Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bad predictions to keep in mind

So I stumbled across a few lists of "bad predictions" recently and not only did they make me laugh at how short-sighted they were, but it was also an amazing reminder that no one person is an authority on what's possible.

Take my writing. I've been much more amused than depressed over getting a handful of my short stories rejected by magazines; for some reason the rejections have only motivated me to write more, like I want to inundate editors with my prose until they realize what they keep passing up. More story ideas keep popping up out of nowhere, and more notes are constantly scribbled down when a story begins taking shape. Part of me wonders if my manuscript getting rejected by lit agents slash publishers will spark the same determined fortitude and amusement since writing a novel takes a lot more blood, sweat, and tears than short stories, but I have a feeling I'll take even those rejections in stride.

After reading these bad predictions I'm reminded that droves of "gate keepers" in our world lack vision. (This is where I recommend you read "Atlas Shrugged" if you haven't already.) And just because these gatekeepers hold the keys to the fashion world/tech world/publishing world/legal world/art world/science world/any world really, does not make them the be-all, end-all judge of your work's value or potential. According to this list, if people stopped creating post-rejection we would have no computers, radio, telephone, FedEx, commercial airplanes. The list goes on and on:
  • "This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us." -- Western Union internal memo, 1876.
  • "The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?" -- David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
  • "We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out." -- Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
  • "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'" -- Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and HP interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.
  • "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -- Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943.
  • "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." -- Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977.
  • "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible." -- A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
  • "I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." -- Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With the Wind."
  • "Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?" -- H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
  • "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market." -- Business Week, August 2, 1968.
  • "There will never be a bigger plane built." -- A Boeing engineer, after the first flight of the 247, a twin engine plane that holds ten people.
  • "I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year." -- The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957.
  • After Fred Astaire's first screen test in 1933, the MGM testing director wrote a memo saying, "Can't act. Slightly bald. Can dance a little." Astaire got the memo and kept it over his fireplace.
  • At the start of her career, Barbra Streisand was rejected repeatedly by directors because they said she simply wasn't pretty enough.
  • "A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." -- Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.
  • "... Overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years." -- Publisher on Vladamir Nabokov's "Lolita".
  • "I'm sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don't know how to use the English language." -- Editor of the San Francisco Examiner to Rudyard Kipling.


ctreit said...

What amazes me is that all kinds of people are in positions to make such prominent claims. I bet you that there was no such thing as "market research reports saying America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make." Yet, somebody says it firmly enough and crap like that becomes fact.

Tami said...

Very very inspiring - thanks for the quotes! :)

Chloe (Naturally Frugal) said...

Love it Crystal - this is exactly what I need right now. I'm keeping this For-ev-er.

Mandy said...

I will remember this line and quote for a long time -- "Astaire got the memo and kept it over his fireplace."

Actually, I want to tape your blog posts and your continual funny, witty and inspiring words over my fireplace.

Love this post! Love your attitude. You rock~

Jasmine @ Eat Move Write said...

:) I just published a story that I wrote in 2006 and which has been rejected atleast two or three dozen times in the past four years.

Don't take it personal. Short stories are hard to publish, and it has nothing to do with you! :D

HappySlob said...

Keep at your writing! It took me years of rejections before a publisher found ME and now my book is happily in bookstores everywhere. :) We writers have to have a particularly thick skin, so I think you'll do very well indeed. (You seem to have the right attitude.) Contact me anytime if you'd like to chat.

Sophia said...

I loved this post! Good quotes.....the telephone, REALLY!?

The Depressed Yogi said...

HA some of these are hilarious. Btw GREAT attitude on the lame rejects. P.S. When can I read your book?

Andi said...

Those are great, thank you for sharing these! :)

Jessica @ Wanting Adventure said...

Wow, those are fantastic! It really makes you wonder at what has come to be even with all that rejection.

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