In an article on the fastcompany.com site, Mad Man creator Matthew Weiner mentions that Coleridge's claim that his classic poem, Kubla Khan, came to him in a rush when he woke up from an opium-inspired dream was a lie.
Apparently there's evidence that he had been working on it for months and even gave it to some of his friends for feedback.
As Weiner points out, often writers and artists like to give the impression that they're so brilliant or inspired that their work just flows easily from their pen or brush. In fact, in most cases they put in a lot of hard work--but that's not as glamorous a story.
The same holds true for people who are hailed in the media as overnight successes. If you dig a little deeper, often you'll find years of work with no recognition before the big break. Again, that's not as interesting a story for the media.
These lies can be discouraging for the aspiring writers and artists who begin to wonder whether they should give up because obviously they don't have that magic spark.
Weiner, however, was happy to share the story of his struggles: his writing samples weren't considered good enough to get him into a writing class at Wesleyan College, his thesis was totally destroyed by the cruel remarks of a humanities professor, and his films never won the prizes at his film school.
He did develop a survival strategy: "thrive on rejection and hold on to compliments. Rejection enrages me, but that 'I’ll show you!' feeling is an extremely powerful motivator."
There was plenty of rejection--three years of writing spec scripts while his wife supported both of them. Enough rejection that he gave up for a while.
What turned things around was making a low-budget, small, quirky comedy in which he played himself and used his wife, his apartment, and his car to finish the film.
After that, his career started to take off, but it took seven years from the time he wrote Mad Men until it was produced. He says, "I lived every day with that script as if it were going to happen tomorrow. That's the faith you have to have."
And if you're beating yourself up for not being farther along, this comment might help: "The greatest regret I have is that, early in my career, I showed myself such cruelty for not having accomplished anything significant."
(The interview is excerpted from Getting There: A Book of Mentors, by Gillian Zoe Segal, published by Abrams Image.)
thrive on rejection and hold on to compliments. Rejection enrages me, but that "I’ll show you!" feeling is an extremely powerful motivator.