Wednesday, July 18, 2007

How Sweet It Is

By Annette Lyon

With all due respect to Stephenie Meyer of Twilight fame, I don’t think she can possibly get it. It’s nothing personal; she just can’t, because she’s never been there.

I mean, hurrah to her for having a raging success with her first attempt at a book and her first attempt at publishing (two things that are about as likely as getting hit by a meteor and lightning on the same day). Hurrah for selling insane numbers of books and having a raging successful series.

Sure, I’d love to have her royalty checks, her book tours, her movie options, her fans. Her royalty checks. (Oh—I already said that one.)

But you know what? I don’t think there is any way she can appreciate those things, not really. I read an interview recently where she admitted that she was very lucky, that most writers face lots of rejection and still might never get what she was essentially handed on a silver platter.

Good. I’m glad she’s aware on some level that she won the publishing lottery. But she can’t internalize what that means, because she has never faced the decision of wondering if she’s kidding herself for trying to get published after trying for way too many years—if the nasty note on her last rejection meant she was an idiot for pursuing her dream. She’s never worked and worked at her craft, slaving over every word and rewriting ten drafts to make sure it was the best she could make it—and then having it cut down again.

While I’d surely enjoy all the perks she has, there is a big part of me that doesn’t envy her one bit.


Because I have faced rejection. Lots of it. I’ve had to pick myself up, dig deep to pull out the dream I had of being a writer since I was a little girl and put myself out there—again. I’ve faced harsh criticism from editors and judges alike and managed to dust myself off and try—again. And again. And again.

I’ve learned a lot because of all that. I’ve developed a thick skin. I’ve matured as a writer and as a business person. Heck, I’ve matured as a woman. Another benefit is that rejection doesn’t sting so much as it used to—I know now it’s not personal.

But the best part is that I can bask in the glory of success, because it tastes so much sweeter after experiencing failure.

When I got the call from my publisher saying that they had accepted what became my first published novel, I managed to keep it together on the phone. Then I hung up and burst into tears and shrieks of joy.

Without the tough road behind me, I wouldn’t have had such complete satisfaction, the feeling of “Yes, I finally did it!”

When my first royalty check arrived, I bought a fantastic microwave (not a car or a house, alas). To this day few things are more beautiful to me than that appliance. Not for its “melt chocolate” setting, as much as I love that, but because it represents a long battle and ultimate victory.

Since then, I’ve continued to work hard. I’ve continued to have rejections. But I’ve also had a gradual increase in my successes.

And you know what? I appreciate every scrap of success that much more because it was earned, because I know all too well what it was like to not have success, yet to ache for it.

Meyer can enjoy her millions of copies in print. Meanwhile, I’ll be enjoying myself as I melt chocolate with my microwave—my personal symbol of just how sweet success can taste.


Tamra Norton said...

You're absolutely right, Annette! Triumph is so much sweeter when you've stumbled along the path to get there.

Still, I'd also love to receive one of her royalty checks--just one! :) And I guess I'll be contributing to hers because I'll be one of the first at B&N on August 7 to pick up my copy of Eclipse.

Stephanie said...

I guess it is a little like giving your kids everything or making them work for things. They appreciate much more the stuff they have put a little effort into.

KATE EVANS said...

Luck shines on the few. I don't begrudge people their luck. At the same time, I find publishing to be one of the most frustrating experiences of my life. So I would hope the lucky would recognize exactly that: that there are thousands of others out there whose work shines just as brightly as theirs--and then use their lucky status to support other writers.

Josi said...

I agree, and I think Meyers will still have the opportunity to learn this stuff, and it will be harder for her because of her expectations. The Twilight series is almost over, as is Harry Potter, and it will be interesting to see how things change.

also, I think instant fame and success can be very hard on friendships and family relationships. There is no time for people to ease into the intense changes. I would bet she's had a lot to deal with on that end.

I'm glad I've done it the way I have, that's for sure :-)

Heather B. Moore said...

Kind of like winning the lottery. Suddenly everyone is a cousin and desperately needs something from you.

Julie Wright said...

I'm a huge fan of the Twilight series and am almost as much in love with Edward as I am Mr Darcy. But I agree. I would love to win the publishing lottery by getting that four book deal and huge advance along with the noteriety, but I'm pretty happy with the road I'm on. I'll bet the success is hard at the same time it is exhilerating. I remember Marsha Ward saying Stephenie acts the same now as she ever did before, except her clothes are a little nicer. It's good to know she didn't let it go to her head.

I didn't love new moon like I did twilight, but I still enjoyed it.

Like Tami, I'm going to be in line waiting for my copy of Eclipse. I need to know what happens next.

Rebecca Talley said...

Great post, Annette.