About The Author
Christopher Jones (alias Cj Lehi) is known mainly for short stories, having published two collections of his own (And the Kitchen Sink, Twelve Upon a Time), twenty-three solo stories on Patreon (patreon.com/cjlehi), as well as with Solstice Shadows Publishing and Incandescent Phoenix. Not limited to fiction, Cj has published dozens of technical articles in newspapers and magazines (mainly on mortgage finance), and his nonfiction book Mastering theSix Channels of Marketing was an Amazon Top 25 book in Advertising. Cj resides in Lehi, UT, with his wife Jeanette, their eight children, two cats, and a stray hummingbird. He loves Twitter, too (@cjlehi), and visitors to his website, iamchrisjones.com.
Five Big Failures in Writing
Writing is alchemical. As authors, we are literally (or literarily) turning failure into success, mostly through persistence, but sometimes through redefinition. After all, if we can change the sex of our protagonist overnight, we should be able to convince ourselves that what has happened to us is not, in fact, failure, but instead a critical component of the biggest success we could imagine.
Here are my five biggest failures in writing. I see every one as a major factor in my success.
1. Fifth grade. Even in fifth grade, everyone in class knew I was a writer. The teacher had an innovative "marketplace" idea for teaching us economics and the value of work. We each had some "money" that we could spend on the productive enterprises of others, drawings, math tutoring, stories, what have you. The class predicted that my stories would bring the most money, and I'd end up rich. Not what happened. I failed to produce a single story in the month of the experiment. My friend Harold, however, who self-admittedly had no idea how to write a story, made more than anyone else in class, because he finished eleven stories in thirty days, most of them derivative Star Wars fanfic. I spent my time crafting a psychological romantic thriller, but never got past half a page. Winners ship. Professionals create on schedule. I was neither.
2. Ninth grade. I had a horrifically bad geometry teacher, who once said "what?" Seventy-four times in one fifty-minute class. We mocked her. Instead of paying attention in class, I decided I would write instead. Over the nine months of that class, I created most of an apocalyptic romance, in which, as the hero, I ran off with Dena Christiansen, who sat four seats in front of me. The villain, her current boyfriend, didn't make it to the nuclear shelter in time. Tragic. What was really tragic, though, was my final. I failed it, the only time in my life I ever got an F on anything. It meant summer school. Writing is awesome. Neglecting the things you've committed to in favor of writing is unwise. I like to hope I got just a whiff wiser that year.
3. I was twenty-two, and I had just finished my first novel. It was better than the apoc romance in part 2 above, but not a lot better. This was in the days before Amazon (or the Internet), so I printed the thing out on my dot-matrix printer and had it Cerlox-bound at the copy shop, five copies, one for me, one for my wife, one for my father, one for my mother-in-law, and one just in case someone wanted one. No one ever did. It was the last work of more than thirty pages I produced for twenty years. I simply stopped writing. Oh, I meant to write. I thought about writing. I jotted down story ideas, even wrote a couple of shorts (which WON CONTESTS), but didn't go after it with any discipline. It wouldn't work, anyway. I couldn't really become an author. Success requires that you believe you can win, and do something about it. I did nothing, because I couldn't succeed. And look, for twenty years, I was right.
4. Fast forward twenty years to four years ago. I had a dream that got me off my duff and made me write, characters that wouldn't leave me alone. Finished the novel. It was a lot better than anything I'd written before, and I thought I should start shopping it. Accordingly, I entered a biggish Twitter pitch contest. I did next-to-no work on my pitch, and not much more editing the first pages of the novel. I got absolutely nothing from that except crickets. I didn't deserve any better, honestly. My pitch was painful. My pages needed hard-core edits. I thought I was pretty good, because hey, I'd finished a novel! Guess what? That didn't make me special. I felt aggrieved and unmotivated for months because of that. The craft will be obeyed. It's worth respecting how hard it is to write well, and do the work to get better.
5. A year later, LDStorymakers 2013. I was ready--I thought--to get serious about this writing thing. It seemed to me that Storymakers was the place to do that. Problem was, the conference was a disaster. Work melted down while I was there, and I spent nearly the whole time outside in the hall on the phone. I felt like a complete fake, taking up space real writers could have been using. So I quit. Right there in the Provo Marriott, I quit writing. I gave up the ridiculous hobby, and began to adult the way my mother had been telling me I should, focusing all my time and energy on my business, and finally abandoning the idea that I should be a writer.
That was the worst decision of my life.
In every way you can think of--psychologically, financially, personally, grammatically--that year was a total catastrophe. I've never been so miserable. I made no money. My business shredded itself. When Storymakers 2014 came around, I was so broke that I couldn't have gone if I'd wanted to. And I discovered that I did want to, desperately. Never deny the truth about yourself. It doesn't make things better.
And the success? That was the weekend I became a professional. I started writing every day. Finishing and shipping stories. Discharging my commitments, including those to my writing. I practiced my craft. I worked HARD. I wrote a million words in sixteen months. I finished six novels. I entered contests, and I won them. I made money. I published.
It took me thirty-five years from #1 to #5. You are not too old. You are not hopeless. I did it, and you can, too. I'm failing harder than ever before now, and it's awesome.
Patreon (where the real magic happens): patreon.com/cjlehi
Central book page on my website: iamchrisjones.com/books/
Twelve Upon a Time: (fourteen original fairy tales) bit.ly/TwelveUponATime
And the Kitchen Sink: bit.ly/andthekitchensink
Mastering the Six Channels of Marketing: bit.ly/EvenYourMother
Talking So People Can Hear: bit.ly/TalkingSo