“Are you discouraged by your failures? Listen! Your average may be as good as anybody’s. If you fail to find your name on the list of makers-good, don’t blame it on your failures. Examine your records. You’ll probably discover that the real reason is lack of effort. Not enough exposure. You don’t give the old-man law of averages sufficient chance to work for you.”
Frank Bettger, How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling
Here’s an amazing stat: In 1915, Ty Cobb scored an astonishing all-time record of stealing 96 bases in a season. In 1922, seven years later, Max Carey set the second-best record, with 51 stolen bases. Check out these numbers:
Attempts 134 53
Failed 38 2
Succeeded 96 51
Cobb was far more aggressive and active than Carey: He tried 81 more times than Carey to grab a base and his 81 additional tries led to 44 more stolen bases. In short, Cobb was willing to risk failure 81 more times in one season than his closest rival. No wonder he’s widely considered the greatest base-runner of all time.
How does all this apply to writing? Here’s what Frank Bettger says about failure: “Do you believe in yourself and the things you want to do? Are you prepared for many setbacks and failures? Whatever your calling may be, each error, each failure is like a strike-out. Your
greatest asset is the number of strike-outs you have had since your last hit. The greater the number, the nearer you are to your next hit.”
Right now, some of us are out there swinging in order to get on base with our writing. We may be submitting a story that we’ve polished until it sparkles and sings to online and/or print magazine editors. Or we may be sending out queries in search of an agent. Or hoping to find an independent publisher who’ll find our novel appealing and marketable.
Whatever the goal we’re striving to accomplish, it’s important to remember that the law of averages can work for us, just as it can for a baseball player. The more exposure we give our work, the more people and publications we send it off to, the greater the chance that we’ll find the right match and score a home run. It’s easy to get discouraged by turn downs. Believe me, I know because I’ve been there. But if we let a handful of failures overwhelm us, we’ll never get where we want to go. The only answer, the only solution is to keep risking failure just as Ty Cobb did — to keep submitting until we hit pay dirt.
So let’s give ourselves enough exposure to make our work work for us — and write on!