Almost every day of the past 20 years, this has been my job. So at the least, I feel I understand the lay of the land now, and when younger artists ask me to tell them what to expect, I often struggle to give them any hope.
Writing and art are brutal jobs. You spend years of your life working on something, wrestling with epic highs and lows throughout that process, so you can convince publishers, agents, etc. that they won’t lose money on you. (Which really no one knows– we’re all hemmed in by track record even though it proves nothing in such a changeable, fickle world).
Countless years of work don’t make it past that hurdle. Countless lifetimes of work don’t, they just sit on a shelf somewhere, regardless of quality or effort. You absolutely must put your entire being into every project you work on, it needs to draw on and exceed everything you’ve done in the past – and you need to be able to look at it with cold clarity, and in the end, whether it makes it into the world or not, you’ve got to cut it off like a gangrenous limb. At first it is what you need to grow, but if you hold onto it, it’ll be what holds you back.
If you are wildly lucky and manage to sell it, you’re going to now have to prove to the world at large that you’re worth their attention – and you’re competing against everything that's happening, everywhere, all the time.
Then, if you are in the .001% who succeed at all this, you’ve got to go back and do it again, now you have to prove you can overcome your “lucky break”. One way or the other, the world will move on. You won’t be able to outperform yourself.
I feel like I should provide some funny reversal or anecdote here, but no. That’s pretty much it. That’s the job.
If you’re an artist, none of this will really matter, though. If it’s a question of giving up, you’ll get plenty of opportunities.
If you simply can’t, welcome to the club. Get back to work.