Today I had coffee with a person who gave up!
A person who has written a great book but has received a few rejections for the manuscript. In response he has shelved the book, decided not to write anymore and now feels like a failure.
I told him about a young kid I once knew many years ago in my hometown of Johannesburg in South Africa. This kid could not read very well but he loved books.
I think I remember him becoming obsessed with the original Winnie The Pooh book in grade 5. He friggin’ carried that book around with him everywhere he went. The kid was a little ‘off center’ I must say. A little ‘different’ perhaps. I remember him saying over and over that when he grew up he was going to write and draw books like the Winnie The Pooh book he loved so much. And to tell you the truth, I believed him.
He drew comic strips, composed poems, wrote short stories and sent love letters all day long. Kids made fun of him at school. In fact they called him Willie at high school, short for William Shakespeare. (That was not a compliment because a Willie is…well…you know what a Willie is.)
He became obsessed with writing and drawing books. He started submitting books for publication in matric (his final year at high school).
No luck. Nothing. Nada. Zero.
For twelve years he sent out submissions to publishers and got nothing but rejection after rejection.
When he was thirty-two years old a publisher finally said yes to one of his books.
Since then over 50 of his books have been published with a million and a half copies in print in 18 languages. (A number of which are in this picture.)
That little boy who became obsessed with Winnie The Pooh. The kid who was called Willie at school and had over 400 manuscript rejections…
…That little kid was me.
I also told the person who ‘gave up’ about a kid named Alex who also wanted to be a writer and drawer of books like me. I bet he would have written some great books because Alex had wonderful ideas and a fantastic imagination. Unfortunately his life was cut short when he was six years old by childhood cancer. Alex and I drew and wrote little stories at the hospital together until the very end of his life.
I wish little Alex had lived to peruse the opportunities that so many people give up on like the guy I had coffee with today.
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