That advice does not apply to garages or attics.
It does apply to trying new stuff. Anyone trying to get a job or get into a new field knows the frustration. No experience, no job. So how do you get the experience and the job? Keep throwing stuff up against the wall and don't quit.
Example--the guys that wrote 'Shrek' and then 'Pirates of the Caribbean' did not sell anything, nothing for five years. FIVE years working near full time writing scripts and getting no all the time. Hang in there. And don't throw anything away.
Because you don't know when you will need it. About three years ago I decided I would become the next GREAT AMERICAN HISTORY BOOK writer. Not the textbook stuff but interesting, human interest kind of stuff. Plus there was an opening. Stephen Ambrose had just passed away and I rushed in to fill the void.
And got nowhere. Well, not really. I did write a couple of interesting articles that got published in a little magazine. Actually they are pretty good but American Heritage didn't knock my door down. Also spent some time at various writing clubs which are interesting but mainly people sitting around talking about writing rather than doing the hard work which is sitting down and writing something.
And one night we had a celebrity, a published author. The crowd was pretty excited when he was introduced because he had written "The Night Before A Redneck Christmas." I am not kidding. There is such a book and it actually sold pretty well. Sold well enough that I saw it at Barnes and Noble last Christmas.
For those who don't follow the redneck market, the genre was invented by Jeff Foxworthy with his books, comedy routine and videos revolving around "You May Be A Redneck If..." Pretty big, as you can imagine, in the south. Anyway, the guy that showed up at our writing group was a frustrated cartoonist, heard some of Foxworthy's stuff and came up with and illustrated (probably over a few beers) "The Night Before A Redneck Christmas."
And the questions started. And the main question is always "How did you get published?" He put together a prototype, looked up some publishers, primarily located in the former slave states and threw the manuscript 'over the transom.' Where it landed on the 'slush pile.' Over the transom means it came in unsolicited and the slush pile is the mass of unsolicited manuscripts and proposals that show up in the mail every day to be culled and tossed by the junior editor.
And "The Night Before A Redneck Christmas" got picked up and printed and sold and sold again. And a groan went up from the crowd because they know the odds of being picked up after coming in over the transom are miniscule.
But I thought stupidly "Why not?" After the meeting I cornered the redneck guy and asked about his publisher. Asked for the editor's name and got it along with "Don't use my name." That wasn't much help but went home and looked up the publishing company on the internet. Southern specializing in cookbooks. That's out. Poetry. Nope. Travel books. Maybe but not interesting to me. And history. Local stuff like the 3rd Georgia Infantry Regiment and the Battle of Stone Mountain.
I could do that. Well, not Georgia but Texas. So sat down and thought for a minute. Oil, politics, George, Lyndon, Battle of Adobe Walls, and the Alamo. My personal favorite was the Battle for Adobe Walls which happened up in the Panhandle in the late 1800's. Adobe Walls was a trading spot and hotel for buffalo hunters and the local Indians didn't like it because the hunters were killing off the food supply. One day about 3,000 of them decided enough was enough and attacked the 50 or so hunters and settlers. The hunters somehow held off the Indians for a day or so but things were looking bleak so they called for a Hail Mary. The Indians were lining up a mile away for their final assault. The hunters decided on the best shot and he set up his best rifle on a stand, took aim and plugged the medicine man sitting on a horse next to the chief from a mile away. Dead as a doornail. Since the medicine man had assured everybody that they were immune to the bullets, his credibility was shot and so was he. The battle was over.
So put that down as a subject and a few others but kept coming back to the Alamo. And like the world needs another book about the Alamo. Or another movie. But there was a sideshow to the Alamo which was the massacre at Goliad and is little written about because, well, it was a massacre. So put that down as a topic as well, typed up a letter and threw it over the transom.
And nothing. For three months. Forgot about it. Then an e-mail that went roughly like this--"We are possibly interested in a manuscript on Goliad and the Texas Revolution. Please send a proposal." Back to the internet to determine what constituted a proposal--author background, competition, scope, three sample chapters. Piece of cake. Down to the libary. Checked out all the books on the Texas Revolution and wrote the proposal.
Put it in the mail a year ago and nothing. Three months later, dusted it off and sent it to some more regional publishers. Nothing. Reject. Reject. Reject. A friend mentioned university presses. Figured non-profits had plenty of money and sent it off to ten or so. Snubbed. No PhD, no publication. Elitists. That one really made me mad.
So forgot about it. Davy and the boys receded into history again. Until last night. An e-mail basically saying "Sorry about the delay but we had two hurricanes and just getting back to business and we want to publish your book. Will send contract. Let us know length and timing. We pay x on sales. Best regards. Bye."
And I went racing back to the computer to make sure I had not deleted anything. So don't throw anything away because you don't know when and if you may need it. And don't give up. That last push may be the one that opens the door.