Dear Mr. Gaiman,
I read your advice to the 23 year old writer ('tricia), about how to deal with feeling like a crap writer when you're so young. But what do you do when you're 30? I've written a novel that only my friends want to read (bear in mind, one of those friends is a book editor at a major US paper), but no agent or publisher wants to touch?
What does one do when they can't get a break? I want to write, but no paper will hire me to write. Right now I'm an editor at a website, but I'd barely call it editing. I write screenplays and am working on other prose projects, but I guess what I'm getting at is, should there be a point when one must say "enough is enough. This isn't going anywhere. It's time to stop before this starts to hurt more than I can bear"?
I bear responsibility for my actions as a writer, I know, and I've squandered many chances. I am at a low point, and I'm not sure that words of encouragement will mean anything to me at this point. They don't sound sincere. Overnight success takes years to happen, and I haven't been able to get that groundwork done. Is it worth my time to continue this fool's mission?
You can give up if you like. It's okay. The world won't end. I'm not really sure what being 30 has to do with it, though. Some of my favourite writers barely started being published until they were in their forties.
Sometimes it's a good thing that no-one wants to publish your first novel. I'm really glad nobody wanted to publish mine. There are an awful lot of publishers and agents out there, and I suspect if I'd sent my first novel to more than two publishers someone eventually would have published it. (This would not have been a good thing, but persistence would probably have paid off.)
Writing short stories is often a very good way to learn. And the thrill of seeing a short story in print can keep you going for a while -- and there are certainly paying short story markets out there.
But you can give up, too, if it makes you feel better.
The lady on the plane next to me yesterday explained, when I told her I was a writer, that as a former English Major she had had dreams of being a major novelist, but she was making a living instead, and she hoped to one day have enough free time to write.
And I remembered Gene Wolfe getting up at 5.00 am every day and writing two pages before going in to work, and I told her that if she wanted to be a writer she ought to write. ("It's like most jobs," I told. "It's amazing how much of it just consists of showing up." But she didn't believe me.)