yelling formal man watching news on laptop

A Mercifully Brief Post About Knowing Nothing

Like most people, I’ve led an unusual life. For me, part of its unorthodoxy is my insistence on trying to make a living as a writer. Let’s just say, it’s been an uphill climb.

But occasionally I comfort myself with the knowledge that there are a million reasons why things either gain recognition or fail to. So, here are a few quick and hilarious examples.

In the 1950s, a book was rejected by several publishers, with withering comments such as, “very dull,” “a dreary record of family bickering,” and, “even if the work had come to light five years ago when World War II was timely, I don’t see any chance for it.” That book, however, did get published, and it has sold almost 40 million copies worldwide. Its title? The Diary of Anne Frank.

I point this out not to highlight the brutal lack of human empathy of these publishers (although, “a family bickering”? THAT was your take away from that story?), but to highlight the deathless wisdom of the great screenwriter William Goldman’s quote, “Nobody knows anything.”

Just one of a trillion examples (Harry Potter leaps to mind). My favorite is a tie between the rejection of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” because “It is impossible to sell animal stories in the U.S.” and Decca Records’ rejection of The Beatles in 1962 because “guitar bands are on their way out.”

Nobody. Knows. Anything.

That can either depress or inspire you. Your call.

Please feel free to share other examples you know of

19 thoughts on “A Mercifully Brief Post About Knowing Nothing

  1. Love this post – inspiring and brilliant as always, Jack! I think I’d rather be on the side of creating art rather than trying to prognosticate what will sell.

    And as for living an unorthodox life – I think there’s a lot to be said for the authenticity and intentionality of that too!

  2. In praise of Ignorance: I should’ve known better, but couldn’t, because no one knows anything! I shouldn’t have done that, because I knew better. I couldn’t have really known better though, because no one knows anything!
    You know, Jack, I am feeling better already. Thank you! 🙂

  3. I don’t think creatives live unorthodox lives by choice! It is something inherent within us which seeks expression!

    I received a lot of rebukes of all sorts for not conforming, took it to heart, got depressed, then said, “I’m the only one who can live my life! If no one else understands it, or likes what I create, I’ll still do it, because I need to do it, otherwise something inside of me withers.” Once I gave myself permission to just be me, I felt the freedom of release from the mental and emotional cage I had found myself in.

    Being a creative person is one of the hardest things one can be in this life, but we just gotta do what we gotta do, right?!

  4. Hi Jack,

    What a wonderful post, revealing an important insight. I loved the examples you shared; and in my time as a writer, I’ve also experienced countless rejections of my work. I love how you wrote: “Nobody. Knows. Nothing.” I hope you won’t mind, but as a way of offering a little inspiration, I’d like to add: “Except I.” By that I mean, “I,” the writer know the talent within me; I, the writer know I am unstoppable. I, the writer am going to see my work published. No one outside of ourselves can stop us!

    Keep bringin’, please, Jack! I’ll be looking forward to your next post! 🙏

      1. You’re very welcome, Jack! You’re very much still in the game! 🙏🙂

  5. I couldn’t agree more! The chicken soup books were rejected as well and they made a ton of money. It’s best to just be yourself and write to your hearts content.

Leave a Reply