It's always a drag dealing with failure. I've been trying to write properly for twenty five years. I wrote my first novel when I was 18 years old. I hand wrote it. I hand wrote three novels. None of them particularly good. None of them that I actually read. Writing them seemed work enough. Then I typed another three novels when I was at university. I sent out a couple of them. I sent out a crime novel that got taken to pieces in a reader's report I still have somewhere. It wasn't very good. My PhD dissertation was the book I managed to finally write and I tried also to publish but they wanted to have a long revision and I couldn't face it. Looking back that seems like a missed opportunity but I was done with the material. I got some stuff published here and there, but the dissertation was dead. Shelley and Laughter it was called.
When I got to Italy, I had plenty of time to focus and so I wrote a great deal. I've managed more or less a novel every year I've been here. Sometimes more. I snagged an agent about ten years ago. This was a huge encouragement. I still remember coming home from Venice on the train and basically feeling I'd already made it. I was a published author and it was only a matter of time before the world caught up. They didn't. And I wasn't.
My agent helped me a huge deal and I developed as a writer. Everything I wrote was better and better, but rather than a publishing deal our progress was marked by a widening circle of contacts and ever-more flattering rejection letters. We even went in to meet an editor at a publishing house and who wanted to talk and encourage, but again it came to nothing.
There are several side effects to failure, leaving aside the obvious stuff about self-esteem and despair. One is that time becomes the enemy. A success in your 20s and 30s and you've time for a long career; time to enjoy it. And your success will be burnished by your youth. A bright young thing. I'm 45. Secondly, failure effects what you do. At times you become willing to change anything - write anything - and your risk losing your identity. Plus no one wants anything, so this willingness to compromise erodes whatever voice or talent you have. Thirdly, your familiarity with your goal becomes increasingly shopworn. It's been in the window too long. Yellowed by the sun light, a bit tatty and no longer new. When you finally get it, if you finally get it, you already feel it is going to be a let down, in no way compensating for the work and sacrifice that it cost you.
Of course, this is a dump. I will feel relieved and a bit smelly and then open the window and the latest draft of my new novel and get to work - Winter Truce (5th draft). Maybe this will be the one. But I honestly don't think it will. Failure develops a muscle memory so I know the ropes now. The waiting, the silence, the email. The twinge of acid in the pit of your stomach. Your stomach? My stomach I should say. I keep wanting to put a nice little uplifting thought at the end here. A note of encouragement. An ah well, and onward to tomorrow. But the honest truth is my life is an abject failure.
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.