How Writers Fail (Part 9): They Quit

This content has been archived. It may no longer be accurate or relevant.

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

The title of this post seems obvious. How do writers fail? They quit. Yes, they do.

But it’s about more than quitting, really. This post is about when they quit.

Let me start with a quote from John Mellencamp that slapped me about the face and neck when I was casually reading the AARP Magazine. To celebrate his seventieth year, Mellencamp was interviewed about his seven tips were for living his best life. All seven are really interesting, including one about being productive. But here’s the related—and more important—one to being productive.

He said, “Usually I have to write about a hundred songs to get one good one. Painting is the same way. You’ve got to keep slugging. The problem with most people is that they quit too early.”

Because this is a short little article, filled with pithy tips, there’s something missing from the first part of the quote. Mellencamp doesn’t define (here) what he means by “a good one” in reference to songs and paintings.

So I get to define it.

The good one is decided by the viewers or the listeners. They buy the singles or download the songs or sing along. They enjoy the art. They love the stories.

In Mellencamp’s case, he wrote some “good” songs, some forgettable songs (to me), and more than one that almost every modern rocker has referenced, either in their own songs or in tribute. I’m sure you’ve all heard “Jack and Diane” and if you haven’t, you’ve heard someone mention that a couple was a true “Jack and Diane.”

Yep, every now and then, writers get lucky enough to actually have an impact on the culture. Mellencamp did it with “Jack and Diane,” which I’m sure he sings at every concert he performs.

But I’m sure he does not perform several of his good songs or many, many others. That puts me in mind of Paul McCartney. When Dean and I were lucky enough to attend one of his concerts in 2019, Sir Paul informed the audience right from the start that he would probably not be playing “your favorite song.”

McCartney has been writing and performing songs longer than I’ve been alive. He knows that some fans love, love, love the obscure song that was on only one not-very-successful album from forty years ago. He might never play that song in concert. Or he might have stopped playing a “good” song decades ago for personal reasons.

I learned that lesson too as an artist. When I started posting my Free Fiction Monday stories, I was stunned to realize that stories I thought were mediocre or stories that some editors told me were bad or stories that didn’t hit the idea I’d started with as fully as I would have liked were adored by some readers. Not by all of them, of course. But some of them.

I learned even before that not to bad-mouth anything I’ve written because someone might like it. I watched Marion Zimmer Bradley reduce a fan to tears by telling her that the book she wanted Bradley to sign was “a piece of dog****.”

Never do that to someone who loves your work. Don’t even tell them that you’re surprised by their love for that work. Be gracious, and understand that we’re all different, and stories, songs, paintings—anything creative will have a different impact on each person who experiences it.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

1 thought on “How Writers Fail (Part 9): They Quit”

  1. I’ve been reading the Free Monday stories for sone time. Also have bought some of her books, including those on the BUSINESS of writing (HIGHLY recommended).
    The occasional comments I’ve added to her blog have always been treated with respect. A classy lady.

Comments are closed.