Whether or not one eventually succeeds in selling a book, the failures to sell it always come first. It’s a very long process that demands virtually no active participation, to the point that one can easily forget it entirely. Where, you wonder, are these punches to the ego coming from; why am I walking around like one of Dante’s sullen in the sun and sweet air; am I really too much a failure and a fraud to show my face in the street? I’m drawing a paycheck. I didn’t feed the national monsters. Then you notice and tug at the odd thread in your mind, and out comes everything that was attached, decaying and dark green like anything that’s been too long down the drain.
There’s some relation here to John Scalzi’s Brain Eater, though my line went horizontal rather earlier and faith in an indifferent, unpurposive universe is a good guard against conspiracy-mongering.
I’d like to distinguish legitimate grief from the needless flailings of bruised ego. “... should very likely have labored damnably over the Buddhists and the Stoics,” wrote Henry Adams, trying to describe the corner he’d been driven into. He hardly had any Buddhists in decent translation to choose from.
Next time, paintings of bamboo plants.