"I wrote six unpublished novels, and too many unwanted short stories to count, before All About Lulu was published. I physically dug holes and buried three of my novels in the ground—salted the earth so nothing would ever grow there again. And I loved every minute of it! I never bothered doubting the occupation, because nothing was going to deter me from doing the thing I loved more than anything else in this world (besides drink beer). Throughout my 20-year apprenticeship, I did virtually every conceivable menial job you can think of, from roadkill hacker-upper to “hot talk” radio jock (the former being infinitely more rewarding). And I’m still drawing from all of these experiences, which is more than I can say about the time I spent sitting in classrooms. Having my work rejected time and again was a minor annoyance, at most. I had the work. I just kept licking envelopes and collecting form rejections as a form of due diligence. If nobody ever published any of my work, and I died in complete obscurity, surrounded by feral cats, I’d be writing novels up until the end."
--Jonathan Evison in an interview with The Rumpus
Thanks to All About Lulu and West of Here, Evison should sleep soundly at night--even if he's surrounded by feral cats--because he won't slip into obscurity. He has the "right stuff" and he'll be gracing our bookshelves for years to come.
I don't know about you, but there's something damned intriguing about the thought of going to the backyard, digging a hole and burying your failed novels in the soil. It takes a certain kind of fearlessness (and a couple of stiff drinks) to turn your back on your writing with such finality.
I speak from experience, having once taken a match to one of my own misguided manuscripts. As I dropped the flaming paper into the woodburning stove in our kitchen, I felt both relief (sort of like a colonic cleansing the bowels) and regret (since this was my only copy of the novel, I could never undo this incendiary action). That was many years and several convictions* ago--back when I painstakingly typed reams of paper hunched over my Smith-Corona in the low-ceilinged upper floor of our first house in rural Oregon. I was an impetuous young writer and saw the world in black-and-white terms. Like Evison, I licked a lot of envelopes in the face of rejection. Sometimes, rejection started with me holding a match in one hand and typewritten pages in the other. Like a Buddhist monk with a can of gasoline, I was prepared to make a statement (if only to myself).
These days, it would just be too painful to take a sledgehammer to my laptop computer. Though that would certainly make a statement.
*Spiritual convictions, not criminal ones.