The Don’t Give Up Gist


Last post jump-started from Mary Laura Philpott’s I Miss You When I blink: What I’ve Learned From 28 Brilliant Creators, and today we take a look at Joy Wilson who says, “…drink bourbon.”


If you’ve been following me for some time now, you know I recently applied for PhD programs and was turned down quite rapidly. Actually, there was nothing rapid about the process at all; waiting on rejections was a long drawn out agonizing affair. I stayed away from applying to real day jobs because of the potential five year program of study–how would that conversation go with an employer? “Yeah, I only plan on being around for a year, and then–BAM. I’m gone.” No one wants to invest in that. So I’ve taught at the adjunct level (read part-time, lousy pay, highly fulfilling), and I’ve done some food service and retail. Sold a few novels. Put together an online class. Started an editing service. Mainly, I’ve been poor. And I would have been perfectly fine being poor if I had gotten into a PhD program. What an absolute disaster of a mess.

Joy Wilson, AKA Joy the Baker, says, “Sometimes things go all the way wrong.” She’s talking about baking, not life. “Can I call this tart ‘rustic’? Can I call this pie ‘well done’? […] can I cover (and glue together) this whole mess with frosting?”

Can I call my failure to get into a PhD program “character building”?

Um, yeah. You betcha!

Wilson says, “drink bourbon,” get over yourself, “and try again.” Okay, that “get over yourself” is my bit, but I’m not all that important and no one is. No one cares that you’ve written a book or made a painting or baked a cake or whatever creative endeavor you got going on, but as much as you put your work out their for others, you need to be the primary audience for you and yourself first. And successes are made up of many many many failures.

So be upset. Drink the bourbon. Smoke the cigarette. Kick and punch and yell and holler–but don’t do it for too long. Keep moving. Try again.

Years ago, before my daughter was bigger than a thumbnail, when she was still scared of riding two-wheeled bicycles and going too high on the swing, I wrote her a letter. I wrote her the letter with the intention of giving it to her when she turns 30, which is exactly fifteen years from now, and that length of time doesn’t even seem that far away–a blink of an eye.

I wrote that letter during a time of my life when everything seemed to be falling apart, not just my wallet. I didn’t know who I was, where I was going. The letter was part of a writing prompt for a creative writing course I took. I had no idea what was going to come out in words. I refrain from showing the letter here. It’s a private thing; she can make it as public as she wants when she’s thirty.

But the gist?

Don’t give up.

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