Rarely has Joe Biden been described as inspirational. That is now changing as aspiring authors around the globe tap away with renewed hope and purpose. Why? Because President-elect Biden, more than any other political figure around, has shown that constant rejection – the bane of authors’ lives – can be overcome.
Next January, when he is sworn in as 46th President of the USA, it will be 34 years since Biden first ran for the top job. He tried again in 2008, only to confront the eloquent appeal of Barack Obama, and had to settle for a consolation vice-presidency.
Finally, he’s done it! On inauguration day, I appeal to him to speak to authors everywhere. To use his story to lift their spirits, to make clear that decades of rejection are just part of the great plan.
I offer these notes to guide him.
“I know your despair”, the new President should say. “I understand your often-pointless toil. That day-after-day, month-after-month, year-after-year grind of creating short stories, novels, plays, multi-volume histories on subjects as diverse as the history of ancient Rome or the reproductive habits of the speckled cuttlefish. I know the cost: the blood, sweat and tears; the intellectual ferment and emotional turmoil; the alcohol abuse; the family stress. And, finally, when the draft is complete and despatched, I know the suffocating quiet that settles over you, your house, your computer, your iPhone; the stillness of the cemetery.”
“Look at me”, he might go on, “I, too, have written books. Like you, I reached into my heart, and my head. Alright, I know mine were best sellers and I had no difficulty finding a publisher. But do you know why that was so? Because I had an impeccable record of failure in my chosen field of endeavour.”
The President might then pause and gaze reflectively at the hushed audience. “This next bit’s difficult”, he can say, sounding heartfelt, modest. “No one watching this great celebration of democracy should take it as an admission on my part. It involves the p-word. Plagiarism! A charge levelled at me many years ago. It is true that in recounting my struggle to get ahead my words were eerily similar to those used by the then British Labour leader. But we are a great trading nation, we will always import ideas. I simply chose the best available. There is no shame in that.
“To writers everywhere, I now say, ask not what your publisher can do for you, rather what you can do for your publisher. Be yourself, everyone else is already taken. And always be a first-rate version of yourself, not a second-rate version of someone else. Never let anyone walk through your mind with their dirty feet. Remember, too, no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. And while you’re at it, don’t forget that ideas are like rabbits – get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you’ll have dozens.
“Keep all that in mind”, the new President should conclude, “and a new, golden era will be upon us. Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence, so let’s make writing great again. It’ll be tremendous. Just tremendous!”