reason, and you believe if others knew about that person they would get the excitement also? So many of us have stories inside just dying to come out, but…

That’s the point: that the fear of not being able to get the story out into some readable form grabs us and shakes us. Or, someone (a well-meaning friend or relative?) reminds us that we don’t have any writer’s training or solid education; there’s already a dozen books on that subject; who would want to read your book? And we so often slump back and say, “Well, maybe not. I’d probably not be successful anyway. Forget it. It’s not really that important.”

There’s a section from Northwest Passage (Kenneth Roberts, 1937) entitled THE QUEST:

On every side of us are men who hunt perpetually for their personal Northwest Passage, too often sacrificing health, strength and life itself to the search; and who shall say they are not happier in their vain and hopeful quest than wiser, duller folk who sit at home, venturing nothing and, with sour laughs, deriding the seekers for that fabled thoroughfare - that panacea for all the afflictions of a humdrum world.

Could I encourage you to, please, write your book. Or your music, or paint your picture. Please. Will it get published? Who knows? Will you become famous, or rich? Will everyone clamor for your next one? Will the world care that you did it?

No, the more important thing is to ask, Did you do it? Did you dig, and write, and re-write, and maybe suffer—and bring your work to birth? Will you eventually be able to say, even just to yourself—I did it? Will it be bound and printed in three colors professionally by a name brand publisher, or will it be printed in your local Kinko’s? No, that’s not it. Did you do it? That’s the question.

I’ve got another novel ready for a publisher now, entitled EVIL FOR EVIL. Will it be received? Who knows? But it was in me and needed to come out. Yes. I did it.

And I pray you will, also. Remember, some things are just too important not to.

“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation
and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
Henry David Thoreau

If you’d like to chat about this, write me. And you can always find me and my work at the site, http://www.JimMagwood.com.

Best wishes,

Jim

1 comment:

Glynis said...

I hit 50 and decided my poetry had to be shared. I self published 18 months ago. Last month I s/p book 2. Then I took courage in my hands, and decided the novel inside had to come out.It is my WiP, but novel 2 has shown it might like to come out, I blogged about it yesterday and the notes are gathering around me today.I am going to try my hardest now to get organised and write full-time.
Interesting post, thanks for the encouragement.