Kristine Kathryn Rusch has been posting a book she’s writing entitled The Freelancer’s Guide to Survival on her blog a chapter at a time. I think I mentioned it here before, but in case I didn’t, she’s been at it for a while now and has compiled a lot of great info and advice.
Ms. Rusch is a writer and editor who’s worked in a number of genres (I’m familiar with her from SF/Fantasy — she used to edit F&SF) and does this stuff full time, which is the definition of “successful” in the writing world if ever there was one. She’s also run a couple of businesses, one in publishing and one not, so she knows what she’s talking about.
She’s posting the book on her blog with a tip jar, rather than just writing it and letting us all wait until it’s been published, because the current economic mess has forced a lot of people into freelancing, and is encouraging a lot more to give it a shot. The info needs to be out there now, not two years from now, so she’s making it available as a community service.
Note also that the info she’s giving is applicable to all kinds of freelancers, whether you’re a writer or an artist or a landscaper or an architect or own a shop — if you’re your own boss, this book has great info you’ll find helpful.
The most recent chapter is on Failure and even if you don’t read any of the other parts, I think you should read this one. Even if you’re not any kind of freelancer, there’s still some stuff in here to make you go, “Huh.”
Because the bottom line is that everyone fails. We all have failures in our past, and unless we get hit by lightning five minutes from now, we’ll have failures in our future. It’s part of being a human and trying to get along in the world. Certainly people who’ve achieved great things have all (so far as I can tell) had some failures on their resumes, and often some pretty spectacular ones. The trick is what you do when you fail, how you respond to things coming crashing down. Do you pull yourself up and keep going, or just sit there and cry and swear you’ll never try X ever again?
Which made me think about romances, because seriously, I wish I had a nickel for every romance book I’ve ever read where the thirty-some-year-old hero is cold and snarky to all women because his mama was mean to him when he was a small boy and he’s Never Trusted A Woman Since. Or where the heroine was betrayed by her first teenage love, or had a boy she liked laugh at her, or whatever, and has therefore Never Let Herself Fall In Love.
Really? I mean, seriously, I know there are a few people here and there who do have reactions that over-the-top to single incidents, but they have major issues, you know? I’ve always eyerolled over these kinds of characters, but I’ve never articulated why I thought they were idiots until now. But reading Ms. Rusch’s Failure chapter made me see that this is exactly it — these characters had one failure and in response they shut down an entire chunk of their lives and personalities. These people need a lot of therapy. And yet it’s presented in romances as a normal and understandable way to respond to a painful setback, something which requires careful nurturing by The Great Love Of His/Her Life to bring them back into a normal mode of living and feeling.
Yet in reality, most of us have multiple romantic setbacks before finding someone to live with and love for the rest of our lives. And even the person you thought was The One might turn out not to be, ten or twenty years down the line. When failure happens, we keep going. Sure, we might need some time to cry and some time to wallow in life’s suckitude, but then we get up and keep going.
Then, however many years later, we look back and see that everything we experienced in our lives up to that point, including all the pain and all the failures and all the embarassment, has contributed to making us who we are now, and putting us in the situation we’re in right now. I have a lot of suck in my own background, some of it pretty darned major, but if it all contributed to getting me where I am now — a published writer with the best husband in the world — then I don’t regret a bit of it. Sure, I have occasional fantasies of hopping into a time machine and changing this or that, things I regret or which still embarrass me to think about. Then I wonder whether I’d have ended up here if this or that had been different, and suddenly I don’t want to change anything.
Learn from it? Sure. But it all brought me to where I am, and it’s all important. Good enough.