At least once before I’ve posted interesting or inspirational quotes related to long distance running, partly because I’ve been a runner for about thirty years (with a few short breaks in there), and partly because I receive a “quote of the day” email from Runner’s World (annoying mass-market running magazine I used to subscribe to). One of the most recent comes from perhaps my all-time favorite runner, Steve Prefontaine, who was not only one of America’s all-time great runners, but also an inspiring personality. Not only that, but he went to University of Oregon, and you’ve got to love the Ducks!
“A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”
–Steve Prefontaine, American middle and long-distance runner
I’ve been fighting through a period of self-questioning with regard to my writing lately. I’m still working as hard as ever, and producing what I consider to be increasingly strong work, but just lately I’ve been feeling the sting of rejection a bit more than usual. Really just feeling a bit fatigued, though no less determined.
Prefontaine’s quote reminds me that at times when you feel bogged down in the accumulated mire of rejection or failure, it can be tempting to blame your circumstances on others. I could convince myself I’m not finding receptive editors because they’re only looking for big names anyway, or that magazines aren’t looking for the kind of thing I’m doing because the SF community only wants to see the same Heinlein and Gibson tributes over and over. I don’t really believe those things are true, but I could blame others as a way of deflecting the pain of the struggle.
Like Prefontaine, though, I believe pointing the finger at others is the beginning of failure. A writer who blames everyone outside himself won’t look hard enough at what he needs to improve, or consider what new approach to his craft might get him where he wants to be. I think looking at your own work with honest appraisal, and consistently putting in the labor, are requirements of improvement and eventual success. It’s also perfectly healthy to admit your own disappointment, so you can deal with it and move on.